Need for Counseling in Stillwater Minnesota Spans 50 Years

Bill and Betty FierkeWhen Betty and Bill Fierke moved from Minneapolis to Stillwater in 1957 they were surprised there were no dial phones, but rather one operator, and to place a call to Minneapolis involved high toll charges.

They also learned there was no place in the St. Croix Valley and Stillwater area for people to go for counseling services outside of their church or medical communities. One option Stillwater residents could consider was travelling to St. Paul for counseling, which at the time was an hour trip each way on two-lane roadways. Many people didn’t have access to transportation. So, when Bill was asked to help reorganize the United Way for the Stillwater Area, Betty shared her thoughts that a counseling service was needed in the area.

Two community leaders, Grace Stoltze and Kitty Andersen, decided to spearhead an effort to canvas Stillwater to see if physicians, ministers, and other professionals felt a counseling service would be beneficial in the Stillwater area. With Grace and Kitty in the lead, Betty served as one of the committee members appointed to exploring this need. The result: there was a great need to have counseling services available in the St. Croix Valley.

The counseling services made available initially started in the form of St. Paul Family Service expanding its service area to Stillwater. Two years later, Family Service of the St. Croix Area, which today is FamilyMeans, began providing counseling services under the leadership of Dawson Bradshaw who served as chair of the agency.

In the early years of the agency, the three most requested counseling services were “marriage disharmony”; “social adjustment and training of children”; and the “overload of indebtedness”.

Today, 50 years later, counseling services remain an important part of the work done at FamilyMeans, with thousands of individuals and family households receiving counseling in mental health and financial services support each year.

Reflections as shared by Betty Fierke