Here’s To Heather

February 1, 2017

LSS is blessed to have many dedicated long-time employees who believe in the mission and the work that we do. Heather DeWit, Director of Childcare & Education Services, contributed nearly 19 years of service to fulfilling the mission of LSS, and her story is extra special.

Heather DeWit and Rebecca Kiesow-Knudsen

Heather DeWit and Rebecca Kiesow-Knudsen

Heather’s very first job, while she was still in high school, was with LSS at the Circle of Hope daycare. She later transitioned to start the agency’s first after-school program for school-age kids in partnership with Southern Hills United Methodist Church. That program began with fewer than ten kids in one small room. At the time, LSS did not have a vision that included childcare. Heather created that vision.

Under Heather’s direction, childcare services expanded from one small room to six different locations in Sioux Falls, offering not only after-school services, but also infant-toddler and pre-school services. Last year, these programs provided 17,000 weeks of care for approximately 300 children each day. None of this would have been possible without Heather’s drive, vision and leadership.

Recently, Heather was presented an opportunity to take on the role of Director of Children’s Ministries at her church. The decision to leave her very first employer (19 years later) was difficult to say the least. But, as Heather shared at her farewell party last week:

heatherDr. Seuss said, ‘Don’t cry because it’s over. Smile because it happened!’ But that doesn’t quite cover it for me. I am still smiling because it is still happening and will continue to happen for a very long time.

Because LSS decided to say yes to the dream of After-School and Summer Programs that put kids first, yes to Preschool that prepares children for lifelong learning, and yes to helping infants and toddlers learn and grow with caring adults, we have a new generation of healthy, happy, caring and smart kids that are making the world a better place. I would say that is the definition of still happening. I still can’t believe that I was able to go along on that journey.

So, my smile won’t fade and my role as a cheerleader for LSS won’t either. I am, and will remain, forever thankful to the people who gave me a chance, trusted me and taught me and, of course, thankful to those that are continuing the good work of LSS.

Heather’s supervisor, Vice President of Community Services Rebecca Kiesow-Knudsen, said of Heather:

Heather has taught me so much about servant leadership, compassion and faith in our time working together. She has touched the lives of thousands of young people over the years — some of whom later returned to work for our programs. She has taught me to have high expectations for our children, to help bring out their best, and to see them for who they are and the promise they hold for our future.

Join me today in thanking Heather for all that she has done in the last 19 years. We will miss her at LSS, and are happy to see that she has found a new calling. On behalf of all of the children and families for whom you have made a difference, LSS thanks you. 

Thank you, Heather!


Tragedy in Orlando and What I Know

June 17, 2016

On June 12, 2016 forty-nine people were murdered in an Orlando nightclub with 53 other victims injured in the shooting. As the world watched in horror, the text messages, videos and stories of the victims splashed across social media and television. I was standing in line at the grocery store this week with a cart full of child-friendly snacks when the elderly woman in line behind me looked at me sadly and commented that it must be hard to raise children in a world like this where people are killed so often and horrible crimes are committed. I was a little tongue tied at the unexpected deep conversation over fruit snacks and gave a polite and short response. Now that I’ve had some time to think, I have an honest response that may have surprised her.

I have the unique blessing of getting to spend time with hundreds of children each day and therefore thousands of children during the course of my career. That means that I know something beautiful. This is a perspective that makes me hopeful for our future. These kids are incredible!

  • Our kids are deep thinkers. They do not accept information without processing it and examining it against their beliefs and values. They will not be brought into a “bad crowd” because they have good heads on those sweet little shoulders. Those that have faith have a deep and lasting faith and want to learn more and share with others.
  • The children that are growing up in “the world today” are caring and giving. They want very much for the world to be a better place and they are willing to work hard to make that happen, particularly when they find a cause that they feel strongly about. They are a generation passionate about giving to others rather than getting ahead. I predict that they will surpass any other generation in charitable giving and volunteer hours. They are already off to a good start!
  • The class of 2023 (5th graders) and the others in their generation want to include others and care about the feelings and self-esteem of those around them. The “in crowd” is a fading trend and kids spend time with many different friends enjoying a variety of enriching activities including fitness activities and the arts.
  • Speaking of activities, our kids are breaking the stereotype that kids are glued to technology. I see kids using technology for a purpose and to connect with others but not spending as much time on mindless games. They use technology to create, connect, learn and positively impact the world.
  • Last, and far from least, our kids are resilient. They hear about a tragedy like the one in Orlando and they care. They shed tears and have empathy for the families of the victims but they do not crumble in fear. They have hard things happen in their lives including divorce and stress. They have unprecedented access to information but they have the confidence, coping skills and connections with caring adults that it takes to make it in a world where sad things happen. For many, they find hope in a God who loves them and holds them through anything they may face. Our kids may face harder things than we ever had to but they have what they need to make it through.

I know that not all children fit this description but in my experience, the vast majority of “kids today” will be healthy, happy, caring and productive adults tomorrow.  I am blessed to raise my children today. Our future is bright. I know, because I get to hang out with them.

With gratitude,

Heather DeWit, Director of Childcare and Education Services

PS- Do you want to enjoy time with these great students too? We are hiring. http://www.lsssd.org/who-we-are/employment.html

DSC_5673


Congratulations Ava

February 19, 2016

We have some pretty fabulous kids here at LSS Childcare and Education. They have a variety of gifts and talents and we are thankful to have each one of them be part of our program. One of our great kids is Ava. This week she found out that she was the big winner of the SoDakSACA coloring contest! The mission of the South Dakota School Age Care Alliance is to promote quality Out-of-School Time programs for children and youth through professional development and public advocacy. They invited kids from all over South Dakota to be creative and Ava did just that! Her art was displayed at the South Dakota Capitol Building during After-School Day at the Capitol. We are proud of her and all of the students that worked hard to show what a difference after school programs make in the lives of kids.

AVA

 


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

skating

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!


STUCK or My Time in a Snow Pile

December 3, 2015

I had an experience a couple of weeks ago that just keeps playing in my head every time I have a bad day. It brings me joy and I hope it brings you some joy too.

snow footprint

On a particularly frustrating Friday I found my moments filled with all of the ridiculous things that pull my attention from the parts of my job that feel like they matter. The day was full of things that make me stressed, make me question the goodness of others and just plain annoying things make my job less fun. I was finally sitting down at my desk to check my email and get a few things done when my cell phone rang. After such a long day, I had a moment of wishing I could ignore it but I answered and one of our amazing Lead Teachers told me that she was bringing students home for the evening from one of our after school programs and that the van was stuck in the snow. Really stuck. I guess a foot of snow has that effect on vehicles. So, off to my car I went to rescue them from the snow, not really sure how helpful I could be but feeling like I should at least try. I arrived at the van and sent our teacher in my car to get the remaining kids dropped off at home while I tried to drive the van out of the slippery home it had settled into. I am a South Dakota girl and was determined not to let the snow win. Unfortunately, sheer determination and my skills weren’t enough. I was stuck. Really, really stuck.

Here’s where it gets good. A young man came up to offer me advice. His English wasn’t really strong but with his little bit of English and my tiny bit of Spanish, we made a good team. He gave me some advice and even tried to push it out but we weren’t making much headway. I felt a lot less alone and even started to giggle as he belly laughed while we dealt with the winter wonderland.

Out of a nearby home came a family of four, two of our former students now in middle school and their parents. The kids were translating for his parents in Arabic so that they could give me advice as well. Their next door neighbor, a retired trucker came with tips and encouragement to join the party. As the kids stood on the side, cheering us all on, we tried to solve the problem. Within moments, we were un-stuck. I drove away a bit to a less snowy spot to stop and waved and yelled thank you over the sound of the cheering children.

I drove on to park the van at the program and simply couldn’t believe what had just happened. I learned a few things from my time in a snow pile that I think are worth repeating.

First, there is little I can do on my own. God often reminds me that He will take care of me and take care of situations that seem so out of hand or stuck. He usually sends caring people to do just that. I think of the work of LSS and am struck by how often we help people out of feeling stuck or prepare them to handle tough moments that could come.

Second, we can do so much with a common goal and often a common goal is what brings us together. Those neighbors may have never met had they not shared the common goal of a giant white van in a snowbank. I certainly was impacted that day. I like to think they may have been as well, even if it just means they wave and smile at a now familiar face as they pass in their busy lives. A common goal brings us together and as a team, we can do so much more.

Philippians 2:1-5 says:

1 Therefore if you have any encouragement from being united with Christ, if any comfort from his love, if any common sharing in the Spirit, if any tenderness and compassion, 2then make my joy complete by being like-minded, having the same love, being one in spirit and of one mind. 3Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, 4not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others. 5In your relationships with one another, have the same mindset as Christ Jesus.

The last thing I learned is that the good and kind and caring people in the world outnumber those that are not. Given the opportunity, most of us want very much to be kind to others and are caring. Often those that hurt others are people that are feeling hurt. Often those that are making a difference are those that have had someone make a difference for them. The impact we are making every day at LSS seems then, in my mind, to have an exponential impact.

Luke 10:27 says “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind and your neighbor as yourself.”

That is just what we do at LSS, isn’t it? Love our neighbors. We are part of the good that is happening and the world is a better place because of our shared work toward a common goal. That brings me such joy, even when I feel stuck.

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


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.

https://lsssdblog.wordpress.com/2012/11/20/teaching-children-to-be-thankful/#more-365

Heather DeWit, Director of Childcare and Education Services

Thankful


Sometimes

November 3, 2015

Sometimes four-year-olds say things like, “you’re not my friend.”
That is when we teach them to include others.

Sometimes one-year-olds grab toys from their friends.
That is when we teach them to share.

Sometimes ten-year-olds roll their eyes.
That is when we teach them about being respectful.

Sometimes infants cry.
That is when we respond to their needs to teach them that they are safe and loved.

Sometimes three-year-olds scream and kick.
That is when we teach them that kind words communicate better.

Sometimes five-year-olds forget to clean up after art.
That is when we teach them about responsibility.

Sometimes two-year-olds pinch a friend.
That is when we teach them about kindness and apologies.

Sometimes kids do things we wish they wouldn’t.
That is when we teach them.

These moments are not failures; they are opportunities for learning.
We are all growing and learning, even the “grown up” people.
We can only grow if someone gently and kindly helps us to learn.

Sometimes I get to be that someone for a child.
Sometimes I get to learn from someone else.

I am thankful for both opportunities.

Heather DeWit, Director of Childcare and Education Services

Preschool Reading


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