Today’s Front Line Hero: Liberty Lutheran

May 8, 2020

Today’s Front Line Hero is Liberty Lutheran. Rooted in more than 100 years of history, Liberty is a non-profit organization with a purpose that is strongly connected to its faith-based roots. Every day, their staff faithfully accompanies individuals and families who are facing life-changing situations through an empowering approach that honors their choices and well-being.

Located in Pennsylvania, Liberty Lutheran is the parent organization for five retirement communities, as well as Lutheran Congregational Services, Lutheran Disaster Response – Eastern Pennsylvania, Lutheran Children and Family Services’ (LCFS) West Philadelphia Senior Community Center (WPSCC), a home health service called Liberty at Home, and a fitness center geared toward older adults called The Becoming Center. Liberty Lutheran’s CEO, Luanne Fisher, feels that Liberty Lutheran is “privileged to answer the call to serve others and walk with them during their life journey.”

This sentiment has been especially true over the past several weeks. During the COVID-19 pandemic, staff across Liberty Lutheran have been working tirelessly to ensure health, safety, and comfort of their residents, while WPSCC has worked with partners to launch a food delivery service for those in need. For its part, Lutheran Congregational Services is working with congregations and relief organizations across Eastern Pennsylvania to navigate challenges presented with the pandemic and the reopening of the state.

Thank you to Liberty Lutheran and everyone who contributes their talents to achieving Liberty’s mission to empower and care for others, especially those who are most vulnerable during these extraordinary times. Your talents, dedication, and warmth, are what is needed most.

Today’s Front Line Hero: Lutheran Services in Iowa

May 11, 2020

Today’s Front Line Hero is Lutheran Services in Iowa (LSI), which is deeply committed to ensuring children in Iowa are safe and cared for during the COVID-19 pandemic.

People across the US continue to isolate to prevent the spread of the COVID-19 virus, but unfortunately, that isolation puts children in abusive homes at greater risk. Services that prevent abuse and neglect are incredibly important, especially as families are isolating in close quarters under added stress.

Families at risk of abuse or neglect rely on social workers, who typically provide in-home visits. LSI is finding new ways to serve these at-risk families and keep children safe, particularly through digital platforms. Social workers in LSI’s Early Childhood Services are conducting weekly video chats to provide families with tips and resources to address stressors at home to reduce potential abuse. The social workers are also connecting these families with needed resources such as employment assistance and affordable housing.

Thank you to Lutheran Services in Iowa for recognizing the continued needs of families in your community, and rising to address those needs.

Making a Mark during Older Americans Month

May 11, 2020

Since 1965, our nation has designated the month of May as a time to honor seniors and raise awareness about the challenges they face. With the COVID-19 pandemic still ongoing, we recognize seniors during an Older Americans Month unlike any other as we all confront a threat the likes of which we have never seen. Yet amidst this daunting struggle is an opportunity to shine a light on how seniors — and the dedicated health and human services professionals caring for them that comprise our national network — are rising to the challenge. In doing so, in ways big and small, they are more than living up to the theme for this year’s Older Americans Month: “Make Your Mark.”

This year’s theme is an invitation to celebrate the numerous contributions that seniors and caregivers make for their families and in their communities. Each day, Lutheran Services in America pays tribute to the many unsung heroes of our national network of senior service organizations with our Frontline Heroes campaign. Our member organizations in 46 states and over 1,400 communities are expanding safety protocols, and making or procuring personal protective equipment in an increasingly smaller market to keep staff and residents of long-term care facilities safe. They have implemented new screening processes, and were ahead of federal guidelines for keeping facilities and their residents and staff healthy and safe.

For the teams at our member organizations, who risk their lives each day they go to work, serving seniors during this pandemic is a moving opportunity to fulfill their year-round mission to ensure all seniors have the chance to live with purpose and meaning. For example, more than 200 of our member organizations provide services that help tackle the most significant social determinants of health through innovative programs and community-based services, ranging from lack of transportation, unstable housing, or food insecurity.

On this front and in tandem with several of our member organizations in the Midwest, Lutheran Services in America has greatly expanded our efforts to improve the lives of seniors through two innovative programs. Through our Great Plains Senior Services Collaborative, we engaged foundation partners to provide on-the-ground resources to members to support rural seniors’ ability to live independently in their homes and communities. Our efforts through this program have improved the health and quality of life for hundreds of seniors in more than 70 rural communities in Minnesota and North Dakota. Since then, we expanded programs in those two states and also extended programs to Montana to reach hundreds more older adults.

In addition, we launched a successful pilot of our LSA Senior Connect program with Genacross Lutheran Services. The program, which was developed by 13 member organizations with funding support from the Lutheran Services Elderly Endowment, connects seniors with chronic health conditions to needed resources in their communities and is already yielding promising results for participating seniors in affordable housing. LSA Senior Connect recently was spotlighted by The Commonwealth Fund in a feature about how the Chronic Care Act presents a valuable opportunity to develop patient-focused approaches to health and wellness.

These initiatives are yielding significant results that promise to improve the lives of so many more older Americans in the years to come. We are proud to lead a network that is making its mark every day on the communities they serve.

Today’s Front Line Hero: Lutheran Social Services of North Dakota

May 12, 2020

Today’s Front Line Hero is Lutheran Social Services of North Dakota (LSSND), and the dedicated Aging Life Care staff who are delivering meals and groceries to their neighbors in Minot, ND who are unable to shop or cook for themselves.

LSSND staff Cheryl Coyle and Amy Swenson jumped into action when they learned that many elderly Meals on Wheels volunteers needed to pause their service to protect themselves from COVID-19 exposure. The two women began delivering food to members of their community every week, stopping at apartments, houses, senior living complexes, and condos to deliver well-balanced meals. The women bring joy to clients who often do not have other visitors during the lockdown. Cheryl and Amy are careful to practice social distancing and hygiene guidelines, but the interpersonal connection has been valuable for the clients, and rewarding for Cheryl and Amy.

LSSND’s Aging Life Care program helps clients navigate the complex issues and systems around aging and changing health. The Aging Life Care staff advocate for seniors, connect them to community services, and work to ensure that no one falls through the cracks. Much of their programming includes face-to-face contact, which has been put on hold during the COVID-19 pandemic. Instead, Cheryl and Amy and the other Aging Life Care staff stay in contact with clients through phone calls, video chats, and by sending cards. Cheryl and Amy love delivering meals to their community members because it provides them a way to continue serving seniors in person, and they value that interpersonal contact.

Thank you to Lutheran Social Services of North Dakota’s passionate staff who are going above and beyond to serve their community during the COVID-19 pandemic!

Today’s Front Line Hero: Lutheran Social Service of Minnesota

May 13, 2020

Today’s Front Line Hero is Lutheran Social Service of Minnesota (LSSMN), which is hosting a series of virtual events for the caregivers and care receivers in their Caregiver Support community.

Caregiver Support provides in-home respite by volunteer caregivers throughout Minnesota so that family caregivers can have much-needed rest. They continue to provide that support virtually and over the phone during the COVID-19 pandemic. The Caregivers Support service has long utilized technology to support family caregivers in rural communities, offering opportunities for caregivers to connect with the world outside their home, and that technology is especially important now.

Laura Rasmussen, the regional coordinator for LSS Caregiver Support and Respite services, recently viewed a video of a violin concert held outdoors at an assisted living facility. She saw the joy the concert brought to the residents, and wanted to replicate the concert virtually, so people across Minnesota could enjoy it. Laura reached out to the violinist in the video, Kelsey Joy, who gladly offered her talents to LSSMN.

LSSMN hosted the virtual violin concert on May 6th and encouraged caregivers and care receivers in Minnesota to join via the TEAMS app. The concert was a great success, so Laura planned additional virtual events throughout the month of May, including a farm tour, piano performance, and an antique car tour. The aim is to help older adults feel connected to their community during this time of isolation, and know that they are cared for, even from afar. LSSMN is also posting shortened versions of the performances on their Facebook page so that people outside of the Caregiver Support community can enjoy them, as well.

Thank you to Lutheran Social Service of Minnesota for your creativity in providing virtual events for the Caregiver Support community!

Today’s Front Line Hero: Upbring

May 14, 2020

Today’s Front Line Hero is Upbring, which is honoring their staff, whom they call “warriors,” in their valiant efforts during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Upbring provides holistic services to children and families in Texas, and is “determined to create a world where all children are cherished.” For 135 years, Upbring has been working to break the cycle of child abuse, and supports children and families physically, emotionally, and spiritually.

COVID-19 presents immense challenges for front line workers, and Upbring recognizes that the current environment is requiring their staff to go beyond their regular job descriptions. Upbring acknowledges that staff are picking up extra shifts and putting in extra work to meet the enhanced needs of families related to the pandemic. The staff show up every single day, tucking away fear and weariness, and smiling even when life is hard. Upbring released this video to thank their staff, and to honor their hard work and commitment.

Upbring’s video refers to the staff as “warriors,” who stand strong for the people they serve and for those who serve alongside them. The video recognizes case workers, therapists, direct care staff, kitchen and maintenance, supporting staff, and others, and serves as a reminder that every single member of the Upbring staffing community is a warrior and they matter. Upbring is grateful to these staff for not giving up during COVID-19, never faltering in their shared mission of breaking the cycle of child abuse, and for making Texas better.

Thank you to Upbring and your staff for the tremendous work you continue to do to serve Texans through the pandemic.

Today’s Front Line Hero: Diakon Lutheran Social Ministries

May 15, 2020

Today’s Front Line Hero is Diakon Lutheran Social Ministries, which is bringing smiles to seniors’ faces with visits from alpacas!

Diakon Lutheran Social Ministries has been committed to transforming lives in their communities for more than 150 years, and provides support to people of all faiths through compassionate services, gracious hospitality, and charitable care. In addition to Diakon’s programs serving children, youth, and families, it also serves older adults through programs such as comprehensive senior living across Pennsylvania and Maryland.

To maintain the health and safety of residents and staff in senior living facilities, Diakon has been following all federal guidelines related to COVID-19, including visitor restrictions. However, Diakon has gotten creative with ways to thank their staff for hard work, and the staff are doing their best to make the lives of the residents feel a bit more “normal.”

This week is National Nursing Home Week, so Diakon planned staff appreciation events at their nursing homes. The event at Twining Village in Holland, PA included a complimentary ice cream truck and sidewalk chalk messages from the community, thanking the staff for their work. Diakon also celebrated National Nursing Home Week by welcoming alpaca Duchess and her owner, Wendy, who visited the residents of Manatawny Manor in Pottstown, PA through the windows.

Thank you to Diakon Lutheran Social Ministries for your creative spirit, the gratitude you show to your staff, and all the ways you are working to make life as normal and joyful as possible for residents.

Lightning Rod for Change: Our Push to Fund the Frontlines

May 18, 2020

As the coronavirus pandemic stretches our nation’s health system to its limits, the importance of America’s human service professionals has never been more cut and dried. However, nonprofits cannot effectively serve their communities without adequate financial relief or resources from Washington. After more than two months of challenging work, human service professionals are united in telling Congress, “Fund the frontlines!”

As the national office of a sprawling network of more than 300 nonprofit health and human service organizations, Lutheran Services in America is using the collective calls for financial support from members as a springboard for changes in federal and state policy. By channeling these concerns about limited resources into the basis for advocacy efforts, we have been successful in communicating to lawmakers the needs of nonprofits and their workers who are fighting on the front lines of this deadly pandemic. Since March, Lutheran Services in America has worked to secure key priorities in coronavirus relief packages, including:

  • Access to financial relief for health and human service nonprofits with more than 500 employees via forgivable loans
  • Targeted financial resources for nonprofit frontline health and human services providers to cover unreimbursed expenses related to the pandemic
  • Reimbursement of the cost of unemployment insurance benefits paid by nonprofits who self-fund these benefits
  • Funding for vulnerable youth and children through the Child Abuse Prevention and Treatment Act and Title IV-E Chafee funds

These outstanding priorities are in addition to some steps we have already taken to address our members’ most prominent needs and concerns. We sought to relieve some of the burden related to business continuity by advocating for the Medicaid exemption with the CARES Act to be removed. We sought new partnerships to help with accelerated entry into the workforce and connected members to personal protective equipment supply networks.

We are also addressing the concerns from our membership through proactive methods in several other key areas. The expanded reliance on technology has opened up new opportunities for facilitating peer-to-peer sharing of news, resources, and insights. The exchange of information about adopting new protocols for residents, addressing employee morale, and other means of combating the COVID-19 strengthens the network’s ability to weather the storm of this unprecedented challenge.

Despite this tremendous progress, there is still much more to be done. We must double our efforts to protect the workforce of nonprofit health and human services organizations as they face narrowing revenue streams amidst a sliding economy. We need to ensure facilities are able to hire new staff quickly and safely at a time they are needed more than ever. We strive to address these challenges every day, and will continue to do so once this global crisis has abated. As Congress considers its next moves to help support the nation, we will push lawmakers and regulatory agencies any way we can to ensure nonprofits receive the resources they need to serve some of our most vulnerable populations.

We are not doing this alone. Lutheran Services in America keeps members informed through regular updates, action-oriented advocacy alerts, and an extensive library of resources, but the dedicated professionals working within our 300-member organization network are the driving force behind any change. We thank all of our members for your courageous efforts. You are on the front lines making a difference to so many every day. Together, we will continue to fight for funding for front line workers who risk their lives every day on behalf of the rest of us.

Today’s Front Line Hero: Inspiritus

May 18, 2020

Today’s Front Line Hero is Inspiritus for their work cleaning up after tornadoes in Tennessee, even in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Inspiritus’ mission is guiding individuals and families whose lives have been disrupted on a path from surviving to thriving. To fulfill this mission, Inspiritus serves communities through a variety of programs, including disaster response.

Though most of the nation’s focus and energy is directed toward COVID-19, Inspiritus is still faithfully engaging in disaster response. Tornadoes in Cookeville, TN, east of Nashville, killed 24 individuals and damaged homes in the community. The Inspiritus disaster response team has been working in that community to help them rebuild.

Inspiritus staff and volunteers are adhering to social distancing guidelines as they help Cookeville rebuild. Inspiritus staff say their rebuilding efforts are actually ahead of schedule, and they have seen incredible support in the way of volunteers and donations. The community is showing immense love and support to those who were impacted by the tornadoes, which helps with rebuilding and healing.

Thank you to Inspiritus for your work in Cookeville, and for your dedication to communities’ needs in the wake of natural disasters!

House Recognizes Nonprofit Priorities in Latest COVID-19 Bill

May 19, 2020

The House of Representatives passed a $3 trillion coronavirus relief package last Friday to help mitigate the disastrous effects of the pandemic. Lutheran Services in America has been a vocal advocate for the inclusion of nonprofits in any new aid packages. Our national network of health and human service organizations rallied to collectively voice support for our key priorities, which include some of the vital resources enumerated in the Health and Economic Recovery Omnibus Emergency Solutions (HEROES) Act — a bill that builds on the work of previous relief bills by including support for nonprofit organizations.

Thanks to the engagement of our members, we are pleased to see the bill addresses some of our most important priorities, including access to financial relief for health and human service nonprofits with more than 500 employees, and targeted financial resources for nonprofit frontline health and human services providers. The fulfillment of these priorities would grant nonprofits the funds and resources necessary to offer the care and service needed by many Americans during this critical time. While the HEROES Act is a welcome show of support for nonprofits in the House, there is still much work to do to gain similar support in the Senate in order to sustain our network’s crucial work.