Excelsior’s history in this community begins with the Sisters of the Good Shepherd. From 1893 to 1910 authorities placed underage girls in Good Shepherd Homes throughout the country including Seattle and Spokane. Some of these girls were taken from brothels or dangerous home environments. The Sisters in Seattle and Spokane established homes for young women. “The perception was that unwed mothers were sent there, but they weren't," said Sister Vera Gallagher. "In order to protect the girls, we really didn't tell the community much about what we were doing; and, because nobody knew, that was what they imagined. But they were just high-energy girls who had no place to go." Here in Spokane, the Sisters supported themselves by running a laundry service, providing sheets and linens used by the railroad. In later years the Sisters also managed an industrial kitchen that prepared altar bread for congregations in the region. Their first Spokane facility--where Sears at Northtown Mall sits today—was replaced beginning in 1959 on 34 acres nestled against five-mile prairie in the yet-to-be-developed area of Indian Trail. That midcentury modern 60,000 square foot facility currently serves as Excelsior’s home-base.
In 1982 Excelsior responded to the needs of the sisters to have more professional services for this population and to increase the number of youth who could be served. In 18 months Bob Faltermeyer (retired CEO), Sue Bell (current Medical Coordinator), Marilyn Pitini (current Outpatient Director) along with other current employees, and the sisters grew the program from 13 to 72 girls. It is with great pride that we continue to serve our community through those same residential programs. Today, Excelsior operates as an integrated healthcare and education organization, providing integrated care through a variety of specialty programs and services. We employ nearly 200 community members, and now have the capacity to serve over 275 youth and families in the Spokane and greater inland northwest regional community.
The Excelsior name
Excelsior “indicates superior quality.” We aim to provide the most responsive, most relevant and most supportive education, healthcare and social services to the youth and families we serve. In their search of a safer, stronger and more satisfied lives, as their partner we are responsible to aim for superior quality in the services we provide. This is our commitment to our mission and honoring our name.
Our name and historical logo is representative of Henry Longfellow’s late 19th century poem, Excelsior!
The shades of night were falling fast, As through an Alpine village passed A youth, who bore, 'mid snow and ice, A banner with the strange device, Excelsior!
His brow was sad; his eye beneath, Flashed like a falchion from its sheath, And like a silver clarion rung The accents of that unknown tongue, Excelsior!
In happy homes he saw the light Of household fires gleam warm and bright; Above, the spectral glaciers shone, And from his lips escaped a groan, Excelsior!
"Try not the Pass!" the old man said; "Dark lowers the tempest overhead, The roaring torrent is deep and wide!" And loud that clarion voice replied, Excelsior!
"Oh stay," the maiden said, "and rest Thy weary head upon this breast! " A tear stood in his bright blue eye, But still he answered, with a sigh, Excelsior!
"Beware the pine-tree's withered branch! Beware the awful avalanche!" This was the peasant's last Good-night, A voice replied, far up the height, Excelsior!
At break of day, as heavenward The pious monks of Saint Bernard Uttered the oft-repeated prayer, A voice cried through the startled air, Excelsior!
A traveler, by the faithful hound, Half-buried in the snow was found, Still grasping in his hand of ice That banner with the strange device, Excelsior!
There in the twilight cold and gray, Lifeless, but beautiful, he lay, And from the sky, serene and far, A voice fell like a falling star, Excelsior!