Global Service in Sioux Falls

March 31, 2014

A low, constant hum could be heard coming from the Advanced English classroom last week Tuesday as six Dakota Wesleyan University students conversed with advanced English students. Dr. Alisha Vincent, Assistant Professor of Leadership and Public Service and Director of the McGovern Center for Leadership and Public Service at Dakota Wesleyan, shared why she chose to get her students involved at the LSS Refugee and Immigration Center (RIC) as part of their class:

The course is an elective in our general education curriculum called Global Service. My preference, as a professor, is to incorporate experiential learning opportunities for my students whenever appropriate. I thought that the students would learn about people from other countries and cultures best by interacting with them directly. LSS is an ideal place for my students to get to know incredible people from so many different parts of the world while offering their service as classroom aids in the ESL [English as a Second Language] program.

IMG_0339 Read the rest of this entry »


Spring Cleaning For Your Finances

March 28, 2014

Easter savingsSpring is finally here! When you do your spring cleaning what are your typical items on your checklist? Go through closets. Check. Go through cupboards. Check. Go through books and coats and shoes. Check, check, check! Do you ever consider spring cleaning your household finances? Now would be a great time to check in on those goals you set at the beginning of the year and spring clean your finances to help you get even closer to achieving those goals.

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“Nobody wants war.” Hearing from Ukrainian Refugees and Immigrants in Sioux Falls

March 26, 2014

You can see the concern on their faces at times.  They sit in English class or Citizenship class, but their minds are five thousand miles away with family and friends.  Our Ukrainian refugees and immigrants keep teachers abreast on what is happening; bringing a heavy reality and urgency to a conflict that can at times feel distant on the television or computer screen.

One Ukrainian immigrant, Oleksii, agreed to speak with me after class about his thoughts on the conflict.  The interview was conducted with the help of a Russian translator.  Oleksii immigrated about two years ago to be closer to their daughter and grandchildren, who live in Sioux Falls.  He is from southern Ukraine, from a city on the border with Crimea and the Black Sea.  He was a ship captain in Ukraine.  “Nothing good is happening.  It’s not right.  We need to negotiate, to talk…negotiate at the table, not with guns.”  He communicates almost daily with his mother and sister who live near the capital city of Kiev.  I asked him what he wants for Ukraine, how he imagines the conflict could be resolved.  “First of all, we don’t want war.  70% of Ukrainians work in Siberia.  We have a lot of mixed families [Ukrainian and Russian].  Neither group wants war.”  He shared skepticism with the referendum held in Crimea earlier in the month and blamed Ukraine’s current issues with Russia on the former Ukrainian president’s actions.  “Our former President [Viktor Yanukovych] just sold us.”

Ousted Former President Viktor Yanukovych.  Photo courtesy of Wikipedia Commons

Ousted Former President Viktor Yanukovych. Photo courtesy of Wikipedia Commons

Andrey, a Ukrainian refugee who came to Sioux Falls in 2001, is studying to become an American citizen.  I asked him after class about his thoughts on Ukraine and he shared with me how the current conflict is the result of long series of actions begun in late 2013.  He said some people in Ukraine felt the coup was unconstitutional, but that a majority of Ukrainians supported the ousting of President Yanukovych, citing the recently revealed 500 acre presidential estate’s vast wealth as one example of his corruption in a country’s whose average monthly salary is $450.  “The [former] president makes this big mess…and then the new Congress has a mess with a new constitution and confusion about the president…and now Russia sees the big mess and wants Ukraine.”  He said some people in Ukraine feel Russia’s President Putin is manipulating Russians in Crimea and other parts of Ukraine saying, “’You need more security; I want to help’ but it is a lie.  He [Putin] wants to take eastern Ukraine…the states of Donetsk and Kharkov.”  Andrey is from southeastern Ukraine and fears for his family and friends there.  He said he learned of some friends moving to western Ukraine because they are afraid of current fighting and tension in the area.  “Putin is making the problem…before no problem.  Nobody wants war.  Only Putin can stop war.”

Skyping or talking on the phone almost daily with friends and family back in Ukraine, Oleksii and Andrey both share a desire and hope for a peaceful end to the conflict in Ukraine and a move towards a functional democracy and economy.  All of us at LSS Refugee and Immigration Center join them in that hope.


The Power of a Cape

March 21, 2014

There is this cape…it has been on posters, on television, in the paper and even at a SuperRandell&JaronSioux Falls mayoral candidate forum this week. So what is the deal?

The cape is a symbol for what LSS Mentors are: Everyday Heroes. Our mentors would not call themselves a hero, but to the kids they meet with, that is what they are.

We have had an exciting week with lots of activity, inquiries and new mentors. But this is just the beginning! Read the rest of this entry »


LSS RECOGNIZES DISTINGUISHED COMMUNITY PARTNER OF 2013

March 20, 2014

SIOUX FALLS—Each year, Lutheran Social Services of South Dakota recognizes a distinguished volunteer, a corporate partner, a community partner and a congregational partner in honor of outstanding service and support to LSS during 2013.

Lutheran Social Services honored Falls Community Health of Sioux Falls (FCH) as the LSS 2013 Distinguished Community Partner of the Year. FCH has been a vital partner of LSS Refugee & Immigration Services for more than fifteen years as the primary health care provider for all newly arriving refugees. Following the Center for Disease Control’s guidelines, they provide initial screenings, physicals, dental screenings and mental health screenings with care and concern for the newly arriving refugees’ diverse needs and backgrounds. They provide excellent medical care through the use of interpreters and outreach workers in a timely manner.

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Football, Tom Brokaw & Fundraising: Meet LSS VP Bill Peterson

March 19, 2014

Peterson Bill 2014MY LSS STORY:  I have been Vice President Development and Foundation at LSS for just over a year.  Prior to coming to LSS, I was in government relations for the surety bonding industry for nearly 25 years.  I was looking to do something that would have more social significance and it was serendipitous for me to find an opportunity to work for LSS.  I served 8 years in the South Dakota House of Representatives (4  years as Majority Leader) and had gotten to know Betty Oldenkamp, when she worked for the State.  Betty was looking for a Vice President for Development and here I am.

My job at LSS is very simple.  Read the rest of this entry »


My Appreciation for Libraries

March 18, 2014

As I was flipping through old photos today I ran across this little gem:

library card

This image captures the day last summer that I took my youngest daughter to get her first library card. As you can see, she was as excited as I was! She had been choosing books since she was old enough to point but until the moment in this photo I checked them out on my card for her. This day was momentous for her. With a library card comes responsibility for returning books on time and in good shape. This is an important lesson!

Our preschool students walk to the library every week, sometimes twice! They enjoy a story time, check out books and sometimes attend special events. Our after-school and summer programs use the Bookmobile and nearby libraries all year long. The library is an important place for me and for our programs and I was struck today by just how much I value the library system. I decided to use my turn on our blog today to talk about why I love the library, particularly for children. Read the rest of this entry »


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