The Reality of What Credit Counseling Really Is

November 30, 2015

I’m often asked exactly what we do when people come in for credit counseling.  Unfortunately, few enough people have been to a credit counselor that it is a very legitimate question. angry businessman So here’s the answer: we dig through all of your history (business, personal, and otherwise), point out every mistake that you’ve made, belittle you for those mistakes, paint a pretty hopeless picture for your future, and then lecture your children on how they should never turn out like you because of what you have done financially.

Sound like fun?  Now that we have all of those misconceptions out of the way, let’s talk about what credit counseling is really like…..

Read the rest of this entry »

What are you thankful for this holiday season?

November 25, 2015

I know our programs throughout Lutheran Social Services are extremely thankful for you, our donors. Without you, we cannot provide services for our clients. Our programs wouldn’t survive in meeting the needs of our clients if it wasn’t for monetary donations, in-kind donations such as clothing and art supplies for the youth, and the time that our wonderful volunteers give to our programs throughout the state of South Dakota.

To operate, LSS seeks financial support from a variety of resources such as public fees and grants, United Way funding, individual requests and income from our small foundation. Most clients pay for a portion of the services they receive based on their income.

However, there is still a shortfall in what it costs to provide needed services. That is where LSS relies on partnerships with congregations, corporate sponsorships and individual donations. We are also able to meet the needs of others through our many volunteers. Volunteers make a difference in the lives of individuals served by LSS.

LSS could not provide the ministry we do without the time and talents of so many. From office volunteers stuffing envelopes, to mentors in the schools being positive role models—every minute and every ounce of support given is a gift.

Because of you, our donors, we were able to touch the lives of thousands each year. With your continued help, LSS is better able to respond to the changing needs in our communities and to care for those who need us the most.

  • Because of you, New Beginnings Center, a group care facility for youth who have emotional, behavioral and educational challenges, received 96 blankets that will be given to each youth walking through our doors.
  • Because of you, New Beginnings Center received 26 meals for the youth and staff.
  • Because of you, New Beginnings Center received 25 games and recreational activities for the youth to play.
  • Because of you, New Beginnings Center received toiletry products for the youth.
  • Because of you, the students have school supplies and new backpacks.
  • Because of you, LSS Counseling Services in Aberdeen is able to provide more affordable services to veterans.
  • Because of you, we have a scholarship for a family in the Watertown area to adopt a child.
  • Because of you, we are able to provide Counseling Services to those who cannot afford it themselves.
  • Because of you, through our Aberdeen Pheasant Hunt, the fund dollars have assisted multiple children and their parents in receiving services for abuse.
  • Because of you, we get to do what we love every day: help others.

So, this holiday season we are thankful for you, our donors!

To learn more about how you can help the mission of LSS, contact LSS Development & Foundation at 1-800-568-2401, ext. 7502 or 605-444-7502. In Northeastern South Dakota, call our Regional Director in Aberdeen, Liesl Hovel at 605-262-5301. In Western South Dakota, call our Regional Director in Rapid City, Jessica Lillebo at 605-791-6769.

Liesl Hovel, Northeast Regional Director
LSS Development & Foundation

The Little Things

November 24, 2015

From now until Thanksgiving, the LSS blog will be looking at ‘Thankfulness’ in each of the posts. Written by various programs, check back each day for a different perspective on why or what we celebrate.

Julie’s post did a great job of illustrating that no matter where we come from, when it comes to being thankful we are all more alike than different. And it is so important to appreciate those big things – life, freedom, family, friends…there is a lot. But it is also equally important to be thankful for some of the little, daily things. Here are some that I have taken note of lately:

  • Email. This one is odd. But what’s in the messages that cause me to pause and give thanks. And the BEST emails are from They are new mentor applications. I love opening them and seeing who has decided to make a commitment to make a difference in the life of a stranger. As of yesterday morning, we have been blessed with NINE new volunteers this week!
  • Plows and Snowblowers. After getting stuck twice on Friday (small cars are great for gas mileage, not great for driving in a foot of snow), I am thankful for the crew of city employees and contractors who work around the clock to clear the streets and parking lots. It is easy to bemoan their existence when you’re stuck behind a plow and in a hurry or get upset when they have not done your street, but can you imagine life without their help?! No thank you! And snowblowers make the work of clearing sidewalks and driveways so much easier.
  • Pinching. My 2-year-old daughter has this desire to pinch our hand when she is tired. It is her thing to get her to go to sleep or if she just needs a little comfort from mom or dad. It can be irritating, but I know that someday this phase will pass and we will miss it. But for now, I am reminded to be thankful for her being our baby.
  • Jumbo-trons. A few weeks back, we went to the Vikings game. Our seats were near a retired player, so at one point in the game a camera that fed images to the jumbo-tron got a shot of our area. My sweet 7 year-old worked himself into the frame (aka photobombed the former star) and gave an awkward wave and a huge grin to 76,000 people in attendance…his highly visible red Kool-Aid mustache made the moment for me. #Awesome

Let’s take advantage of the little moments and give thanks. Share some of these things in the comments, and we can see that a lot of little things can add up to a whole lot of thanks! I better go, I just got an email from my favorite sender!

Happy Thanksgiving!

Post by Michelle Madsen, Mentoring Services Director

A Refreshing Reminder

November 23, 2015

Thanksgiving is upon us, and as this is my favorite holiday of the year, I wanted to talk to my English students about not only the American celebration but also the concept of thankfulness.

In one particular class, I have students from Guatemala, Ethiopia, Eritrea, Bhutan, Ethiopia, Iraq, Ukraine, Russia, and Poland.

Some have been in the United States for many years, and some have only recently arrived.  Quite a few spent years in refugee camps in very difficult circumstances before making their way to the U.S., and some have experienced war first-hand.

Nonetheless, the concept of thankfulness came easily, and when I asked the students to discuss in small groups some of the things for which they are thankful, the classroom was full of chatter as the students named the special things in their lives.

8 things thankful
The things for which we are thankful bind us together as humans.

“I am thankful for life,” said a middle-aged, quiet-spoken woman from Bhutan.

“I am thankful for English class, all my teachers at LSS, and for my family,” said a young mother from Guatemala.

“I am thankful for my God, my English teacher, the U.S.A., the U.S. government, my family, and my life,” said a mother of seven from the Ukraine.

“I am thankful for my family,” said a young mother from Iraq.  Her choice was especially poignant as she told me once that her mother was killed when a bomb hit her house during the fighting that ensued from the U.S. invasion.  Her six-month-old baby was also severely injured in the explosion, causing him to be permanently wheel-chair-bound and his development to be impaired.

As I listened to the women’s stories, I found myself wondering at the human ability to be thankful despite difficult situations.  It is a profound example of the human ability for resilience.

What is also striking is the similarities in response among all people.  If I had asked this question to a group of non-immigrants and non-refugees, I would have received mostly the same answers: thankful for life, family, education, and God.

so very thankful

This is what I’m most thankful for this year: the understanding that all people, despite their age, circumstances, or culture, are the same when it comes to the things that are most important to them.  It is refreshing to be reminded that we all want safe and happy families, friends, education, and life.  Let us work daily toward this realization for all people.

Happy Thanksgiving!

Posted by Julie Boutwell-Peterson


Teaching Children to be Thankful

November 19, 2015

From now until Thanksgiving, the LSS blog will be looking at ‘Thankfulness’ in each of the posts. Written by various programs, check back each day for a different perspective on why or what we celebrate.

“It is not happy people who are thankful. It is thankful people who are happy.” — author unknown

I find myself in awe each day at all that I have to be thankful for. If there is any truth to the quote above, that explains why I am so very happy! If I made a list of my hopes for my daughters, happiness would be toward the top. However, with the busy time that begins in November and zooms through to the new year, it is easy to get overwhelmed and forget about our many blessings. For children, that issue is compounded with the excitement and activity that comes with the holidays. Click below to read our blog post filled with tips for teaching children to be thankful.

Heather DeWit, Director of Childcare and Education Services


Looking Back to Move Ahead

November 18, 2015

From now until Thanksgiving, the LSS blog will be looking at ‘Thankfulness’ in each of the posts. Written by various programs, check back each day for a different perspective on why or what we celebrate.

A while back my parents were watching my kids for the day. Needing to clean the house, my parents took some time to do that. Being the people-pleaser that she is, my daughter offered to help. So impressed by her willingness, my dad gave her a dollar for helping. When the basement came up, she again offered to help, so she was offered the task of dusting a few things. As soon as she was done, she looked at Grandpa and asked, “What do I get for that?” Read the rest of this entry »

There’s Nothing Quite Like a Village of Thinkers

November 17, 2015

It is often said “it takes a village” to raise children, highlighting that everyone in a community must do his or her part to help young people grow mentally, physically, and emotionally.

Perhaps, though, this saying not only applies to children, but also to fields of knowledge.

I definitely felt this to be the case last week when English language teachers from South Dakota, North Dakota, and Minnesota gathered in the Holiday Inn City Centre in downtown Sioux Falls to discuss how to better reach out to and teach the non-native English speakers in this region.

Nearly 300 educators and community leaders met for two days last week as part of the annual Closer Connections Conference sponsored by Dakota TESL and LSS of South Dakota.  Topics of conversation and presentation ranged from “Myths and Realities of Immigration” to “Making English Meaningful” – from “Strategies for Teaching Vocabulary” to “Options for Undocumented Youth.”  In other words, the conference covered the whole gamut of topics relating to refugees and immigrants, from children to adults.

dakota TESL       Dakota TESL provides support , advocacy, and professional development opportunities for those who work with English as a second language students or English language learners. 

Susan Torres, an LSS English teacher here in Sioux Falls, who has also taught English in Spain and Argentina, said, “I got techniques to use for the classroom, I got a better understanding of the refugee resettlement process, and I also got to hear the sadness of the situation in Darfur (Sudan) from a Darfur Panel.  In other words, I have lots of things to digest from the conference.”

I felt the same way.

There is nothing quite like a village of thinkers to get you to rethink your practices, expand your knowledge, and expose you to new ideas.

Amy Vander Lugt, who also teaches here in Sioux Falls with LSS and has lived in China, said she especially appreciated a presentation about SLIFE (Students with Limited or Interrupted Formal Education) by Jill Watson, a professor at Hamline University in Minnesota.

jill_watson   Dr. Jill Watson is passionate about helping SLIFE (Students with Limited or Interrupted Formal Education) learners who come to the U.S.  Watson was a Keynote Speaker at the Closer Connections Conference.

“(Watson) has a wonderful way of helping teachers see the strengths of these students’ prior experience, while giving good ideas about how to help them transition successfully to our academic school settings,” Amy said.

I couldn’t agree more. It was especially interesting to hear Jill discuss the strengths of oral-based cultures vs. literacy-based cultures.  It is always nice to be reminded that while one’s own culture may have strengths, other cultures do too.  We can all learn from each other – and we all have things to share to make each other’s lives more meaningful.

That really was the bottom line of the conference. It is vital that we are always learning from others in our field – regardless of what that field is.  It is vital that we keep open minds, that we continue to move forward. We are a village of learners and teachers, and these roles change frequently, and that is a good thing.

Stay tuned for future blog posts about specific sessions of the conference. I can’t wait to tell you in greater detail about some of my favorites.

Posted by Julie Boutwell-Peterson

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