Wheeler Mission was founded BY women and FOR women

Wheeler Mission was founded BY women and FOR women

October marks Wheeler Mission’s 125th Anniversary. Join us in giving thanks for what God has done, is doing, and will do through the ministry of Wheeler Mission.

Dear Friend,

Wheeler’s history is laced with God’s goodness and is a testimony to miracles that happen when men and women obey His call.

Did you know that Wheeler Mission was founded by women and for women?

The Door of Hope

In 1893, the local, Indianapolis chapter of the Women’s Christian Temperance Union (WCTU), made up of women from the Central Avenue Methodist Episcopal Church, was particularly concerned for the well-being of unwed mothers. It was common for pregnant women to be abandoned at Union Station, left vulnerable, penniless, and alone.

As a response, a small – but mighty – group from the Central Avenue Church founded the Door of Hope. Later known as Wheeler Mission, Door of Hope became a refuge for women in desperate circumstances.

Three trailblazing Door of Hope founders included…

  • Celia Smock. Before coming to Indianapolis, Celia participated in rescue work among abandoned and abused women in Chicago. Her experience laid the vision and foundation for Door of Hope. When it opened in 1893, Celia served as superintendent.
  • Luella McWhirter. Luella served as president of the Indianapolis WCTU and provided dynamic leadership for Door of Hope. Her husband, Felix T. McWhirter, was a professor, politician, real estate tycoon, businessman, and founder of Peoples Bank. Luella served on the bank’s the board of directors, a rare position for a woman to hold at the time. 100 years after Door of Hope’s founding, Felix and Luella’s grandson, F.T. McWhirter, served on Wheeler’s board of directors until his death in 2002.

Luella McWhirter (left) with granddaughter Jane, her son Felix, and great-grandson Rusty.

  • Mary Wheeler. Mary served as the Door of Hope’s treasurer, providing great influence and inspiration to her husband, William Wheeler. For years before Door of Hope’s founding, the Wheeler couple regularly preached to and served the poor. After Mary helped found Door of Hope, William regularly volunteered, eventually stepping in as fulltime superintendent.

William and Mary Wheeler outside their home.

Today, 125 years later, what started as a small home for women is now a multi-faceted organization, the largest and most diverse ministry of its kind in Indiana. By God’s grace – and through your generosity and care – Wheeler Mission annually serves thousands of men, women, and children throughout Indianapolis and Bloomington.

As we step into our future and prepare to build for change, we are grateful and humbled by the boldness and faith of these founding women. For generations to come, may Wheeler Mission follow in their steps and continue providing help, hope, and healing to those who need it most.

Working together for change,

Rick Alvis