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In 1958, a group of concerned Lutheran clergy and lay-folks met at the Starlight Terrace Restaurant in Billings, Montana to discuss the need to develop a home for seniors that would be grounded in the Christian faith. There was much debate… would it be a retirement home… a nursing home… even a hospital was discussed. Where would it be located, what would it look like, how would it be financed, would the people of faith donate needed resources to make it happen?
These visionary people felt called to live out the Christian ministry of caring for one’s neighbors, especially those neighbors who most needed a place to call home and where their needs in later years would be met in Christian love and dignity. This group, led by Pastor John Mason of the former national American Lutheran Church, planned the project; had meticulous budgets, selected architects and builders, and the first HUD sponsored loan for a senior project in Montana was secured.
Today, St. John’s is a social ministry owned by 23 ELCA congregations and governed by a 15 person Board of Directors who must be an active member of one of those congregations.
Originally started as the first Montana HUD-financed senior retirement community, the original St. John’s campus has grown to become one of the largest senior campuses in Montana serving over 600 residents in the communities of Billings, Laurel and Red Lodge. The Billings campus is made up by 109 low-income retirement apartments (Chapel Court), 186 skilled nursing beds (St. John’s Lutheran Home), 2 Memory Care Cottages, 5 skilled nursing Cottages, an adult day care center (Senior Day Services), and Transitional Care services.
Several unique programs are included with the campus community beginning with the Center for Generations, a child care facility located throughout the facility.
In 1998, in partnership with St. Vincent Healthcare, the largest hospital system in Montana, and adjacent to our current campus, St. John’s opened the first full service Continuing Care Retirement Community (Mission Ridge) in Montana . Mission Ridge consists of 122 independent living apartments and 59 assisted living apartments.
St. John’s manages Sapphire Lutheran Homes, a retirement community located in Hamilton, Montana. St. John’s also manages Lutheran Social Services of Montana, with offices located in Billings, Bozeman, Missoula, Kalispell and Great Falls. Through LSS we provide counseling services to expectant parents, domestic adoption services, and post adoption services such as counseling and adoptive searches. We also help unite children in the foster care system with their forever families through our Wendy’s Wonderful Kids program.
In 1958 a dream was envisioned, today that dream is being realized and those of us entrusted with the care and stewardship of that dream remain committed to a ministry of people serving Christ by serving others.