Everyday Heroes Update

December 30, 2015

LSS EVERYDAY HEROES LOGO 3.5.14Lutheran Social Services Everyday Heroes campaign has marked two years of progress. The campaign is a grassroots volunteer-led effort to increase the numbers of mentors for at-risk youth in the Sioux Falls School District. Since the campaign began in spring 2014, the number of new mentors has increased 20%, going from 202 in 2013 to 246 in 2014 and 249 in 2015.

Despite the great effort, there is still work to be done. At the end of 2015, nearly 300 students still need or want a mentor. A majority of the students in need are boys. Only about one-third of the current volunteer force is male.

“I enjoy every minute I get to spend with my mentee each week,” said Betty Oldenkamp, LSS President/CEO and a current mentor. “But it is hard to ignore the longing glances from other students who I know are thinking they wish they had a mentor.”

LSS matches students with mentors throughout the school year and January is the perfect time to start. This January will mark the 15th annual National Mentoring Month.

To help close the gap of 300 students who want or need a mentor, LSS has set a goal of recruiting an additional 45 community members to mentor in January. Additionally, LSS wants to recruit 110 new mentors by the end of the 2015-2016 school year. Volunteers need to be over 18 years old, complete a background screen and training, commit to meeting an elementary, middle or high school student for one hour each week, and most importantly have a desire to be involved in the life of a young person.

Mentoring has proven to be an effective tool in boosting student grades, improving school attendance and decreasing behavior incidents. Most importantly, mentors send young people the message that their community cares about them. They give kids a sense of hope for the future and empower them to be their best selves. Young people that were at-risk for not completing school but who had a mentor are 55% more likely to be enrolled in college than those who did not have a mentor and 78% more likely to volunteer regularly in their community.

In turn, volunteer mentors will have fun, feel more productive, experience personal growth and learn more about themselves and their community all while making a positive difference in the life of a child.

What are you waiting for? APPLY TO BE A MENTOR IN 2016!

Post by Michelle Madsen

When Wiping Out is Worth It

December 29, 2015

I could probably have asked another staff person to help the kids at the skating rink today instead of going myself. I decided that it is just too important for me to miss! As a Director and as a parent I try very hard to be intentional about my actions. I try to do what is best for the kids and what fits with the mission, vision and values of Lutheran Social Services of South Dakota. Sometimes I overthink it. I have a lot to do each day. So, why in the world would I spend the better part of a morning going in circles at Skate City with school age kids?

  1. The kids like to see me being silly. They like it when I do the YMCA and giggle with them. They need to know that I can have fun with them and enjoy their company.
  2. I stink at skating. That’s right. I said it. I am not athletic or coordinated so skating isn’t my strongest skill. I can Hokey Pokey with the best of them and am great at skating with kids that are having a hard time, but I don’t look graceful when I skate and I’m slow. Kids who struggle with skating need to see that it is ok to try things that are hard and to practice a new skill before they are good at it. For that matter, all kids need to see grown ups struggling or doing things that are hard. It lets them know it is alright to do the same.
  3. I am part of the team. I get to skate with the kids and help my co-workers as we spend time with the kids. We work as a team to ensure every kid has a fun, safe and memorable time.
  4. It is tradition. The kids can count on me joining them on this field trip whenever I am able to. They request the same songs and do the same things.
  5. It is fun!!! (When I asked the kids why they think I go along, this is what they said. I agree!)

My purpose in telling you this is to encourage you to have fun with the kids in your life. (If there aren’t kids in your life, maybe you would make a great mentor!) Do the things you aren’t skilled in and learn with them. Laugh and be silly. Create fun.

Have fun!

Back on Solid Ground,

Heather DeWit


Not my best look but it is important to be in pics even when they aren’t perfect. That sounds like another blog post idea!

New Year, New Hope

December 28, 2015

In just a few days, we will ring in the New Year. 2016. 

To me, a new year is a bit of an oxymoron.

On the one hand, Jan. 1, 2016 is just the day after Dec. 31, 2015.  Another day.  Another tomorrow. 

On the other hand, it is symbolic.  It marks a new beginning, new hope, new promises.  Humans have always relished in the symbolic  – perhaps because the symbolic represents something larger than ourselves, something beyond the mundane, everyday experiences of our lives.

For refugees coming to the U.S., having to leave behind everything that used to be symbolic – places, foods, and traditions – perhaps there is nothing greater than remembering those symbols.

As we all celebrate a new year of our lives, a new year of hope, I share with you two more poems written by the students in Julia Escobar’s English class here at LSS. They are good reminders of how difficult it can be to leave behind the old.   It is never easy to say goodbye. 

And yet, there is always the hope, as with these former refugees, that something great awaits us in the future – including a new life in Sioux Falls, South Dakota!

Happy New Year!

Where I am From

By Dilli Dulal

I am from a rice and corn spade.

I am from the stone and wood double-storied pleasant Nepali dwelling.

I am from Bhutanese Rhododendron blooming throughout the year in the Himalayans.

I am from rice and corn, and blue and white school uniforms.

I am from Tulsi and Radha.

I am from hard labor and being active,

from weekly devotion in the Temple.

I am from preaching the prayer of God.

I am from Devi and Durga branches,

From earthy rice, corn food,

and cow’s milk and orange juice to drink.

I am from the large paddy field and the huge orange field

in the middle of a beautiful Himalayan Kingdom.

I am from those moments . . .


Bhutanese Rhododendron


Where I Am From

By Ali Al Azerj

I am from Southern birds, from Basra oil,

I am from a wooden house surrounded by many trees on a river bank.

I am from a date tree.

I am from fish and wool,

from Dakhel and Slowa.

I am from “please” and “excuse me,”

from faith in the family.

I am from we-are-like-any-other-religion.

I am from Azerj branch,

from meat, rice and orange juice.

I am from hot weather.

I am from the house my family abandoned fleeing from the militants.

I am from these moments …

iraq date tree

 Date trees grow throughout the Middle East.

Posted by Julie Boutwell-Peterson






Is it Time to Shake Up your Christmas Tradition?

December 23, 2015

With the holiday season comes traditions. I bet you and your family have traditions that you do every Christmas that you enjoy, and probably some you don’t. A tradition is defined as a belief or behavior passed down within a group or society with symbolic meaning or special significance with origins in the past.

In my family, Christmas is not complete without: a candlelight service at church, Brenda Lee’s Christmas CD, opening gifts on Christmas Eve, making treats with my girls, exchanging wine with my brother in laws, and playing games until the wee hours of the morning.

Then there are the traditions that I wish we didn’t have… spending too much money, making too much food, eating too much food, and this horrible new tradition where everyone gets bored and stares at their phones.

A few years ago, we received a book called “Twas the Night Before the Night Before Christmas” by Natasha Wing. It is a cute story that made us all chuckle. Without realizing it, we created a new family tradition of reading this book on December 23.

Last year a family contacted me and decided to start a new tradition in their family. The family realized that it was unnecessary to exchange gifts. The children are grown and have successful careers. They chose instead to give to a family in need. They contacted LSS to see if we knew of a family who could use some help thus starting the tradition of helping a family in need in Rapid City.

They helped a young family from our LSS Fatherhood & Families Services purchase a tree and gifts for his small children. He also was able to buy groceries for the home including all the fixings for a wonderful Christmas meal.

This year, they chose to help an 18 year old single mother. This young mother had a difficult childhood; she suffered through multiple kinds of abuse and neglect. She grew up without a stable home as she went back and forth between foster care and home. She is now on her own. She struggles with balancing work and school, all while raising a child. She has a lot of responsibility at 18, but she is determined and is making steps in the right direction.

Maybe this year is the year that you start a new family tradition. Imagine looking at your bank statement and seeing the ending balance of $0.02. Our young mother recently did just that, she literally had 2 cents to her name. What a scary feeling when you have a young child who relies on you.

If you are interested in helping a family in need, or donating to any of our programs who strive to help those who are struggling in life, please contact the development officer in your region.

Thank you.

Western Region: Jessica Lillebo, 605-791-6769
Northeast Region: Liesl Hovel, 605-262-5301
Southeast Region: Linda Jensen, 605-444-7536


Jessica Lillebo, Western Regional Director
LSS Development & Foundation

Go Ahead. Play Around With It.

December 22, 2015


“I’m going to play with my credit score a little.”

“WHAT?!?  You’re just going to play around with it?  Do you know how much impact your credit score can have on your life?  Landlords, loans, employment, insurance rates.  It is a huge deal and you’re just going to ‘play around’ with it?!?  I thought you were more responsible than that.  Your credit score is not something to be taken lightly!”

Read the rest of this entry »

Better Together at the Holidays

December 21, 2015

The holidays are a time of so many fun and festive traditions. One Christmas tradition which is always20151221_153702 underrated is the exchange of Christmas cards. Everyone talks about presents, caroling, or holiday cookies and feasts, but who does not like to open their mailbox to a Christmas card? Is this familiar…bill, credit card offer, bill…Christmas card!?

They could be from friends, coworkers, or even the cousin you have not spoken to in a better part of a decade that somehow always gets their Christmas card out in EARLY December. You know the one. These enveloped sentiments tell us “Listen, someone out there was thinking about you.” Read the rest of this entry »

How to Wake Up Smiling

December 18, 2015

Nearly everyone who knows me knows that I care deeply about children and am driven by a desire to see children feel loved and cared for as they learn. I am fueled by “kid noise” and energized by their smiles and incredible ability to learn. What I don’t talk about as often is the incredible blessing it is to work with staff as they learn and grow along side of the children. They are an inspiration to me and make me better each day.

One of our beautiful team members is Brittany. When Brittany started her job with LSS Childcare and Education her heart for the children could not be missed. She joined our program as one of the most caring people I’ve ever met and the children in our programs instantly noticed her compassion and were drawn to her gentle spirit. That was over a year ago and the Brittany that is working today is even more amazing! Brittany left us to go to college outside of Sioux Falls but comes back on her breaks to reconnect with the children. She is more confident and a leader in our program. Her smile lights up a room and the kids are so very happy to see her each day.


I asked Brittany to tell us why she works at LSS and her radiant smile and quick response assured me that she was happy to share her story. She writes:

“I love working at Lutheran Social Services. I look forward to every chance I get to come back and visit the kids. The staff is absolutely great and understanding and will always be there for you no matter what. I went back to college after working here at LSS for over 1.5 years. I got to work in each and every room and get to know each and every kid. It’s rewarding to watch the kids grow up and see what they are learning. LSS is a great place to work and you get to see the kids grow up.” –Brittany

Thank you Brittany for choosing LSS and for the life long impact you are making on children!

With gratitude,

Heather DeWit, Director of Childcare and Education Services

Would you like to join Britttany and the rest of the team? Check us out at: http://www.lsssd.org/news_events/lssemployment.html or email Learning@LssSD.org to learn more.


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