Closer Connections Conference to be held in Sioux Falls November 8 & 9

October 18, 2017


This coming month Lutheran Services of South Dakota and Dakota TESL will be hosting the 2017 Closer Connections Conference, Pioneering New PATHS:  Promoting Acquisition to Heighten Success.

The Closer Connections Conference includes:

  • Best practices for teaching English Language Learners at all ages and levels of proficiency
  • Cultural panels
  • Breakout sessions on refugee resettlement and immigration
  • Networking opportunities

I was able to talk to Dakota TESL President-elect, Diana Streleck, who said, “The Closer Connection Conference provides teachers and community members a venue in which to discuss and learn about the educational needs and cultural backgrounds of the English Language Learner in our communities.”

Thanks in part to the South Dakota Humanities Council, the one of the keynote speakers of the conference will be, Dr. Amer Ahmed, a prominent national speaker and intercultural diversity consultant, who will deliver a keynote address and discussion session, “Addressing Islamophobia: Dispelling Myths to Break Down Barriers.”


Amer F. Ahmed, Ed. D., is an individual with an eclectic personal and professional background. As an intercultural diversity consultant, college administrator, facilitator, poet and Hip Hop activist, he channels his diverse experiences towards effectively changing how we interact with the world around us.  Born in Springfield, Ohio, to Indian Muslim immigrants, Amer has dedicated his life to engaging and facilitating diversity across human difference. Powerful study abroad experiences in South Africa and Nepal have been enhanced by his deep interest in anthropology and Black Studies. His Indian-Muslim-American upbringing, together with his education and international experiences form the basis of his message to his audiences—respect and dignity for all people.

The second keynote speaker will be, Dr. John Schmidt, an educator, trainer, program developer and administrator with extensive international experience will present a keynote address and break-out session reflecting on “At Home in the World: Building Language Skills to House ESL Acquisition.”


The great-grandson of Norwegian immigrants to Wisconsin, John was raised in the Upper Midwest. In sixth grade he was introduced to a second language, Spanish, by his teacher from Cuba. This encounter was the beginning of his world travels which led him to studying and working in Spain as well as training teachers and developing programs for a variety of educational entities on all five continents.  He currently teaches ESL for the Texas Intensive English Program (TIEP) in Austin, Texas. In addition, he has volunteered his time and expertise in various capacities with TESOL International and Toastmasters International. He has co-authored several ESL textbooks addressing teaching, grammar and English for Specific Purposes.

The Closer Connections Conference gives the local community the opportunity to learn about refugees and immigrants from different countries, listen to international speakers, and engage in interactive sessions to understand diversity in our community.

If you would like to register for the conference, please visit the Dakota TESL website: for more information.

Posted by Heather Glidewell, ESL Instructor and Dakota TESL Secretary


Human Trafficking Presentation

October 9, 2017

South Dakota ranks 6th in the country for the number of victims of human trafficking. According to the Department of Homeland Security, human trafficking is: modern-day slavery and involves the use of force, fraud, or coercion to obtain some type of labor or commercial sex act. Every year, millions of men, women, and children are trafficked in countries around the world, including the United States.

Victims are most often young adults who are looking for a new start or a way out of their current situation. Those looking for victims make promises that fulfill these wishes, and before they know it, they are being moved away from home and into a cycle that is hard to break. The best way we can prevent trafficking is by educating ourselves. Mentors should be aware at the very least and in some cases, ready to discuss trafficking with your student who may be at risk of being a victim.

Anyone who is interested in the prevention of human trafficking is invited to attend our October support training. We will be joined by The New Colossus, a local nonprofit dedicated to prevention efforts. Please join us from 12-1 PM on October 24 at LSS, 705 E 41st Street. Parking and the entrance is in the rear of the building. Please go past the stairs and into the Center for Financial Resource and Counseling Services area to get to the conference room. RSVP by calling 221-2403 or emailing

September? A holiday month? Really?

September 14, 2017

globe and flags

How many holidays are there in September? Well, that’s pretty easy. One of course – Labor Day. And that’s correct, but it also doesn’t end there. Just about every month has one or two major holidays and then many less known celebratory days, often too numerous to mention. And September is no exception. Let’s take a look.

September is the start of National Hispanic Heritage Month, going from September 15 to October 15. Hispanic Heritage Month dates back to 1968 and highlights the independence of several Latin American countries – Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, Nicaragua, Mexico, Chile and Belize – as well as the contributions Spanish speaking individuals have made to the fabric of the United States.

Then there is Labor Day, also known as the unofficial end of summer. It became a federal holiday in 1984, honoring the American workers who – through strength, sweat and perseverance – have shaped this country into what it is today.

And then there is the plethora of other celebrations. A little something for everyone. The internet tells me that there are more than 650 holidays worldwide in September. Several religious holidays are spread throughout the month: the Muslim Eid-al-Adha, remembering that Abraham was willing to sacrifice his son Ishmail to God, the Jewish New Year, Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur, a day of repentance. The government is also well represented, with Citizenship and Constitution Days, Goldstar Mother’s Day and the Air Force’s birthday.

Acorn squash, cheese lovers pizza, salami, TV dinners and Chocolate Milk Shakes are among the many foods highlighted during the month of September. All these meals require a National Clean Up Day. Don’t forget your pets, video games and clean beds.

My personal favorite is definitely National Coffee Day, observed on September 29. There might be some free cups of coffee to be found on that day. I will certainly give it a try.


Written by Silke Hansen, LSS English Instructor

LSS Foundation Founders Family & Distinguished Partners Luncheon

August 30, 2017

You may have heard us describe the LSS mission as a ministry of presence. But what exactly does that mean? Our programs are designed to meet people where they are in life—without judgment, to provide hope and healing, and to offer a chance for them to change their future. But the truth is our ministry is brought to life, sustained and performed by you—our supporters, partners and advocates.

On August 18, we paid tribute to those who breathe life into our mission at our annual LSS Foundation Founders Family & Distinguished Partners luncheon at Callaway’s in Sioux Falls.

The LSS Foundation Founders Family was established in 1994 to honor those who have committed to establishing a lasting legacy with either a significant gift to the LSS Foundation or by planning a gift to LSS beyond their lifetime.

Since its inception, the LSS Foundation has disbursed more than $2.5 million to continue the mission of LSS and this fund continues to grow each year thanks to our many generous supporters who make our mission a part of their legacy.

This year we welcomed two such supporters as new members of the LSS Foundation Founders Family. We are grateful for their consideration. To learn more about the LSS Foundation Founders Family please click here.

One of the many blessings of living in South Dakota is living in a community of shared values such as the value of caring compassion for each other. These values are reflected not only in our individuals, but in our communities, our churches and in our corporations. At this event, we also celebrated those relationships and payed particular thanks to our 2017 Distinguished Partners.


First PREMIER Bank/PREMIER Bankcard representatives – 2017 Distinguished Corporate Partner of the Year

Distinguished Corporate Partner of the Year

Over the past 10 years, more than 200 First PREMIER/PREMIER Bankcard employees have contributed 15,000 plus hours of contact with at-risk youth in the Sioux Falls community. In addition to encouraging volunteers, First PREMIER/PREMIER Bankcard has stepped up to financially support the mission of LSS with annual sponsorship of LSS events included the Mentoring Services Recognition Breakfast, Doing Good on the Green golf event in Watertown, and a recent leadership gift through the Sioux Falls Chamber Community Appeals Fund Drive which helped make the LSS Campus on East Bank dream a reality. We are truly grateful and honored by the many gifts of funding and volunteers provided by First PREMIER Bank/PREMIER Bankcard.


Dale McElhany, Watertown – 2017 Distinguished Volunteer of the Year

Distinguished Volunteer of the Year

This year LSS hosted the seventh-annual Doing Good on the Green in Watertown. This golf tournament has grown to be an annual attraction for golfers from all over the state (and some as far as Arizona). But this event would not be possible if not for the leadership, vision and passion of its founder. Dale McElhany is the proud and very much deserving recipient of the 2017 LSS Distinguished volunteer of the year award.

Touched by adoption through LSS himself, Dale has been a passionate advocate for LSS adoption services. He has made it his mission to provide assistance to families that want nothing more than to experience the love of a child. Dale’s stewardship of this event has helped raise more than $100,000 for services in the Watertown area, providing numerous scholarships to create happy families through LSS Adoption Services.

Thank you Dale for all you do for LSS and for your community.


Jim Schade & Kathy McHenry, Lutheran Planned Giving of South Dakota – 2017 Distinguished Faith Partner of the Year

Distinguished Faith Partner of the Year

LSS is a ministry of the ELCA in South Dakota and we would certainly not be able to fulfill this mission without the many congregations, church organizations and faith partners who walk with us to bare witness to this mission. This year LSS is proud to recognize Lutheran Planned Giving of South Dakota with special recognition of Jim Schade and Kurt Osborne. For more than 20 years, Jim and Kurt have had a long, deep and profoundly committed involvement with LSS. Both have served on the LSS Governing and Foundation Board of Directors. Kurt has served as the Chair of the Governing Board and Jim and his wife Nancy are members of Founders Family.

They have committed their time and talents to fulfill the vision and mission of LSS. They have met with countless individuals and families to help guide their decisions about legacy gifts and it is safe to say that we would not have the LSS Endowment Fund that we have today without their careful stewardship. Both are moving on to new adventures but we know that their passion and commitment to LSS will remain and for that we are extremely grateful.

Thank you to all our distinguished partners and thank you to our many wonderful supporters who have committed to creating a lasting legacy of Strengthening Individuals, Families & Communities.

Jamie Lennon, Development Director
LSS Development & Foundation

Saying Goodbye to a Great Volunteer

August 18, 2017

Volunteer Riley, Teacher Heather, and Teacher Amy at the Center for New Americans

Thank You Riley!
Volunteers are a vital part of the learning experience in our adult learner English classes. Volunteers decide to help with classes for various reasons. Volunteering is a great way to build confidence, feel a connection to society, develop new social skills, make friendships, be a role model, and share skills and talents with others.
Volunteers at LSS range in age from 18 to 80, and include current and former students, university students, work and church groups, retirees, and a myriad of others. These volunteers want to give back to our community and help others.
For the past year, we have had the privilege to have Riley join our intermediate classes as a volunteer. This past June, we had to say goodbye to Riley as she and her husband moved to Georgia for a new work opportunity.
Although many of our volunteers are local residents, Riley is originally from China. Volunteering is an excellent way for non-native English speakers to strengthen their language skills and help others in the process.
Riley became a volunteer at LSS, “Because I like helping people and one of my Chinese friends who learned and volunteered at LSS recommended LSS for me.”
Volunteers do many things in the classrooms at LSS. They may help students in a variety of ways to work on reading and writing skills, speaking and listening skills. When asked what Riley enjoys the most about being a volunteer, she said, “I enjoyed talking with students in the oral class to help them to improve oral English and discussing with students in the writing class to help them to improve writing skills.”
Riley’s favorite experience being a volunteer was, “that I learned English skills from teachers and knew different cultures from students.” She also greatly enjoyed the classroom activities for holidays such as Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Year.
I asked Riley what her plans are for the future, and she said, “I hope that I could always be happy and healthy and realize self-worth.” Riley hopes volunteer again in the future because she believes that volunteering helps to better oneself and it is very important to her to help others.

THANKS for Doing Good on the Green

August 16, 2017

The 7th annual LSS Golf Tournament at Cattail Crossing Golf Course in Watertown was another success! All funds raised go toward client services in the Watertown area – strengthening individuals and families. Services include adoption services, mental health counseling, and financial counseling and education.

We would like to say a special thank you to Reliabank, our presenting sponsor, along with the following sponsors:

Dale McElhany welcomed 84 registered golfers before teeing off at the 7th Annual LSS Golf Tournament in Watertown.

Dennis & Shirley Larson
Falcon Tour River Adventures
First Premier Bank
Sharp Automotive
Diamond Realty
Larry’s Lumber
First Bank & Trust
Aason Engineering
KWAT Radio
KXLG Radio
Macksteel Warehouse
Citi-Wide Property Management

We would like to send a special thank you to Levi Pearson and everyone at Cattail Crossing Golf Course for always helping us put on an amazing golf tournament!

We want to recognize Dale McElhany for his vision and efforts in helping to put this golf tournament together each year!

Betty Oldenkamp, LSS President/CEO and Mary Johnson, LSS Counseling Services in Watertown, pay tribute to Ronald Flemming, who dedicated 25 years to LSS prior to passing away almost a year ago.

This year, we had the privilege to pay tribute to Ron Flemming, who was a LSS clinical therapist for 25 years. Ron passed away less than a year ago and he touched many lives during the time he was with LSS. A print was dedicated to the Watertown LSS Counseling office in Ron’s honor for his dedicated service, devotion and commitment to LSS.

Following 18-holes of golf, golfers enjoyed a steak dinner and learned more about the many LSS services in the Northeast.

We would like to acknowledge all of the participating golfers and volunteers from the LSS Golf Tournament! We truly have such a smooth process with these events because of our wonderful volunteers!

Have we said THANK YOU yet?
We truly appreciate all of you.


Liesl Hovel, Development Director, Northeast Region
LSS Development & Foundation
605-262-6301 direct,

Doing Good on the Green

July 19, 2017

LSS Watertown Golf Tournament 2017

It’s time to pull your teams together for the
7th Annual LSS Watertown Golf Tournament.

Work hard during the week….and give yourself a break.
Mark your calendars for Friday, August 4.
Get a team of four and golf until you can’t golf anymore!

Come and join us at the Cattail Crossing Golf Course.
Registration starts at 11 am with a shotgun start at noon.

  • $320 per team, or $80 per individual player
  • Fee includes team of four, 18 hole golf, 2 mulligans per individual, cart and enjoy a steak dinner.
  • Senior division included.
  • Register Today!

This golf tournament began with a vision from Dale McElhany, past LSS Foundation Board Member, and David Johnson, CEO of Reliabank. The goal is to raise funds and awareness of LSS services in the Watertown area which include Counseling Services, Center for Financial Resources and Adoption Services.

Because of this golf tournament, LSS has been able to provide adoption scholarships to local families. This is possible through help from our sponsors:

Dennis & Shirley Larson
Clark County Chapter of Thrivent Financial
First Premier Bank
Aason Engineering
KWAT Radio
KXLG Radio
Citi-Wide Property Management

If you or your business would like to sponsor this tournament or put a team together for a day of golf and good times, please contact:

Liesl Hovel, LSS Development Director
605-262-6301 | 605-290-2533 | 800-584-9248 |

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