The Missions of 303 Lathrop

One of the many wonderful pieces of the history of First Congregational United Church of Christ, is to understand the importance and the dedication of its members to mission. Although in recent times we have considered the property at 303 Lathrop to be a source of income, the historical use of the house has been mission based. It’s not to say that the leases didn’t produce some source of income, but it is clear from all of the records I read, the rent was always reduced to the lowest possible amount to make the organization as successful as possible. Most of the time it is also clear that the members of the congregation were actively involved in the mission of the organization itself. The following is a summary of the use of 303 Lathrop, with additional information explaining the mission of the program.

1953 – The church purchased 303 Lathrop. There were four properties purchased on Lathrop St during a 25 year period. One of those properties is now a parking lot and the other two were sold. 

The first occupant of 303 Lathrop was United Student Fellowship. The ministry’s primary focus was worship, pastoral care, life in community, and programs open to the University at large. Under Kenneth Friou’s leadership, the concept of USF spread to 11 other campuses in the state. United Student Fellowship had a close relationship with the church. Ed Beers was key to the ministry. The group then moved to be with other denominations more central on the campus. During the time the building was occupied by United Student Fellowship, Sigma Nu Kappa, the vigorous high school church group created and operated, with staff supervision, “Charlie Brown’s Coffee House” in the basement.

In 1974, the group home for boys, previously housed at 320 Lathrop, moved to the 303 location. Staffing became an issue for the church, and the boy’s home was terminated in 1976, with great disappointment to the Board of Outreach.

In 1976, the property housed “La Samaritaine.” The La Samaritaine Community was a co-educational Christian community emphasizing the practice of daily prayer and meditation. The Community decided to move in 1983.

In 1983, Hospice organization became the residents. Its mission was to assist the terminally ill, not to prolong life, but to approach death with dignity and gentleness. Hospice was originally housed in the basement of Memorial UCC on Regent St, but needed more space and parking. The years of occupancy at 303 Lathrop were years of great growth for HospiceCare. From 1982-1989, the house provided a night’s sleep 12,563 times. 

In 1990, Madison AIDS Support Network began using the space. Madison AIDS Support Network was in the building for six years before outgrowing the space. The organization still exists today in Madison, as AIDS Network, providing support and services to those living with or affected by HIV/AIDS.

In 1996, the house became the Denney House, named after Nancy Denney, a Professor in the Psychology Department at UW. Nancy had longed dreamed of having a place where single women who had children could live, and still be in the undergraduate programs at the University. The church again had a very close relationship with the Denney House, having a shower for the women who were moving in, and providing babysitting services. Scores of volunteers, beyond members of the church, the Junior League, Zonta service club for women, and others cleaned and painted the inside of the home. The house operated for 3 years before the UW Housing Division agreed to open space for single parent undergraduates at Eagle Heights. 

In 2000, UW Hospitals remodeled the space to provide infant and toddler care for students of UW. 

In August 2013, the Dane County Parent Council, operating the infant and toddler care center, chose to close the facility. The property now sits vacant waiting for its next mission.

Stay tuned for the mission opportunity presenting itself to First Congregational at this point in our history.  Hopefully, our determined spirits, fired by an unquenchable faith will be able to change history!



Posted on June 17, 2014 at 11:47 am in Featured Content.

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