Adam Libby: A Bold Chef Who’s Become a Social Media Phenomenon

March 24, 2022

Since Adam Libby was a little boy, he’s been an entertainer. Back then, he put on plays in his yard—confidently assimilating all the characters—and people in his small town of Lincoln, Maine, would come to see him.

“He’s a comedian and a storyteller. He doesn’t shy away from the limelight at all,” laughs Teresa Hess, a community living coordinator at the Mosaic service Living Innovations. “Sometimes when he’s talking with you, he imitates a character in a movie he’s recently watched, and he does a really good job.”

In fact, according to his twin sister, Emily McCormick-Libby, “Adam has always loved entertaining, and he’s always dreamt of becoming an actor.”

Emily added he loves to cook, too, and has done so almost his entire life.

Adam, 30, was born with Down syndrome. Mosaic is passionate about helping people like Adam lead meaningful, healthy lives on their own terms. With more than 100 years of experience of providing care, the Nebraska-based organization supports people and communities in more than a dozen states, from Arizona to Adam’s home state of Maine.

To combine all of Adam’s attributes, his Living Innovations support team came up with the idea of his recording and posting “how-to” cooking videos on the social media platform TikTok. “I thought this would be a great way for him to reach people, show off his personality and focus on his conversation skills,” added Emily. “My wife, who’s a professional videographer, and I started with his first post on how to cook burritos.” That was April 16, 2021.

With his older sister, Brianne, assisting as well, they continued by trying to post at least one video each week. Adam gradually gained 1,000 followers and celebrated the milestone with a video of him making cupcakes. That was July 30.

But it was a short time after, on August 6, when Adam demonstrated making pizza in a woodfired pizza oven, he went viral. We’re talking worldwide viral. That video garnered almost 12.4 million views and shot up the number of his followers to 612,000 with 3.4 million likes on his videos.

In another segment, where he’s exuberantly shouting out what has become his popular catchphrase, “holy crow, man!”, he made homemade french fries that could best any short order cook’s. That video has captured 924,000 views to date.

A few weeks ago, Adam’s TikTok account hit 1.5 million followers.

“He just loves what he’s doing; he’s just eating it up,” stated Emily. “It’s unbelievable. I can’t get my head around how many people are following him and engaging with him!”

With his jubilant and upliftingpersonality, Adam’s such an inspiration that he’s making videos with some of his biggest fans. In one, he’s encouraging a young boy, also with intellectual disabilities, to cook a meal for his family (albeit a meal made of a quick-service restaurant’s chicken nuggets and fries): “Good job, dude! You’re making your mom proud of you!”

Additionally, he’s captured the heart of professional chefs. Tommy Isidori, an executive chef at a Fairfield, Connecticut, country club, sent a chef’s coat with “Chef Adam Libby” embroidered on the front. Isidori also included a professional chef’s knife.

“Chef Tommy is my favorite chef,” said Adam, and he has a few others. At the mention of Chef Gordon Ramsay, his face instantly lit up. “Yeah, I like him too!”

“He hopes Chef Ramsay will see his videos so he can meet him one day,” added Emily. “Chef Ramsay is tagged in many of his posts and comments from his followers.”

Besides the news coverage in his hometown newspaper and on the local CBS affiliate, Adam is being covered by many other social media channels and media outlets overseas. “No one contacted us,” remarked Emily. “We just saw the other stories, including some in England, when we Googled ‘Chef Adam Libby.’

“The thing I love most about my brother is he has this excitement and this joy and happiness, and it’s contagious. It doesn’t surprise us that once the world saw him, they would love him, too.

“I’ve never seen him happier, and he’s become so much more independent. He has his own life now with his own passion and career. It’s all so wonderful.”

Oh, did we mention Adam also has 17,000 followers on Instagram?

Mosaic is a member of Lutheran Services in America, a national network of 300 Lutheran health and human services organizations that lifts up one in 50 people in America each year.

Ukrainian Sanford Health Nurse Reunites with her Family

April 20, 2022

Weeks of fighting in Ukraine have been felt inside and outside the European nation, including 5,000 miles away in rural Bemidji, Minnesota. Olha Finnelly is a nurse at a local Sanford Health clinic whose family lives in Dnipro, about 250 miles southeast of capital Kyiv. The longer the war continued, the more her colleagues worried about her and her family.

“We’d ask, ‘how’s your family?’ One day all of the sudden she wasn’t functioning so well. Very teary-eyed. She was trying to get them out (of Ukraine). When we all heard that, we had to help,” said Kim Schulz, a medical laboratory scientist at Sanford Bemidji.

While Finnelly’s father and brother stayed in Ukraine to support their country, her mother, sister and three-year old niece traveled 22 hours by train, sharing a room that was designed for four with 16 people.

“They didn’t have any luggage with them,” Finnelly said. “The only belongings that they had were backpacks. They brought underpants for the little one. Some snacks, because you are not sure if you are able to get some food.”

Finnelly’s family would take a small bus to the Polish border, eventually making it to Krakow. From there, Finnelly booked them plane tickets to Minneapolis. The total expense for their travel was $3,000, all paid for by Finnelly’s co-workers who raised the money.

“In our Ukrainian language, we have this saying. ‘Tell me who is your friend, and I can tell you who you are.’ So I’m just so happy with my colleagues. (The) Sanford family in Bemidji … we are really like real family over here,” said Finnelly.

Sanford Health is the parent organization of the Evangelical Lutheran Good Samaritan Society, which is a member of Lutheran Services in America, a national network of 300 Lutheran health and human services organizations that lifts up one in 50 people in America each year. This year, The Evangelical Lutheran Good Samaritan Society celebrates 100 years of lifting residents, loved ones, and members of its community.

Learn more about Sanford Health and the Evangelical Lutheran Good Samaritan Society.

Watch the video

This is an abridged version of a story that was originally featured in Sanford Health News.

LSS of Southern California Offers a Basket of Hope on Easter

April 27, 2022

Elizabeth Gomez first came to Lutheran Social Services of Southern California’s Orange County center three years ago after her husband lost his job. As their primary source of income disappeared, Elizabeth and her family became desperate for groceries and other essentials.

LSS stepped in to support Elizabeth and her family in their time of need. The organization provided essential services, including rental assistance and support with transportation. LSS helped the family get connected to other community resources as well. The organization continued to support the family during this difficult and frightening time as they slowly got back on their feet.

This past Easter, Elizabeth’s three children received Easter baskets donated by the Mt. Calvary Lutheran Church in Cypress and Good Shepherd Lutheran Church in Irvine. Even in times of poverty and struggle, the children received much-needed comfort—and the opportunity to just be kids.

Today, with assistance from LSS’s dedicated team, Elizabeth was able to apply for benefits as her husband secured new employment. They are all looking forward to moving onto the next chapter of their lives, together.

Lutheran Social Services of Southern California is a member of Lutheran Services in America, a national network of 300 Lutheran health and human services organizations that reaches one in 50 people in America each year.

Learn more about Lutheran Social Services of Southern California.

Empowering Older Americans to Age Their Way

May 2, 2022

Older adults play vital, positive roles in our communities—as family members, friends, mentors, volunteers, civic leaders, members of the workforce and more. Just as every person is unique, so too is how they age and how they choose to do it—and there is no “right” way. That’s why the theme for Older Americans Month 2022 is “Age My Way.”

Every May, the Administration for Community Living leads the celebration of Older Americans Month. This year’s theme focuses on how older adults can age in their communities, living independently for as long as possible and participating in ways they choose.

While “Age My Way” will look different for each person, here are common things everyone can consider:

  • Planning: Think about what you will need and want in the future, from home- and community-based services to community activities that interest you.
  • Engagement: Remain involved and contribute to your community through work, volunteer and/or civic participation opportunities.
  • Access: Make home improvements and modifications, use assistive technologies and customize supports to help you better age in place.
  • Connection: Maintain social activities and relationships to combat social isolation and stay connected to your community.

This year, we are excited to celebrate Older Americans Month with our partners in the aging community. Follow along throughout the month to find resources on aging in place, addressing gaps in care in rural America and connecting people to vital services.

First up is our Strength & Service Series webinar on May 5, where you can learn how to leverage technology based on innovative and timely research from our partner iN2L to improve the quality of life for older adults.

Diverse communities are strong communities. Ensuring that older adults remain involved and included in our communities for as long as possible benefits everyone.

To learn what we’re doing to empower older adults, review our Senior Services webpage. You can also check out the official Older Americans Month website and join the conversation on social media using the hashtags #OlderAmericansMonth and #LutheranServices.

Today’s Front Line Hero: Lutheran Volunteer Corps

May 29, 2020

Today’s Front Line Hero is Lutheran Volunteer Corps, and their incredible volunteers who continue to serve during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Lutheran Volunteer Corps (LVC) places recent college graduates (“volunteers”) in full-time service positions at social-justice organizations across the US for one or two years of service. The volunteers develop broad leadership skills during their time of service, and LVC places emphasis on the injustice of racism, oppression, and privilege in its leadership development curriculum. Though LVC has a strong Lutheran history and tradition, volunteers of all faith traditions are encouraged to participate, and they welcome the diversity.

The COVID-19 pandemic has impacted LVC volunteers, but they have adopted safety measures and continue their service. Some LVC volunteers are able to telework, and those in direct-service positions have adopted modified schedules and are taking other precautions like wearing face masks.

Alex, a volunteer serving at Our Savior’s Community Services in Minneapolis, MN talks about his experience in a YouTube video. Alex is a case manager for an emergency shelter program in the Twin Cities and continues to serve faithfully through the pandemic. Though the isolation can be challenging, the work carries on and Alex and his colleagues have moved all operations from the shelter to a hotel to better allow for social distancing and prevent people from being exposed to the virus.

LVC President Deirdre Bagley is grateful for the volunteers’ continued work and is excited to be receiving applications from next year’s volunteers.

Thank you to LVC for your continued commitment to developing the next generation of servant leaders, and to all the LVC volunteers who are serving throughout the COVID-19 pandemic!

Today’s Front Line Hero: The Sharing Place

June 1, 2020

Today’s Front Line Hero is the Sharing Place, which is working to meet the growing need for food assistance in Jersey City, NJ.

The COVID-19 pandemic brought economic devastation, and many residents in New Jersey are recently unemployed and struggling with delays in assistance from the state. Food pantries are drawing increasingly large crowds as community members are hurting financially, and the Sharing Place is stepping up to feed the growing number of hungry people.

The Sharing Place is a food pantry housed at St. Paul’s Evangelical Lutheran Church in Jersey City, NJ. The food pantry is one of Hudson County’s largest and longest serving food pantries and aims to meet the needs of low and very-low income families and individuals. The Sharing Place provides a wide range of groceries, including fresh produce, meats, dairy, and non-perishable food items.

The Sharing Place has increased its services and is feeding almost double the number of people compared to before the pandemic. The food pantry serves as a lifeline for people who have lost employment or are unable to work during the pandemic, and many people the Sharing Place serves are seniors on fixed incomes. The Sharing Place offers nutritious food that is otherwise unaffordable to purchase at grocery stores, especially with increasing prices of meat.

Thank you to the Sharing Place for serving your community’s growing needs during the COVID-19 pandemic and working to ensure that everyone in Jersey City has access to nutritious food!

Today’s Front Line Hero: The Village On The Isle

June 30, 2020

Today’s Front Line Hero is The Village On The Isle, which showed gratitude to the high school seniors employed there by throwing them a prom.

The Village On The Isle (VOTI) is a large retirement community in Venice, Florida, with 450 residents and 300 employees. Many of those employees are high school students, and for the past few months, they have been delivering meals to the 450 residents with smiles under their face masks.

Like other high school seniors across the US, the students working at VOTI have been denied rites of passage like prom and graduation since the COVID-19 pandemic forced schools to close. One of the students was overheard saying that they should wear their prom dresses to work, since they would not otherwise get a chance to wear them.

The student’s idea about wearing their prom dresses to work made its way up the chain, all the way to CEO Joel Anderson. Anderson decided to go even further, and held a prom for the 24 high school students who work at VOTI.

The prom occurred on May 15 and began with a parade around VOTI’s campus, during which the high schoolers rode in golf carts, wearing their prom attire, and residents stood on their balconies to cheer and wave as they went past. Then, the students sat down to a plated dinner, served by the senior management staff at VOTI, which was followed by music and dancing.

Anderson wanted to show gratitude to the high school students who have worked faithfully throughout the COVID-19 pandemic. “We are vested in their lives and proud of their accomplishments and we know that everyone in The Village on the Isle appreciates their care and service to our mission and our residents,” he said.

Thank you to The Village On The Isle for the kindness and gratitude you show to your employees, and for ensuring that the high schoolers working at VOTI got to enjoy a prom experience!

Fed Acknowledges “Critical Role” Nonprofits Play

June 2, 2020

The Federal Reserve Board continues to develop guidelines for the Main Street Lending Program. Authorized under the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act, this low-interest loan program for mid-sized businesses with up to 15,000 employees provides funding to be used to retain at least 90 percent of the recipient’s workforce. This program is especially important given that the Paycheck Protection Program currently doesn’t provide funding for nonprofits with more than 500 employees.

Unfortunately, as of April 30, the Federal Reserve has published an FAQ indicating that nonprofits are NOT currently eligible for this program (see Question E6). However, the Fed has stated that it recognizes “the critical role that nonprofit organizations play throughout the economy and [is] evaluating a separate approach to meet their unique needs.”

Given that the CARES Act provides the Federal Reserve with the authority to include nonprofits in this program, we will continue to urge senators to support nonprofits through this program and to include our key priorities in their next round of coronavirus relief legislation. Join us by using our advocacy tool to ask your senators to support health and human services nonprofits through the Main Street Lending Program and CARES 2.0.

Today’s Front Line Hero: Lutheran Settlement House

June 3, 2020

Today’s Front Line Hero is Lutheran Settlement House’s Bilingual Domestic Violence Program for their work to address domestic violence during the COVID-19 pandemic.

A report from the United Nations has identified a surge in domestic violence linked to lockdowns responding to the COVID-19 pandemic. The pandemic and economic crisis have added significant stressors, increasing the likelihood of abuse for many families. Isolation gives abusers more opportunities for controlling their partners, and fewer options for those being abused to seek safety and support since they are encouraged to stay home to stop the spread of the virus.

Lutheran Settlement House’s Bilingual Domestic Violence Program is encouraging physicians to look for signs of domestic violence during telemedicine visits and make referrals, as the physician may be the only person the patient interacts with during lockdowns. Telemedicine doctors are connecting people with domestic violence counselors, such as those with STOP Intimate Partner Violence, a collaborative project of the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia and the Lutheran Settlement House’s Bilingual Domestic Violence Program. These domestic violence counselors follow up with free, quality counseling services through virtual visits, and provide resources to support to families.

Thank you to Lutheran Settlement House’s Bilingual Domestic Violence Program for your virtual support of families in need of resources to address domestic violence during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Today’s Front Line Hero: Wellspring Lutheran Services

June 4, 2020

Today’s Front Line Hero is Wellspring Lutheran Services, and the compassionate staff who are faithfully serving the youth in their community throughout the pandemic.

Wellspring Lutheran Services supports members of its community in Michigan from childhood through end of life, and is committed to a “whole-person approach” to that care. Wellspring’s holistic supports for families include foster care, parenting support, residential care, behavioral health resources, and other family services.

Mr. Bond, (shown in photo above), is a youth specialist at New Directions, a Wellspring residential foster care campus in Farmington Hills for youth who have cognitive, behavioral, and emotional challenges that make it difficult for them to reside in traditional homes. Like many of us, the youth at New Directions are experiencing extreme emotions, as stress is particularly high due to the pandemic, economic crisis, and racial injustice. Past trauma can make it difficult for youth at New Directions to process those complex emotions. In the photo shown above, Mr. Bond got down onto the ground to process emotions with a youth, and was present with him when life felt overwhelming. Mr. Bond is a living example of Wellspring’s whole-person approach to care.

Unsung heroes like Mr. Bond are continuing to work on the frontlines every day during the pandemic, and deserve to be celebrated. They are faithfully supporting youth who have experienced trauma, work that is of utmost importance every day, but particularly in high stress times like these. The photo of Mr. Bond is an example of the genuine love and compassion that Wellspring staff consistently show to their community.

Thank you to Wellspring Lutheran Services’ staff for the love and commitment you are demonstrating to your community through the pandemic!