Your Voice Charts our Future

May 9, 2023

How can we maximize the value of this amazing network is a question we are asking. Like many of you, we are reevaluating our strategy and your perspectives shape the future of this network. You are sharing your visions of how collectively we can respond in ways that strengthen our communities and hold true to our collective mission of empowering people to lead their best lives.

After a thorough search, we engaged Collective Action Lab to guide us in this exploration. We are evaluating our capabilities and constraints: what we do well, what we need to stop doing and how we need to evolve. We have met with over 55 different groups to inform our strategy—some virtually, some in person—including Lutheran social ministry leaders, board members and current and future partners. As part of these conversations, we are examining the impact of near-term trends and future disrupters on our work together.

Our listening sessions identified a multitude of challenges and opportunities including workforce and changing demographics, inadequate public financing and reimbursement, trauma and fatigue in your communities, evolving models of care, organizational rightsizing, downsizing and consolidation, the need for affordable housing, and the impact of technology.

Your voice charts our future. You are sharing ways that you value coming together to strengthen our collective capacity to lead, amplify our unified, faith-based voice and catalyze innovation. United in our shared purpose and faith tradition of social ministry, our strategy work explores how we continue to evolve to meet the ever-changing needs of our communities.

Over the summer we will continue to build out our strategy and solicit input and perspective. Stay tuned!


Alesia Frerichs is President & CEO of Lutheran Services in America.

Building Caring Communities in Affordable Housing

May 8, 2023

“What can we do at this critical moment in time, with a vulnerable population, with a workforce shortage and without more resources? Connect-Home empowers staff in affordable housing, focusing on getting the right people where they are needed and creating a community of care.”  

This was the lead message of a joint presentation to Grantmakers for Housing Stability in Aging on April 12 by Susan Newton, Senior Director of Strategic Initiatives at Lutheran Services in America, about the innovative Connect-Home model. The model, which is being implemented with Lutheran Services in America support in two senior affordable housing units in Brooklyn, New York, aims to improve the health and social outcomes of older adults transitioning home from an acute care experience, including prevention of rehospitalization.

As Newton, Kathy Hopkins of our member Family Health Centers at NYU Langone, and Mark Toles of the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill described, the model is uniquely working to partner with on-site resident service coordinators (RSCs) to build a caring community of support to the diverse and medically high-need populations—36 percent of whom are over age 86 and 45 percent of whom list a Chinese dialect as a native language—in the affordable housing units targeted.

Toles, who pioneered the use of Connect-Home for patients transitioning out of skilled nursing facilities, noted how adaptation to affordable housing has been an exciting and sometimes surprising collaborative process with RSCs, senior residents and Family Health Centers at NYU Langone.

“The staff really had minimal awareness of hospital stays. They had an intuitive sense that a recent hospital stay was something to be concerned about but did not have procedures to routinely identify and support [senior residents],” said Toles.

He noted that bringing rigor to the identification of residents with a recent acute care stay was one of the biggest hurdles for getting Connect-Home off the ground. A surprising asset was a log maintained at the front desk tracking ambulance visits to the facility. That list has become a key tool to identify vulnerable residents and engage in follow-up.

The essential transformation was with RSCs, who have started to embrace the model as a key, not ancillary, part of their role. As Hopkins noted, “They came from ‘I cannot add one more thing to my plate’ to ‘This is such a good way of working and prevents older adults in our community from going back to the hospital.’” 

Toles noted some of the seemingly small tasks that RSCs help returning residents with that make a difference, such as tracking down lost discharge instructions or ensuring supportive home care is provided on schedule. RSCs are also being trained to connect residents with more complex follow-on needs to additional community support.  

All partners noted how Connect-Home continues to evolve, with care teams meeting regularly to improve the process, analyze data and improve gaps in identification and services.  

To learn more about this Lutheran Services in America-led learning collaborative, please reach out to Susan Newton.

Kent Mitchell is Vice President of Strategy & Innovation at Lutheran Services in America.

New Lutheran Services in America Board Members Enhance Robust Faith Tradition

May 4, 2023

A Lifetime of Leadership: Sally Montgomery’s Mission to Build a Generation of Disability Champions

March 23, 2023

Each March, we celebrate National Developmental Disability Awareness Month, 31 days where we can reflect on the progress made for people with developmental disabilities—as well as the challenges that still lie ahead. The developmental disability community has made great strides in its pursuit of equality. The recent passing of Judy Heumann and her storied decades-long fight for disability rights reminds us of the importance of leadership to address barriers that remain in our society and secure equal opportunities for people with disabilities so they too can realize their dreams.

For years, I have had the pleasure of working with a truly talented pool of leaders who are constantly working to draw out the best in others and empower this community to live full and meaningful lives. At Mosaic, much of that is credited to one particular change leader: Sally Montgomery.

In her more than 40-year career at Mosaic, Sally Montgomery, executive director at Mosaic in northern Colorado, has mentored dozens of people who went on to become successful and visionary leaders within the organization, other service providers and the Colorado disability services division. Through a unique ability to see talent and cultivate confidence in people, she has built leadership teams that shape the ongoing move to personalized, quality services across Mosaic and in her home state.

Sally says she truly enjoys mentoring people. Those whose careers she has helped to build agree she has a unique talent in this area.

Strengths, Weaknesses, and the Key to Success

Jessica Eppel, Mosaic’s executive director in Denver and Colorado Springs, began in direct care working under Sally.

“Sally really listens to people, and it is anybody from any level, to learn what their passion is and what they’re interested in doing. One of the things that I appreciated so much about her was that not only did she look for what I was excited about, she supported me in areas that weren’t my talent. She was willing to engage and get me focused in those areas.

“There are so many conversations with Sally that really stick out for me. When she needs to, she’ll be direct, but usually she leads you to see it for yourself, which allows the person she’s developing to gain that skill because they figure out what they missed along the way.”

One big lesson Jessica said she learned from Sally was, “I need team members to augment my weaknesses. If I take an active role in developing the skills that they need help with, I’m going to be more successful in my job, and how amazing it feels that you have helped someone reach the next level.”

Molly Kennis also began in direct care under Sally and is now Mosaic’s vice president of operations for Colorado and Arizona.

Molly said one lesson she learned from Sally is that “Relationships are everything, and you have to take the time to build those for that future success and to get through the hard times. You’ve got to put the time and energy into that. That will be your greatest strength.

“Sally is very intentional about listening and finding things she can connect to—that personal nugget of information about somebody. She is always genuine and authentic, interested and engaged and wants to be talking with you. You want to be around people like that. You feel like you know her really well and she knows you, but it doesn’t cross personal and professional boundaries.”

Building on the Good

Sally’s mentoring and leadership within Mosaic goes beyond her team. While Mosaic has provided our Mosaic at Home (shared living) program for more than 30 years, Sally led the transformation of all residential services within Colorado to Mosaic at Home. After successfully transitioning services in her own location, she helped shape the systems and processes used across Mosaic and mentors executive directors in other locations working to transition services. She is seen as the “go to” expert, not just on the service line, but also as the coach and to help leaders communicate the change effectively and successfully. She also has assisted other leaders with coaching and communication tips to support aligning teams with Mosaic’s strategic roadmap.

Because of Sally’s influence within the state, Alliance Colorado, the service provider organization, recently presented her a Lifetime Achievement Award. Sally said she sees it as an award for what she’s accomplished so far, because she is not ready to stop.

In her own words, Sally says, “I look for the good and build on that. I try to be an example. I like to hear the personal details because they matter to me. You build trust by lifting people up so they know you have them covered, and you believe in the gifts they can bring. That’s what I want them to turn around and do—build empathy and capacity.

Sally Montgomery truly is an exemplary mentor and coach who is building new generations of leaders in intellectual and developmental disability services.


Linda Timmons is the president and CEO of Mosaic.

Caregivers: Recognizing the Important Role of our Nation’s Hidden Heroes

February 17, 2023

Today we honor millions of people who make an extraordinary difference in the lives of others. Caregiving, both professional and unpaid, is a line of work that has a long and often unrecognized history of providing a better quality of life for older adults, people with disabilities and many others.

Caregivers are heroes—selflessly providing care, often at the expense of their own well-being. It is a rarely talked-about role that is not typically highlighted as a career option to young people, yet is a critical profession caring for the lives of millions of people. There are more than 4 million caregivers who provide direct care in homes and hospitals, and another 55 million people in America who are unpaid caregivers providing care for family or friends.

The role of caregiving is especially important in rural communities where limited resources and isolation for older adults is more acute. For years, our network has leveraged the long-standing commitment of Lutheran social ministries in these communities to expand services for older adults and family caregivers.

As we commemorate National Caregivers Day, it’s important to recognize the complicated journey of caregiving: a role that is incredibly gratifying and simultaneously arduous, especially for those who take on the job alone.

The Personal Challenge of Caregiving

Caring for an older adult has unique challenges and requires significant time, energy and finances from family caregivers. More than 60 percent of family caregivers help older adults with activities of daily living (ADLs), including getting in and out of beds and chairs, bathing, feeding and getting dressed. Nearly all family caregivers also support older adults with instrumental activities of daily living (IADLs), including providing transportation, ordering groceries, performing housework, preparing meals, managing finances and the like. According to the Gallup-Healthways Well-Being Index, most caregivers provide these services to one individual, but 18 percent do so for two or more.

Despite assisting with a number of these tasks, the majority of family caregivers admit they need more instruction, including how to keep their care recipient safe at home, manage their stress and identify eligible supports and services. That is a tall order for one person and many family caregivers often assume their role unexpectedly or suddenly.

That was my experience as well. After my mother suffered a stroke, my family and I were immediately thrust into the role of caregivers. It was incredibly difficult to watch my mother, a top C-suite executive, trailblazer in her industry and the smartest person I knew, no longer able to grab a spoon or remember her birthdate. Like many caregivers, I felt overwhelmed by this “new normal” of helping my mother with daily tasks.

Thankfully, my family and I were not alone—we were helped by countless compassionate caregivers who cared for Mom and brought out her smile again. I felt tremendous hope thanks to the caring conversations and whole-person approach from these caregivers. Each day reminded me of the critical importance of our work at Lutheran Services in America. I am truly honored to raise the visibility of caregiver heroes across our nationwide network who support families like mine and individuals like my mother.

Support Makes All the Difference

I know how much of an enormous task caregiving can be on a single person. If there is one thing caregivers should know is that they do not need to go it alone. Support and resources are available to help tackle these seismic responsibilities. Two-thirds of the Lutheran Services in America network are dedicated to caring for older adults, addressing their critical needs and enabling them to lead their best lives.

Lutheran social ministry organizations have developed new ways to support caregivers during these challenging times. Lutheran Social Service of Minnesota, for example, offers coaching and counseling to help family caregivers not only develop their caregiving skills but also find resources and practice self-care to maintain a healthy and balanced lifestyle. Samaritas in Michigan and Bethany Village in Kansas are leveraging technology to connect loved ones to caregivers living out of state.

Through our Rural Aging Action Network, Lutheran Services in America unites our member organizations to respond to the increasing number of older adults in rural communities who experience social isolation and difficulty accessing services and supports to successfully age at home. Together, we’re using the unique assets in these communities to address key barriers to care that older adults and caregivers face.

Service providers are doing what they can to bring on as many caregivers as possible during a historic workforce staffing crisis. I ask you to join our network in advocating solutions that support the caregiving community and protect access for all.

As one in four families has experienced, caregiving is more than supplying individuals with basic necessities. It restores the dignity and sense of self-worth of our loved ones during the toughest moments of our lives. As we fulfill our commitment to empower our communities, we cannot forget the sacrifice of many of the caregivers who selflessly come along for the journey.

Ashley Washington is Director of Aging Initiatives at Lutheran Services in America.

Resource Groups Create Inclusion, Engagement, and a Sense of Belonging

February 9, 2023

Over the past few decades, the most innovative and forward-thinking ideas to enhance employee recruitment, retention and advancement have often been tried once, not supported and halted, fallen on the deaf ears of decision-makers or simply been ahead of their time.  Employee Resource Groups (ERGs), also known as affinity groups or business resource groups, are one of these great ideas. 

Affinity groups began forming in higher education in the 1930s and in corporate America in the 1960s when marginalized employees started to voice their concerns and experiences with discrimination, exclusion, and isolation in the workplace.  The employees’ thoughts and ideas were frequently dismissed or even silenced.  Now, almost 60 years later, the growing acknowledgment of the importance of diversity, equity, inclusion, and belonging has shined a spotlight on ERGs’ role in the workplace. 

ERGs are employee-led and agency-approved networks of employees that offer innovative recruitment strategies, employee engagement solutions and professional development topics to the forefront of organizational thinking.  This diversity of thought provides human resource departments and other departments with valued insights into the unique interests, challenges and benefits of diverse pools of talent.  According to Christine Michel Carter, HR professional, author and corporate advisor, “the most innovative HR teams view these groups as a dynamic retention tool.  It’s ultimately up to the employer to actively monitor employee morale and provide opportunities for advancement, but ERGs are an often-untapped resource.” 

When provided the opportunity to be authentic and transparent, ERGs will benefit agencies in three significant ways: 

  1. ERGs are safe spaces for employees to build trust and loyalty with the organization. The candid discussions during ERG meetings often reveal the ‘pain points’ and ‘blind spots’ within an organization.  Simultaneously, ERGs provide a forum for employees to share realistic and repeatable solutions to improve the organization’s people systems, processes and practices, and culture from multiple viewpoints and experiences.
  2. ERGs serve as continuous connection points between the organization, its employees and workforce gaps and trends.  Employees participating in ERGs provide insights into ways to improve employee morale and sense of belonging; enhance diversity recruitment efforts; and strengthen employee and customer engagement.  
  3. ERGs are fundamentally designed to foster inclusion, improve diversity and increase effectiveness by developing a deeper connection between the organization’s mission, current and future employees and the communities it serves.   

A prime example of the value and impact of ERGs is GuideWell’s Employee Community Groups.

GuideWell is a not-for-profit mutual holding company that is the parent to a family of forward-thinking companies focused on transforming healthcare. In 2016, GuideWell rolled out an initiative to focus on three core principles of their culture — Be Well, Work Well, Guide Well — in an effort to create a healthy, inclusive, respectful, and collaborative workplace. In 2017, some employees shared personal stories of racism in their cities, sparking GuideWell’s leadership to recognize the need for a safe space where employees could impart perspectives and talk openly. A series of discussion forums were planned to facilitate these courageous conversations around sensitive topics. 

All GuideWell Communities lead the planning, organizing, and convening of the sessions, which are held about once per quarter. GuideWell’s executives, including the CEO, are very involved and serve as sponsors, facilitators, and panelists; however, the Communities themselves gather input from employees regarding topics, run the discussions, and act as panelists. 

The Communities have since convened additional forums on politics and civility, gender identity and expression, stigma of mental health, lessons from the Holocaust, caregiving, opioid recovery, and more. Sessions are recorded and posted on the company intranet. 

When created and implemented with authenticity, leadership support and the genuine desire to achieve equity, diversity, inclusion and belonging for all employees, ERGs are an effective tools for uncovering an organization’s inherent strengths for sustained growth. 

If you are interested in continuing the discussion about ERGs and creating an inclusive environment in your workplace, please contact Susan Newton.

Tommie Lewis is the president and CEO of Make It Plain Consulting. Read Tommie’s post “I’ve Seen This Movie Before: ‘The Remake of Diversity, Equity & Inclusion – Old Challenges, New Day’” for more.

Lutheran Services in America Joins National Initiative to Support Local Vaccination Outreach Activities

March 3, 2023

CDC Updates COVID Guidance and a Look Ahead at the 118th Congress

December 19, 2022

CDC Issues Updated COVID Guidance for Specific Congregate Community Settings 

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) published an updated “Guidance on Management of COVID-19 in Specific Congregate Community Settings,” with one set of guidance applicable to homeless shelters and correctional facilities, and another for assisted living, group homes and other residential care settings, excluding nursing homes (nursing homes received their own updated guidance on Sept. 23 as part of an update for healthcare settings.)

Overall, the new guidance rolls back some of the previously more stringent recommendations and requirements. Rather than recommending or requiring universal masking and social distancing, the agency now provides congregate care facilities with a framework to assess their risk of COVID-19 spread. The guidance also increases the threshold for applying enhanced prevention measures to High COVID-19 Community Level (rather than Medium) unless a given facility has unique risk levels such as older age or underlying health conditions of residents.

Outlook for Incoming 118th Congress: What It Means for Our Network 

When the new Congress is sworn in on January 3, the Senate will remain under the leadership of the Democrats while the House of Representatives will have a new, slim Republican majority and new party leaders—Hakeem Jeffries (D-NY) for the Democrats and likely Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) as the new Republican Speaker.

Both chambers will see new leaders on committees with jurisdiction over issues of importance to our network, and the shift to divided Congressional control will mean a corresponding shift in priorities and what lawmakers are able to accomplish. In the Senate, the Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee, which has oversight over most health and human services programs, will now be led by Bernie Sanders (I-VT), with Bill Cassidy (R-LA) on the Minority side. While Sanders is known as a staunch liberal, Cassidy has a reputation for being relatively bipartisan, so onlookers are hopeful the committee can continue to be productive.

In the House, the previous leaders of the Energy and Commerce Committee, which has oversight over Medicaid, will swap places, with Cathy McMorris Rogers (R-WA) becoming Chair and Frank Pallone (D-NJ) continuing to lead the Democrats. McMorris Rogers is known for her strong focus on disability issues and has indicated her plans to work with the field to address challenges.

However, it is not yet clear who will chair the Ways and Means Committee, with oversight over Medicare and many other health and human services programs. The retirement of current chair Kevin Brady (R-TX) left a vacancy for which three Representatives are vying, but the ongoing debate among Republicans about whether to elect Kevin McCarthy as the Speaker of the House has impacted the work of the House Republican Conference Steering Committee. The body has decided not to approve chairmanships where multiple candidates are pending for the time being—and possibly not until after a speaker is elected by the new Congress on January 3. Richard Neal (D-MA) will remain in his post leading the Democratic side.

Overall, given their much narrower than anticipated margin of victory, House Republicans are likely to focus more on messaging legislation and investigations into the Biden Administration than sweeping legal changes. Nevertheless, we anticipate forward movement on bills related to the ongoing expansion of telehealth, the modernization of healthcare including technological advances, and mental health support, as well as potential action on addressing worker shortages if bipartisan agreement can be reached.

Contact Sarah Dobson for more information.

Reflections: In gratitude for all that you do

November 21, 2022

As leaders of organizations centered and rooted in faith, we draw strength from each other as we persist in our mission to bring hope and healing to people.

I began a weekly CEO Update at the start of the pandemic because I thought it was important to stay in touch and communicate through a dark and uncertain time. As one of the largest nonprofit health and human services networks that cares for one in 50 people in America, we were hit especially hard by the pandemic.

While some CEO Updates were about important advocacy issues or programs, others were more reflective. I always received feedback from member CEOs on the reflections—notes like “I really needed that today” which kept me going.

One of my board members suggested that I compile the reflections together. As I look back, it’s clear that where we thought we’d be along the way changed—often—and mostly in ways that brought more challenges and hardships to Lutheran social ministry.

What was also clear was the extraordinary leadership, creativity and perseverance that you and leaders throughout the network demonstrated—examples of true leadership to adapt to never-before-seen situations and lead your teams with grace and courage. Lutheran social ministry stood up when we were most needed and you and your teams are the Front Line Heroes that we lift up for your life-saving work.

These Reflections are dedicated to you—for your remarkable leadership and our extraordinary journey together.



Celebrate. Recognize. Inspire.

October 19, 2022

As nonprofit leaders, we know that our teams and organizations deserve recognition for the incredible life-changing work that they do. A recent study by Gallup and Workhuman found that when recognition hits the mark, employees are 4 times as likely to be engaged, 73% less likely to “always” or “very often” feel burned out, and 56% less likely to be looking or watching for job opportunities.

And we know that receiving recognition outside of our organizations is important, but not often given.

Beyond recognition, we also know the importance of being inspired by innovations and practices from other Lutheran social ministry organizations and sharing ours’ with them in a safe, trusted environment. Where we don’t compete with each other but want our peers to succeed and value the support they willingly provide us.

This is your opportunity to celebrate, inspire and recognize your own organization as well as your peer Lutheran social ministry organizations throughout the country.

Nominate your organization or a peer Lutheran social ministry organization for our Lutheran Services in America Leadership Awards:

  • The Innovator Award recognizes members that pioneer new solutions, business practices or technologies that solve complex challenges–especially those that can be shared across the network with your peers.
  • The Micah Award recognizes members that lead the way in work addressing justice, mercy and equity and exemplify Micah 6:8, “Act justly, and love mercy, and walk humbly with your God.”
  • The Paragon Award: The Ken Daly Award for Excellence in Mentorship recognizes leaders with an exceptional gift for identifying talent in people and lifting up the next generation of leaders. It is given in honor of the late Lutheran Services in America board of directors member, Ken Daly, who was an exceptional mentor to me and to so many others.

Winners are announced at our Annual Membership Meeting at CEO Summit 2023. And ALL of the nominees are recognized along with the winners not only at the meeting but throughout the year—because we want to lift up the incredible innovation, works of justice and mercy, and mentorship not only to people across the network but well beyond.

Because you deserve to be recognized and celebrated for the amazing work that you do each and every day. Join us in sharing your work and nominating your organization or a peer today. The deadline for nominations is December 6, 2022.