Desert Mission’s Legacy of Caring
In the 1920s, nurse Marguerite Colley and other “Angels of the Desert” began a John C. Lincoln Health Network tradition by helping vulnerable Phoenix families. Desert Mission’s tradition of caring for the local community began nearly a century ago.
In the early 1920s, people began moving to Phoenix to find relief from their respiratory ailments in the desert climate. Many of them arrived in the Valley with nothing but hope for cure. With no funds left, many camped in the desert north of the city limits.
In 1927, the local Presbyterian Church’s Desert Mission took note of the plight of these individuals, and its volunteers brought them food and medical supplies to ease their suffering. Organized by “Angels of the Desert,” social worker Elizabeth Beatty and practical nurse Marguerite Colley, Desert Mission activities eventually grew to encompass a medical clinic, chapel and community building. John C. Lincoln Joins Desert Mission’s Cause.
In 1931, Ohio entrepreneur and millionaire businessman John Cromwell Lincoln brought his wife, Helen, to Phoenix to recover from tuberculosis. It worked: She lived to be almost 103. As she recovered, the Lincolns took note of Desert Mission’s work, touched by what they saw. To support Desert Mission’s important work, the Lincolns contributed two-thirds of the money needed to buy the current John C. Lincoln Medical Center campus between Dunlap Avenue and Hatcher Road, and from Second to Third streets in Phoenix. In the late 1930s, they added an emergency station to the clinic.
World War II delayed plans to develop the clinic into a hospital, but construction finally began. In 1951, the Arizona Department of Health licensed Desert Mission Convalescent Home, the Roy Brooks Outpatient Clinic and Emergency Station as Desert Mission Convalescent Hospital. In 1954, John C. Lincoln caved to pressure from his family and allowed the hospital to carry his name as its primary financial benefactor. The following year, the Lincolns funded construction of a $200,000 surgical wing.
The John C. Lincoln family has continued its steadfast support of both Desert Mission and the John C. Lincoln hospitals through philanthropic contributions, governance and advocacy.
John C. Lincoln Medical Center celebrated several “firsts” over the years. It was:
- The first Phoenix hospital with an air-evac medical transport service and an FAA- approved heliport for emergency helicopters.
- One of the Valley’s first three Level I Trauma Centers, all launched within a few weeks of each other in 1979.
- Responsible for training the first class of Phoenix Fire Department paramedics.
- Responsible for opening the state’s first licensed Adult Day Health Care center.
- The first and only Valley hospital to operate a food bank and a host of other social and human services, the legacy of the Desert Mission Angels of the Desert.
Today, Desert Mission continues to work to meet the health and social needs of the community by offering a wide range of resources, including a Food Bank, Children’s Dental Clinic, medical and behavioral health centers, Adult Day Center for seniors, early childhood education and programs to help create stronger neighborhoods.
Although Desert Mission’s offerings have evolved over the past century, its purpose has not. It remains committed to helping build stronger communities —together.