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

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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!


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


Memorial Day Gratitude

May 24, 2015

I often ask my daughters questions to learn more about what they think and believe. One of my favorites is asking them which 3 words they would use to describe themselves. In the last few months, my seven year old has added a new word to her list- patriotic. Her favorite colors are now red, white and blue. It makes me smile.

In light of Memorial Day, her love of country took on new meaning for me. I thought for a moment about what it would be like if she grew up to serve our country in the military. My first thought was that I would be incredibly proud. But I quickly started to think about how scared I would feel if she were fighting for our freedom and how much it would hurt if something happened to her. My thoughts turned to the many mothers that have lost their own precious children for our country. I am so humbled by that sort of sacrifice.

Therefore,

To the mothers that lay awake at night, fearing the worst, and praying for the best,

Thank you.

To the fathers that hugged a son goodbye, hoping the hug would not be the last,

Thank you.

To the grandparents, filled with pride but also sadly aware of the possible cost,

Thank you.

To the little sister that doesn’t understand but has to learn too soon,

Thank you.

To the brave men and women in uniform that are willing to make the ultimate sacrifice,

Thank you.

I am always thankful but today, we remember.

With gratitude,
Heather DeWit, Director of Childcare and Education Services
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Let It Go

January 1, 2015

Blog. I meant to blog more often in 2014. Also, I meant to keep my desk free from clutter. Speaking of clutter, I planned to keep my house organized and keep up on laundry. 2014 was also going to be the year that I lose 40 pounds. Well, maybe it was going to be the year I stop caring about my weight. I think 2014 was also going to be the year I quit wasting money on lattes. I was also going to quit worrying.

I was going to teach my kids responsibility by asking them to do more chores. I was also going to be sure they have more time to play and relax when they are at home. Parenting is hard! And Pinterest….Oh Pinterest. I was going to make my own laundry detergent and sew some curtains and make organic chicken enchiladas and stop looking at Pinterest and help my kids make homemade valentine cards and follow the 3 easy steps for toned arms and prepare freezer slower cooker meals and stop trying so hard to make cute stuff and stop looking at Pinterest!

With all of those failed resolutions, you may think I’d be bummed out or at very least not doing any resolutions this year. If you thought that, you’d be wrong! This year, my resolution is pretty simple. In the words of 6 year old girls everywhere, “Let it go!” My 2015 resolution is to remember that God loves me and that He is taking care of my family. He is bigger than circumstances and resolutions and even Pinterest!

So, my New Year’s request to the blog readers on this first day of 2015 is that you give yourself some space to make mistakes, remember that you are loved just the way you are, breathe and let it go! (If only the other lyrics from Frozen were true for me too… “the cold never bothered me anyway.”) Stay warm everyone! – Heather DeWit
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Our Silly Christmas Break Song and a Message

December 18, 2014

Christmas Break 

(to the tune of Jingle Bells)

Dashing to the program
Singing all the day
to Carousel Skate we go
Laughing all the way
80’s wear will bring
cookies left and right
What fun it is to dance and jam
The games will be a sight!

Christmas break, Christmas break,
Giggle all the way.
Oh! what fun it is to try
new things every day!
Christmas break, Christmas break,
Crafting all the way;
Oh! what fun it is to play
and get messy in every way.

Christmas break, Christmas break,
Movie, Jammie Day.
Oh! what fun it is to bowl
and dress the 60’s way!
Christmas break, Christmas break,
Fun all the way;
Oh! what fun it is to play
at LSS all Christmas break!

With Christmas break just around the corner, After-School Program staff are working hard to be sure the K-5th grade students are in for some serious fun! They have field trips planned, activities scheduled, dress-up days to look forward to and much more! However, the After-School program is not the only crew enjoying some Christmas adventures. The preschool and 2 year old classes have their big program tonight. I’ve been watching them practice and the cuteness is nearly unbearable! The younger kids have also been busy making adorable art projects and enjoying Christmas songs.

For me there is something magical about watching Christmas through the eyes of a child (or in my case the eyes of hundreds of children!) It is one of the many great blessings of my job. Sometimes I can’t believe I get paid to do this! Christmas is a time I find myself so thankful to God for the many blessings of this life and to my family for being amazing. So, for the parents who choose LSS Childcare and Education for your children, thank you. For the Childcare and Education educators that love and teach kids so well, thank you. For the rest of the LSS team that make each day a reality (from Executive Leadership to accounting, HR to IT and everyone else), thank you. For the generous donors that make the work of LSS a possibility, thank you. Of course, my biggest hug goes to the kids that make me laugh, cry, smile, shake my head and all but burst with joy. Thank you little ones (yes, super cool 5th grade boys- that includes you too!) Merry Christmas! -Heather

Heather DeWit
Director of Childcare and Education Services

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Back to School Already?

August 13, 2014

This week marks the last week of our Summer School Age Program. You may think we are ready to send the kids back to their teachers. I will admit that they are starting to get a little more wound up. However, that is not the reason we are ready for school to begin. We are so excited to send the kids back so that they can wow their new teachers with all that they have learned this summer! Our halls will be quieter each day before 2:45 but we will miss the joy that the school age kids bring us each day.

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We are sad to see the summer end because it was filled with fun and learning but we are so excited for a season of more new beginnings and after-school adventures. Our summer was filled with field trips, messes, friendship, giggles, splashes, learning and of course memories.Friday will be a day of tears, hugs and “see you soon.” Monday will bring a different energy and the exhausted kids will tell us all about classrooms, friends, new teachers and fresh crayons.

As we look to the new school year we have limited openings for our after school programs. Please feel free to spread the word if you hear of someone looking for fun and learning after school. We have openings to pick up additional students at the following Sioux Falls Elementary Schools: Robert Frost, Mark Twain, John Harris Harvey Dunn, Rosa Parks, Terry Redlin and Cleveland. We are full for some of our other locations but are happy to place families on a waiting list if they need a program.

Preschool starts for the school year next week too but I’ll tell you all about that in a future blog post! I’m off to sharpen some more pencils!

-Heather DeWit, Director of Childcare and Education Services

 


I’m Melting!

July 22, 2014

I’m not the Wicked Witch but I do feel like I am melting in this humidity and heat. I promised I wouldn’t whine about being hot if the winter ever ended but I changed my mind. Are you sick of the heat too? Read on for a few tips to keep you and your kids happy in the summer sun.

Boy eating ice cream

  • Check out our Pinterest board for a detailed list of ideas.
  • Drink something cool. Throw some frozen fruit in a blender for a smoothie or make a pitcher of lemonade. You can turn some juice into popsicles as well.
  • Get wet! Go for a swim, run through the sprinkler, toss around some water balloons or just take a cool shower.
  • Curl up with a good book. When outside isn’t fun anymore, switch to something involving air conditioning. My favorite indoor activity is reading of course. Games, crafts and movies would do the trick too.
  • Enjoy the evening. Wait until the sun goes down to enjoy time outdoors. Invest in some affordable flashlights and glow sticks or let the fireflies light the night. Click here for some game ideas to get you started.
  • Make some homemade ice cream. The process of making it will cool you off as much as eating it. In a small zip-closed plastic bag combine 1/2 cup milk, 1/2 teaspoon vanilla, and 1.5 Tablespoons sugar. You can add little pieces of fruit or other flavors as well. Put that bag inside a gallon size zip-close bag and add 6 Tablespoons of salt (rock salt works well) and fill it to the top with ice. Zip it up and shake it, roll it, toss it back and forth. It usually takes about 10 minutes for it to get thick but if you can’t wait you can drink it like a milk shake.
  • Get artistic. You can paint with ice cubes to create some gorgeous creations. Freeze 5-10 drops of food coloring with 1/4 cup water in ice trays to create paint cubes that glide along the paper.

Have a great summer! I’m off to find a pool or smoothie. -Heather DeWit, Director of Childcare and Education Services


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