Learning from Yoda

October 30, 2015

“Do or Do Not, There Is No Try.”

As much as I love the wise Jedi Master Yoda, in this case there is a try! LSS Mentoring Services wants you to try mentoring…and then hopefully DO it, but first just TRY it.

try it fall 2015 flier

The opportunities to try mentoring are on:

  • Tuesday, November 17, 11-12 at RF Pettigrew Elementary
  • Friday, November 20, 11-12 at Terry Redlin Elementary

At Mentor Try-It events, potential volunteer mentors meet with students for lunch and do an activity together. We are hoping to recruit ten volunteers for each event. There is no commitment to become a mentor by attending the event, but participants will be asked and LSS will follow up with potential volunteers. If you would like to try mentoring, RSVP to LSS at mentoring@lsssd.org or by calling 221-2403 by November 13.

And to bring this post full circle (and get even more Star Wars references), let’s not forget that Yoda is the ultimate mentor to Luke Skywalker. In The Empire Strikes Back, he taught Luke to think about the here and now. He is supporting, patient and allows Luke to gain confidence. All amazing qualities that mentors from Yoda to the 1,124 Everyday Heroes mentors in Sioux Falls, SD help bring out.

If you are not able to attend one of the events but would like to volunteer to mentor, please apply today! There are hundreds of kids waiting for someone like you!

Post by Michelle Madsen

Night of the Living Dead Debt

October 29, 2015

I have to admit, I’m not really a big Halloween fan. Sure, I loved it as a kid. There was all of the candy, the class party, all of the candy, a later evening out trick-or-treating, and then there was all of the candy. But now? Ehh. I think it’s the whole zombie invasion thing that bugs me. Seriously? The living dead? There really are people out there preparing for the zombie apocalypse as if it were more imminent than the threat of snow this time of year. (If you weren’t in eastern South Dakota, we got our first round of snow yesterday.) And this seems to be their holy day of the year, the big blood festival.  Come on people!  REALLY?!? Read the rest of this entry »

Proud to Be A Citizen

October 28, 2015

Last week you met Janice Godtland, an immigration attorney at the Center for New Americans. Today I will share the story of one of the many individuals she has helped to become a U.S. Citizen. Matuda Agaba is a 63 year-old former refugee from the African nation of Eritrea.  She came to the United States 8 years ago after spending nearly a decade in a refugee camp. Originally, she was resettled in Las Vegas, Nevada but decided to come to Sioux Falls 6 years ago to be closer to her daughter.

Matuda began the process to citizenship nearly a year and a half ago. She first met with Janice to complete the initial 21 page application, take pictures, and pay the fees required to apply. Then she eagerly waited for the letter to come in the mail telling her the dates of her appointments with the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services. At her first appointment she was fingerprinted and completed a full background check. After passing the background check, her second appointment was made and consisted of an in-depth personal interview with an Immigration Officer. Like many refugees, Matuda attended Citizenship preparation classes at the LSS Center for New Americans in order to prepare for the interview. During this interview, the officer asked Matuda to detail her life here in America, her life in Eritrea, and her experiences in the refugee camp. The officer also tested Matuda’s knowledge of the U.S. and history.

Matuda Agaba during the Oath Ceremony.

Matuda Agaba during the Oath Ceremony

The final step for Matuda was the Naturalization Oath Ceremony. Matuda, along with 40 others, officially became a United States citizen on Friday, September 11th at 2:30 pm. During the ceremony, many speakers stood up and spoke about the significance of being a U.S. Citizen. To the delight of most of those present, President Obama even appeared on the room’s television with a prerecorded message to celebrate their citizenship. Each person also got to the opportunity to pose with the judge and record their first moments of being a U.S. citizen. Matuda said this was one of her favorite moments of the day.

Finally, after all of the pictures with friends and family, Matuda did something she has wanted to do for most of her life—she registered to vote. Matuda has never had the opportunity to vote. When Eritrea gained its independence in 1993, the Eritrean People’s Liberation Front seized control and established a one-party state and banned any further political activity. There have been no elections since. Though excited to vote at the next election, Matuda is nervous because, “I’ve never voted before and it’s hard to know what each candidate stands for.”

Please help us welcome Matuda Agaba as a brand new U.S. Citizen!

Matuda Agaba

Matuda Agaba as a brand new citizen


Kristyne Walth, Volunteer Coordinator

All Saints Day: Remembering Loved Ones

October 28, 2015

This year we will celebrate All Saints Day on Sunday, November 1. This celebration has been going on for hundreds of years; one of the reasons that Martin Luther nailed his “Ninety Five Theses” to the door of the Wittenberg Castle Church on October 31, 1517 was that he knew that there would be a large number of people coming to church the next day for the solemn occasion. All Saints Day originally began as a commemoration for the early Christians who were martyred for their faith but has expanded to include all who have died in the past year.

Today, many churches ask for photos of loved ones we’ve lost since the last All Saints Day to put up on a screen or on a poster in the Sanctuary, and read their names during church services. Some congregations have a special service as part of the grieving process for those who have lost a family member or friend.

196Some other ways people mark the day is with prayer, quiet reflection, spending time with family, or visiting cemeteries. I have a suggestion for something different–a memorial gift to LSS. It’s a wonderful way to honor those we’ve lost with a donation that can help others. LSS has beautiful memorial cards for your use; just let me know if you’d like some at no cost and we’ll send them to you. In addition to the card, an envelope is provided along with a return envelope to send your donation to LSS. You can designate your gift for a specific LSS program, or you can tell us to use it where there is the greatest need.

You also can request some recognition cards to honor those loved ones who are celebrating an anniversary, birthday, or other special occasion. For those who don’t need more things, a gift to LSS in their name can be a blessing both to them and to those served by LSS.

Peace and blessings to you–

Linda Jensen | LSS Development & Foundation
Church Relations and Planned Giving Development Officer
705 East 41st Street, Suite 200 l Sioux Falls, SD   57105-6048
605- 444-7536 direct l 800-568-2401 ext. 7536 toll free l 605-310-9865 cell

Strengthening Individuals, Families & Communities

The Wait Is Over! The Kids are Loving the Southern Hills Playground!

October 26, 2015

It took many, many volunteers to pay for and build the new Southern Hills playground but the wait is over. The kids are playing on the new equipment and having a blast!


ThetaggedSetAlbumId_content#x3a##x47##x47#media#x47#exte~57 process began with an exciting crowd funding process in which generous donors raised funds to cover a portion of the cost of the new equipment. It arrived on a semi and staff unloaded all of the parts of the playground.

Then, the amazing Chad (an LSS staff person) removed our old equipment to make room for the new set to arrive!

With the old set out of the way, two program parents took care of preparing the area for the new equipment. When the Saturday for installation arrived, volunteers came with smiles and tools and the playground installation crew led us in some hard but rewarding work.



20151019_141552Assembling, carrying and cementing in the equipment and edging took all day. We covered the old pea rock with plastic to keep it from mixing with our beautiful new wood fiber surface. A giant truck arrived to drop off wood fiber to cover the entire playground. An awesome program parent stopped by to move the piles with a skid loader and the staff and kids finished with wheelbarrows, buckets and even their hands!

20151021_152512All of that hard work made the first day of playing even sweeter and the weather cooperated beautifully for some nice warm days of play. The kids are so happy to enjoy this new play equipment and will be enjoying it for decades to come!

Thank you everyone!


Counseling & Motorcycles: Therapy on Two Wheels

October 23, 2015
Photo by freedigitalphotos.net

Photo by freedigitalphotos.net

So, recently I learned how to ride a motorcycle. You may be wondering what on earth this has to do with counseling and I will tell you it has everything to do with counseling. I went in with the mindset that I wanted to learn for many reasons. However, one main reason was to challenge myself to try something out of my comfort zone. I realize that I preach day in and day out to people asking them to try things that are new and different for them, with the hope that by doing this they will see a change in their life. Read the rest of this entry »

Why I Work at LSS – Center for New Americans

October 22, 2015

This week on the blog, we are featuring our agency employees and letting you know why they work at LSS. We hope you enjoy learning more about the wonderful and dedicated staff!  If you would like to join us, check out the LSS employment opportunities here.

Today I’ll feature one staff member from a small part of our Center for New Americans—our immigration department! Janice Godtland began her life as an immigration attorney at LSS in 1998.  Since day one she has been helping refugees and immigrants with becoming permanent residents and U.S. citizens, as well as helping others replace lost or stolen documents.

What made you choose LSS?

“After I moved to Sioux Falls, I ran into Barbara Day, a former director of the refugee and immigration programs. She encouraged me to apply, as a new grant allowed LSS to hire a full time attorney to aid with the process of citizenship.  I thought it would be a great change of pace from my previous role in the Attorney General’s office.”

What’s your favorite part of working here?

“I love when things turn out well and I see our clients succeed in their new life. When I help people bring in family members, I always ask the family to bring the loved ones in to meet me. It is so fun to put actual faces to the names with which I have become familiar.”

What’s the hardest?

“Well the deadlines for paperwork can be rough, but the hardest probably is having to tell someone that their loved one will not be able to come and that unless they travel back home they may never see their loved one again.”

Finally, if you could tell someone just one thing about your work, what would it be?

“I guess that it would be that while working with refugees and immigrants can be challenging at times, it is NEVER boring and ALWAYS rewarding.”

Thank you Janice and everyone else in the immigration department for all your hard work! I hope you liked this snapshot of immigration.  If you’d like to join Janice & the rest of us in helping refugees and immigrants, become a volunteer!  Sign up here.


Kristyne Walth, Volunteer Coordinator

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