History

Erie House was originally founded as a “little Dutch Church” in West Town with a focus on serving the area’s immigrant population. As the city and its immigrant populations changed over the years, so did Erie House. While founded in the settlement house tradition, today, we are a modern social services nonprofit providing the most comprehensive support immigrant and low-income families need to thrive.

Timeline

Browse photos from our archives and explore the timeline below to journey through our over 150-year-long history.

Meet our leadership since 1915.

1870–1899

1900–1949

1950–1999

2000–present

Our Leadership

since incorporation in 1915

George Searles

1915

Erie Chapel incorporated and adopted the name Erie Chapel Institute in 1915. Rev. George Searles was both pastor and director.

Florence Towne

1926

Florence Towne arrived at Erie as the kindergarten teacher and head girls resident in 1914 and went on to spend 25 years in the role of director of Erie Chapel Institute.

Ross Lyman

1951

Rev. Ross Lyman served dual roles as minister of Erie Chapel and executive director of Erie House. 

Merri Ex

1977

Merri Ex first came to Erie House as a community organizer. She became executive director at age 24 and was the first Spanish-speaking director of the agency.

Rafael Ravelo

1985

Rafael "Rafa" Ravelo is the first Latino individual to become executive director. 

Esther Nieves

1997

Esther Nieves succeeds Rafa Ravelo as executive director after serving as associate executive director for the agency.

Ricardo Estrada

2003

A Mexican-American immigrant, Ricardo "Ric" Estrada became executive director at Erie House after serving as associate executive director under Esther Nieves.

Celena Roldán

2010

Celena Roldán served as social worker and director of child care before being named executive director.

Kirstin Chernawsky

2016

Kirstin Chernawsky became executive director after serving as senior director of development and communications.