I Made A Client Cry….. And It Was Good

January 27, 2015

I recently had another first. For the first time since I’ve been here at Center for Financial Resources, I had a client crying in my office. I suppose if you were to ask my kids on the right day, they would tell you that I like to make people cry and am a big meanie-head like that. But really, I’m not….. at least not here at work. Read the rest of this entry »


Does this sound hard? Five things USucceed mentors and students have done

January 26, 2015

LSS Mentoring Services USucceed program matches high school students with a mentor Mother with graduatewith the goal of meeting throughout the students high school career. Together, matches meet at school or in the community and participate in all kinds of fun on their own! Once a month, LSS invites all USucceed matches to a planned event for the entire group. LSS coordinates service projects, community activities and more for this group. Here are five examples of what you can do as a USucceed mentor!

College Visit
Many students in USucceed may have not had the opportunity to be on a college campus or   know people who attend college. Going off the motto of “What they see is what they’ll be” LSS aims to expose kids to college and career opportunities they might otherwise not get to see everyday. This falls, we invited matches to Augustana, where we had dinner in the dining hall (the chocolate covered strawberries were a hit!). We listened to current students talk about college and the activities they were involved in (one was even a mentor for LSS!). At dusk, the Twilight Tour of the campus began and we were able to walk through several departments as well as the dorms and Stewart Center. The night ended with a glow-in-the-dark T-shirt and some hot apple cider.

Career Exploration
Kids say they want to be a doctor, but not always are aware of the commitment it takes and the myriad of other healthcare careers available. We were able to take matches to Sanford Hospital to learn about just that. After hearing from several different employees including a flight nurse and helicopter pilot, we broke into groups to take a tour of the emergency room, the laboratory and the labor and delivery ward. Students learned about several different types of careers and went home with information about ways to start their career path into healthcare.

Life Skills
Budgeting is a skill that is hard to grasp and if you mess up, can get you into trouble pretty quickly. USucceed matches were able to take advantage of a budgeting class taught the LSS Center for Financial Resources. Identify theft, hidden costs that teens (and likely some adults) are not aware of and more were covered during this very informative presentation.

FUN and Relationship Building
While all of the events are fun, sometimes we set out with having fun as the sole agenda. photo 3Kids have to grow up quickly and take on a lot of responsibility, so it is important to remind them that they are still in high school. We were able to visit the Denny Sanford PREMIER Center and catch the Sioux Falls Stampede play. Most of the group had never been to the PREMIER Center and many were able to partake in their first hockey game.

Each year, LSS coordinates a holiday party for USucceed matches. They had dinner and participated in activities like decorating cookies and making ornaments. They also were able to make fleece blankets to donate to LSS Foster Care Services and festive hand-made cards for the South Dakota Red Cross chapter to distribute to local soldiers.

So, does that sound like hard work? Could you find four hours a month to meet with a high school student? Over 100 high school students have a mentor through LSS and there are over 40 students in the Sioux Falls area who want or need a mentor. Please help us out by applying today.

Post by Michelle Madsen & Brandi Umberger


“Injustice Anywhere…” Refugees and MLK

January 23, 2015

“What movement tried to end racial discrimination?”    The Civil Rights Movement

“What did Martin Luther King, Jr. do?”     Fought for civil rights

As a Citizenship Class instructor, I have the privilege of sharing about the life and work of Martin Luther King, Jr. every session.  Before discussing the 1960s, we cover the Civil War, Abraham Lincoln, and the Emancipation Proclamation.  The focus then jumps to World War I, the Great Depression, and World War II before moving to Martin Luther King, Jr. and the Civil Rights Movement.  The history questions for the Naturalization Interview do not hide the long history of slavery in the United States.  Students learn early in the session that slavery existed in the “thirteen original colonies.”

“What group of people was taken to America and sold as slaves?”  People from Africa

To help students understand “racial discrimination” and what life was like in the United States for many African Americans following the Civil War and during the time of Dr. King, we often look at the infamous pictures of segregated water fountains and bathrooms.   I tend to avoid the darker pictures of lynchings and angry mobs, not wanting to rouse any post-traumatic stress in our refugee and immigrant clients.  Read the rest of this entry »


Eating An Elephant Steak

January 22, 2015

Perhaps you’ve heard the adage “How do you eat an elephant?”. There was video of an elephant in Thailand that recently went viral. If you haven’t seen any of it, he is apparently tired of cars driving through his neighborhood and so reacts by climbing on top of the cars. As you watch the video, the size and strength of the beast point to the immensity of eating an entire elephant.

And yet, according to the adage, the way to eat an elephant is so simple – “One bite at a time.”

While I think it might be kind of cool to see, elephantwe don’t have any elephants running wild here in South Dakota. Could you imagine this same elephant going head to head with the giant jack-a-lope that they have at Wall Drug? Now that is something I might pay to see.

In reality, there are elephants all over South Dakota and really anywhere humans exist. Don’t worry, I’m not suggesting we all actually consume elephant meat.  The elephants I’m referring to aren’t the big gray animals with long trunks and big, floppy ears. I am talking about the proverbial ‘elephant in the room’. We all have something (more likely some things) that are trying to get a leg up on us and weigh us down; things we are overwhelmed by at the thought of conquering.

What’s your elephant? What do you need to overcome? What do you need to accomplish?

Don’t worry, I’m not going to make you email me your list of elephants, but we do need to be intentionally aware of those challenges in front of us. If we don’t truly know what they are, we cannot be intentional about overcoming them. ‘Eating the elephant’, as it were.

Even having those challenges identified, it can still be a very daunting task to get where we need to be. It can seem even more imposing than the actual elephant in the video above. So we come back to the simple answer. We simply conquer those challenges and goals ‘one bite at a time’.

Focus for a moment on a particularly large goal you may have. Picture it in your mind and walk around it. Visualize it from all angles just as if you were walking around the latest sports car sitting on the showroom floor. Just like we can break the car into its parts (body, doors, windows, mirrors, tires, wheels, seats, etc.), we can break our goals down into smaller, easier to manage parts. I certainly can’t carry away that whole car, but pull the tires off and I can roll them along at a running pace, one in each hand.

When we at the Center for Financial Resources are teaching classes, we share the fact that most ‘experts’ agree that you should have 3 months worth of expenses in your emergency savings. As I have researched the numbers, the number of Americans with NO emergency savings seems to hover right around 25%. That’s one in four Americans that have absolutely no funds available beyond what they need to survive for any given month. Given those statistics, having 3 months of expenses in savings will be a very daunting task for a large number of Americans.

Is that a big enough elephant for you? Well, let’s break it down. Three months’ worth of expenses is our goal. That’s where we want to end up, even if we can’t be there tomorrow. For a nice round number to work with, let’s say our example family (living on a bit of a budget) has monthly expenses of $2,400. So our final goal for emergency savings is $7,200. Does that look like the big, gray butt of an elephant about to sit on you? Remember, one bite at a time.

Let’s make this a three year goal. Now, this year we only need one month’s worth of savings set aside – $2,400. Still a large amount of money. Breaking it down even farther, that’s only $200 per month. Getting better? Let’s keep this going. $200 per month means only $50 per week. If my calculator did its math correct, that is right at $7.14 per day.

Compared to taking an elephant-sized bite of saving $7,200, how does setting aside $7.14 sound? It may take a while, but you now only need to focus on $7.14 at a time to reach your goal of 3 months’ worth of expenses.

fork and moneyThink back through this week. How many times have you spent $7.14 without even thinking twice about it? I’m not saying you shouldn’t enjoy life and have fun and all that. I am saying you need to be intentional about identifying and working towards your priorities.

Are you ready? Now I’m going somewhere that might make most of us a little uncomfortable. I want you to get rid of the word ‘can’t’ from your vocabulary. There have been more than a few motivational speakers who have encouraged the very same thing, but I want to apply it to our savings goals from above.

While most of us claim that we aren’t financially able (can’t) to set money aside in emergency savings, the reality is that we just WON’T. Most of us have more than $7.14 that we make a decision about each day. Anyone who eats out for lunch probably spends more than that, easily. Buy a loaf of bread, some deli meat, a package of carrot sticks, some brown paper bags and you have more than a week’s worth of lunches for close to what you spend on a single day of going out to eat.

When you have the money but choose to spend it elsewhere, it’s not that you can’t save, but that you won’t save. You choose to put wants ahead of something as crucial as emergency savings.

Before you get defensive and blame me for being all self-righteous, I’ll admit that I can’t be. I’ve made the same mistakes we have all made. But just the same as it is for all of us, that is in the past. Each of us has the ability to make our decisions and set our priorities for the future.

Which elephant do you want to eat next? Remember though, that you aren’t going to eat the whole elephant right now. So which part of your elephant do you want to start with first? A smaller amount of daily or weekly savings? Writing your resume as working towards a better job? Filling out the FAFSA in preparation for getting a degree? What is going to be your first bite?

If you need help breaking your elephant down or are still choking on the big pieces of your past, you aren’t alone. Our counselors can help you evaluate your elephant and plan your attack so that you can celebrate every little bite of progress that you make. And there is your first bite towards eating your elephant – just give us a call and schedule an appointment.

We are here to help you…. one bite at a time.
written by Breck Miller
images courtesy freedigitalphotos.net


Climb Every Mountain

January 21, 2015

There are dreamers and there are doers and sometimes there are dreamers who become doers.

Recently, two experienced rock climbers, Tommy Caldwell and Kevin Jorgesen, had a dream. They wanted to do something no one had ever done before. They wanted to free climb the 3,000 foot rock face of El Capitan, a vertical rock formation located in Yosemite National Park. Free climbing means using only your fingers, hands, feet and physical strength to make the assent. No other equipment (except for ropes in case of a fall) is used in making the climb.

After 19 arduous days, the climbers ascended the summit and that which had never been done before was accomplished.

Caldwell and Jorgesen had a dream, climbed their mountain and showed incredible physical courage.

There is another kind of courage, however, that requires having a dream and climbing a mountain. That courage is moral courage.

Martin Luther King, whose birthday we remember and celebrate this month, had that kind of moral courage. He had a dream and he climbed a mountain.

From the mid-1950’ through the end of the 1960’s, the United States underwent a social revolution which it had not seen since the days of the Civil War. Dr. King was there for all most all of it.

It began in Birmingham, Alabama, where a single person, Rosa Parks, refused to follow the laws of the day which required black people to give up her seat to a white person on a city-owned bus. That led to a city-wide boycott of the Birmingham bus service and was the first time Martin Luther King was introduced to our country as a civil rights leader.

Dr. King had a dream that he expressed before a national audience as he stood before the Lincoln Memorial on a hot afternoon in August 1963.

His dream was simple and yet profound for our country. His dream was that some day our country would live up to the ideals expressed in the Declaration of Independence and that his four little children would be judged on the content of their character and not the color of their skin.

Many dark days for the civil rights movement came before and after Dr. King shared his dream. Church bombings, cross burnings, physical intimidation and even murder was used to slow down the movement, but nothing could stop an idea whose time had come. Civil rights legislation guaranteeing the right to vote, to equal access to public accommodations and other fundamental rights came to pass. Schools began to desegregate. Most of all, the country began to change as more and more people came to share in the dream.

On the night before his death, Dr. King spoke these words : I’ve been to the mountain top… And I’ve looked over. And I’ve seen the promised land. I may not get there with you. But, I want you to know tonight, that we, as a people, will get to the promised land.”

Dr Martin Luther King was murdered the next day. He did not live to see the promised land. In many ways, we, as a nation, are still seeking it. But in having a dream and in having the moral courage to try and bring that dream to reality, as both a dreamer and a doer, Dr. King led us all up the mountain where today we can still see the promised land, one in which the promises of the Declaration of Independence live in the lives of all our people regardless of the color of their skin.

Bill Peterson, Vice President Development & Foundation


Painstaking Excellence- Here4Youth is Now Part of LSS!

January 20, 2015

This week, the LSS Touching Lives team of bloggers will focus on Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Be sure to check the blog throughout the week to learn more about Dr. King and how we value and apply his work, words and action into our work at LSS.

“All labor that uplifts humanity has dignity and importance and should be undertaken with painstaking excellence.” -Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

I was sure that my cup of blessings was overflowing and couldn’t dream of more but recently I was given another enormous dose of blessings in the form of a new LSS program. Here4Youth, a local organization offering individualized care for youth with special needs and their siblings, recently became a program of LSS Childcare & Education Services.

I am so thankful that the talented and dedicated board that served Here4Youth for so long decided that LSS would be able to offer stable leadership and a dedication to high quality service delivery to carry Here4Youth into a great future.

For the youth and families that depend on the After-School and Summer Program at Here4Youth this change brings confidence that a high quality program will continue to meet their needs. Nothing less than painstaking excellence is an option when educating and caring for youth. This is our goal.

For me, this means the many blessings associated with each of the incredible youth that attend the LSS Here4Youth location. In addition to the hundreds of children I know and love at the other 5 LSS Childcare and Education Services locations, I now know and love the youth, ages 3 to 21 at Here4Youth. As I laughed with a little boy about the way the fish chase one another in the new aquarium, my eyes welled up with joy. I cannot believe that I am paid for this incredible blessing. As I get my fourth hug from a young lady that is always glad to see me, my eyes well up again. I hope she understands that I am just as happy that I get to come to Here4Youth. As I watch a staff person patiently help a young man turn on the I-pad to begin a game, I realize that like the moments in the other five other locations, these will someday feel routine. This is what we do. I am glad for another reminder of how special that gift is.

Here are some things that I want you to know about Here4Youth:

It is a place about what kids can do, not what they can’t.
It is for youth of all abilities ages 3 to 21. We have a primary focus on working with youth who need more attention and specialized help with health, behavioral, developmental, and cognitive needs. Therefore, we staff at a 1 to 4 ratio; this allows the staff to give the youth the attention and care that they may need.

There aren’t other programs like it in South Dakota so the need for this program is great. Support from generous donors, grants and the Sioux Empire United Way make it possible.

The staff at Here4Youth is dedicated and caring. They are incredible people. They fit right in with the LSS team!

At Here4Youth we offer programs before and after school, when there is no school for breaks and throughout the summer. We also offer respite care on a Friday or Saturday evening couple of times per month. The youth have fun and their parents get a little break.

I have learned so much already! I have studied autism (I will always keep trying to learn more), I know who to call when the wheelchair access button stops working and I have shopped for the best enabling switch-activated toys and I-pad apps. For each thing I learn, I discover many more I will need to learn. This new adventure is everything I could ask for and more.

Thankfully Yours,
Heather DeWit, Director of Childcare and Education Services

Parents interested in LSS Childcare & Education Services at Here4Youth can visit www.LssSD.org or call 605-271-6327.

PS- Take a peek at the video below to see the new Sensory Room at Here4Youth.


“Life’s Most Persistent and Urgent Question…”

January 19, 2015

… is what are you doing for others.” Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

Today is Martin Luther King, Jr. Day. For some, it is a time to remember. Some people may honor this day by taking a moment of reflection, some may post something about MLK on Facebook, and some may get a day off work to run errands.

This week, the LSS Touching Lives team of bloggers will focus on Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Be sure to check the blog throughout the week to learn more about Dr. King and how we value and apply his work, words and action into our work at LSS.

What many may not know is that in 1994, Congress designated Martin Luther King day as a National Day of Service. It is the only federal holiday observed as such. So, that gets us back to one of Dr. King’s amazing quotes, “Life’s most persistent and urgent questions is what are you doing for others.”

For over 1,000 Sioux Falls area residents, they can easily answer that question by saying they mentor a child. What is your answer to “life’s most persistent and urgent question?”

Today, LSS hosted a try-it event with potential mentors. For those, many were off work and made it a day ON and not a day OFF. We worked on a project to create a poster of the world, kids could write their dreams and when it was all put together, it shows that we all see the world a little different, but we are all part of it. 20150119_121251

If you are searching for an answer to the question, additional opportunities to try out mentoring take place on Tuesday, January 20, 11:30-12:30 at Hayward; Thursday, January 22, 11:30-12:30 at RF Pettigrew and on Tuesday, January 27, 11-12 at Robert Frost. There is still room for more volunteers at each opportunity!

The try-it events are coordinated by a few of the several AmeriCorps members serving at LSS. This year, each member did some type of community service project to celebrate MLK Day. We are thankful for their passion for service!

Whatever your answer to what you are doing for others is, we hope you find joy in it and that it moves us closer to Dr. King’s vision of a “Beloved Community.” And if you are still searching for your answer, please consider mentoring a child. Apply today.

Post by Michelle Madsen, Director LSS Mentoring Services


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