Lutheran Services in America Launches the "Great Plains Senior Services Collaborative"

A three-year project to increase services and improve conditions for seniors aging in rural Minnesota and North Dakota
Monday, November 9, 2015

November 10, 2015 (Washington, D.C.) – Lutheran Services in America, Incorporated (LSA) is pleased to announce the launch of the "Great Plains Senior Services Collaborative" (Collaborative), a three-year project starting October 1, 2015 with a goal to develop a model for rural communities that can be adapted and replicated in Midwestern states and beyond. LSA brings together two of the LSA network's most established senior services providers, Lutheran Social Service of Minnesota and Lutheran Social Services of North Dakota, to take joint action together to improve the lives of seniors in rural Minnesota and North Dakota. Both organizations are trusted providers of services for seniors and bring significant experience, expertise and infrastructure assets on which to build.

LSA received a $2.5 million grant from the Margaret A. Cargill Foundation to fund the work of the Collaborative. As part of this three-year project, LSA will re-grant the dollars to its members Lutheran Social Service of Minnesota and Lutheran Social Services of North Dakota to support the service expansion. The grant will support the Collaborative working together to improve conditions in rural Minnesota and North Dakota so seniors can remain independent in their homes for as long as possible. The project takes proven models of service and establishes those programs in more than 50 underserved rural communities in Minnesota and North Dakota, with a goal to serve more than 2,000 seniors. The Collaborative will also draw from other parts of LSA's 300-member strong network, leveraging the knowledge and expertise of one of the largest health and human services networks in the country.

Current trends show more older adults will be living in rural communities than ever before, and yet services in these areas vary significantly and are frequently inadequate. This initiative takes a holistic, ‘whole person' approach, taking health, nutrition, transportation and companionship needs into account. The Collaborative also emphasizes working with family members and caregivers to coordinate all the services, in order to be better able to help seniors stay in their homes longer. The project will test five models of service, including companion programs, technology support for caregivers, adding services for people who live in affordable housing, and intensive services to support older adults and their families in navigating the complex landscape of resources to help seniors stay in their homes longer.  

"We're honored to work with our members to collectively address unmet needs facing seniors in rural communities," said Charlotte Haberaecker, LSA's president and CEO. This collaboration enables us to pilot new programs, evaluate what's working, scale, replicate, share and amplify the learnings of the project with our broader network. By looking at the needs of the whole person, and the unique strengths and challenges in rural communities, we are able to build an approach that can be used in other areas, to help us expand our services and reach more seniors to help them remain in their homes."

Jodi Harpstead is the Chief Executive Officer of Lutheran Social Service of Minnesota, one of the largest nonprofit social service organizations in Minnesota, which serves 1 in 65 people across the state's 87 counties. She is also a member of the LSA Board of Directors. "We are excited to expand services to seniors in rural areas where people often have fewer family supports. The LSA network has a deep community presence in rural communities across the United States – in Minnesota alone, LSA members already serve more than 25,000 seniors," said Harpstead. "Working together, we will test and pilot programs in the field, as well as leverage our network and partners to share innovations and learning. The incredible potential with this project is to be able to reproduce these programs across the LSA network, so that the results of the Collaborative go beyond North Dakota and Minnesota."

"We have aligned our work around the unifying goal of helping people thrive," said Jessica Thomasson, Lutheran Social Services of North Dakota's Chief Executive Officer. "Part of this new initiative involves testing models that we believe make a difference to older adults and their families, and ultimately their communities." LSS of ND is a statewide organization providing nonprofit housing, food, disaster recovery, counseling and therapy and other services to neighbors in need. As one of the largest nonprofits in the state, Lutheran Social Services of North Dakota serves one in nine North Dakotans each year.

"The Collaborative allows Lutheran social ministry organizations to learn together to advance the field and make a nationwide impact on helping seniors live healthier, more independent lives," said Haberaecker. "This is ultimately an opportunity to make people's lives better by integrating health, social and emotional needs in a way that works for them and their communities."

Two-thirds of LSA's 300 members serve seniors and provide services ranging from in-home services to retirement housing, rehabilitation, health care, respite care and senior centers. The Collaborative leverages the network's extensive footprint in senior services, and is an illustration of how LSA works to bring members together to learn, share best practices and drive innovation.

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Lutheran Services in America, Incorporated (LSA) is one of the largest health and human services networks in the country with more than 300 members that provide a broad range of critical services from health care to children and family services, senior services, disaster relief, refugee services, disability support, housing, and employment support, among others. Collectively, LSA members serve 1 in 50 people each year in thousands of communities across the United States and are open to all regardless of their religious affiliation or social or economic background. The LSA network is ranked at #23 on the Philanthropy 400, an annual listing of top charitable groups, and has combined revenue of $21 billion. LSA is affiliated with the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA) and The Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod (LCMS). To learn more, please visit
Lutheran Social Service of Minnesota, celebrating its 150th anniversary, began in 1865 when a Lutheran pastor and his congregation opened an orphanage for children near Red Wing in southeastern Minnesota. Today, with 2,300 employees and 8,000 volunteers, Lutheran Social Service helps one in 65 Minnesotans through services that inspire hope, change lives and build community. Statewide, the organization seeks to foster safe and supportive homes for children, restore health and wellness in families, empower people with disabilities to live the lives they imagine, and promote health, independence and quality of life for older adults. For comprehensive information about the work of Lutheran Social Service of Minnesota, visit

Lutheran Social Services of North Dakota is a nonprofit social services agency serving thousands of North Dakotans with affordable housing, food, disaster response, counseling and therapy and more. Established in 1919, Lutheran Social Services serves clients without regard to race, religion, gender or economic status.

Media Contact:
Tania Hernandez-Andersen

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