Hillcrest History Collage

Our history is deeply-rooted in the principles of acceptance, compassion and care. And what a rich history it is. We started in 1896 as the Women’s Rescue Society in Dubuque, Iowa.That was the same year the first unofficial game of basketball was played just down the road when the University of Iowa played the University of Chicago.It was also the same year that Greece hosted the first modern Olympic games, and the year the X-Ray was invented. But for Dr. Nancy Hill (pictured above in the oval), the first woman to practice medicine in Dubuque, it was time to start caring for unmarried mothers and their infants who were not necessarily receiving the best care. Yes, Hillcrest roots of caring started 125 years ago.

The Early Years: 1896-1965

Image of the first Hillcrest building

1896 – Dr. Nancy Hill, MD, founded the Women’s Rescue Society and started the Industrial Training School for Girls in Dubuque on the site still used for administrative offices.
1909 – Industrial Training School for Girls closed due to financial difficulties.
1914 – Deaconess Anna Blanche Cook, Anna B. Lawther and other women of the Dubuque community opened the Hillcrest Deaconess Home and Baby Fold for infants under two years of age.
1914 – The property was deeded to the Upper Iowa Annual Conference of the Methodist Episcopal Church and thus became an extension ministry of the now Iowa Annual Conference of the United Methodist Church.
1924 – Renamed the Hillcrest Baby Fold in honor of Dr. Nancy Hill.
1928 – Became a charter member of the Dubuque Community Chest now known as United Way Dubuque Area Tri-states.
1953 – Started construction for the one-story addition known as the Baby Fold which officially opened in 1954.
1963 – Renamed Hillcrest Children’s Services.
1963 – Hillcrest House, the original home of the Industrial Training School for Girls, became a home for pregnant teenagers.
1964 – Opened adoptions and counseling office in Cedar Rapids.

Of course, along the way, there have been many changes

But not to our commitment to acceptance, compassion and care. A major transformation of Hillcrest started in 1966 with the hiring of Don Osborne as Executive Director. As the leader of Hillcrest for 22 years until his retirement, he built upon the lessons of Dr. Hill and Anna Blanche Cook and started the development of mental health and community health services. Every service we provide, every sense of spirituality we have instilled, and every client we have treated, is all part of our Culture of Results, which owes its origins to Dr. Nancy Hill and the initiatives of Don Osborne. Thet laid the foundations that built Hillcrest into a leading provider of mental health counseling, a teacher to troubled youth through our Anna B. Lawther Academy and our boarding school, a resource for adoption and unplanned pregnancies, clinics to receive health services, a haven for the homes, a lifetime to adults in need, and means to mentoring.

Recent History: 1966 - Present

1966– First Vesper Services for youth Christmas stockingsoffered at Hillcrest House for the girls and was led by seminarian from the University of Dubuque.
1968 – Became a Ministry of the Synod of the Iowa Presbyterian Church (USA), now known as the Synod of Lakes & Prairies.
1968 – Merged with Iowa Methodist Services for Youth, opened Des Moines office, which became the new adoptions office, and took over the operation of the boys’ group home called Wesley Place.
1968 – Changed name to Hillcrest Services to Children and Youth.
1971 – Tri-county Family Planning Clinic opens in Dubuque, now known as Professional Health Clinic.
1972 – Opened Delhi Group Home for boys and Fenelon Group Home for girls in Dubuque.
1975 – Renamed Hillcrest Family Services.
1975 – Opened first group home for adult women with mental illness in Cedar Rapids in cooperation with the YWCA, then known as Y-Crest.
1977 – Opened first shelter care facility for adolescents on Jefferson Street in Dubuque.
1982 – Opened the Child Care nutrition program, now known as WIC.
1988 – Maternal Health program was started in Dubuque and was affiliated with Mercy Health Center in 1989.
1988 – Special Education program for residents started in Dubuque in former Executive Director’s home.
1993 – Became accredited by the Joint Commission on Accreditation of Healthcare Organizations.
1995 – Started youth mentoring program which became Big Brother Big Sisters in 1997 and Mentor Dubuque in 2013.
2002 – Opened first community mental health center in Washington, Iowa.
2003 – Purchased and remodeled apartment building adjacent to Barbara Butler Center and opened Transitional Housing program for homeless families.
2003 – Opened guest house for visiting families named Faley Reflections Home in the former Wesley Group in Dubuque.
2006 – Opened the Wellness Center in Dubuque for consumer focused support for persons with mental illness.
2013 – Started Integrated Health Homes Program.

2018 – Opened the first Subacute Program in the state of Iowa as well as a Mental Health Center in Jones County.