Lutheran Services in America launched a new tradition in 2021 to recognize two distinguished member organizations in the network each year for their exceptional work and leadership and for exemplifying our core values.
The Innovator Award recognizes a member organization that is pioneering new solutions, technology or business practices to solve complex issues. This member is forward-thinking and extending beyond its own mission to strengthen the Lutheran social ministry network across the country. Ultimately, their breakthrough solutions are designed to lift up the nation’s most vulnerable people and help ensure that all Americans can live abundant lives.
The Micah Award recognizes a member organization that is leading the way in its work in addressing justice, mercy and equity. This member’s leadership in race equity, inclusion and diversity is truly inspirational and best exemplifies the spirit of Micah 6:8, “Act justly, and love mercy, and walk humbly with your God.”
2021 Award Recipients
The Innovator Award: Genacross Lutheran Services
Genacross Lutheran Services actively pursued an innovative solution to social determinants of health for older adults with the development and implementation of Senior Connect, a model of care that enables seniors to age in the home and community of their choosing.
Working through the COVID-19 pandemic, Genacross established a scalable framework for Senior Connect intended for managed care providers that want to improve health outcomes while also reducing costs.
With Senior Connect, Genacross increased service delivery and outcomes for its residents, completing more than 1,700 assessments of more than 900 residents who live within its affordable independent living housing sites. The assessments helped Genacross identify about 600 gaps in care, 80 percent of which have been addressed to date.
Learn more about the innovative work of Genacross Lutheran Services.
The Micah Award: Lutheran Social Services of New York
Following the death of George Floyd, Lutheran Social Services of New York transformed its services to incorporate social justice practices to better serve its communities. In so doing, LSSNY upended the status quo by shifting from a social service organization to a social change organization.
Change first began with members of the staff, who exchanged ideas with one another on important issues such as colorism, white supremacy, educational privilege, language, and the role of nonprofits for people in need.
Leadership also discussed issues of social justice and systemic racism with members of the board of directors. In addition, the transformation included the creation of a Civic Engagement Committee, political candidate forums, and a strategic plan that positions LSSNY as an effective catalyst of social change, collaborating with others to dismantle the effects persistent with poverty and social injustice.
Learn more about the inspirational work of Lutheran Social Services of New York.
2021 Award Nominees
The Innovator Award
In 2017, Gemma Services launched a project to apply machine learning, precision medicine, and predictive analytics to the delivery of mental health services for children and adolescents. Gemma Services aims to improve outcomes for children and adolescents cared for in the mental health system, specifically by reducing factors such as length of stay, time in treatment, return to treatment, and hospitalization. Gemma Services employs these practices in its Psychiatric Residential Treatment Program to help clinicians and direct care staff to identify therapeutic modalities and support mechanisms that help improve outcomes.
Now, Gemma Services is expanding its innovative practices for Outpatient Mental Health Services. The goal is to provide children, youth, and families with the appropriate treatment interventions in the Outpatient setting, therefore preventing more intensive services. Gemma Services envisions the project will facilitate the use of similar predictive tools within the broader mental health system to improve the delivery of services for children and adolescents and increase the amount of time children and youth can participate fully in their homes and communities.
Learn more about the work of Gemma Services.
At the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, KenCrest Centers adapted to the new environment quickly to continue providing services to people with intellectual and developmental disabilities while ensuring the integrity of everyone’s health.
KenCrest moved fast to improve communication within the organization and with external stakeholders by updating its platforms with useful information—including crucial information from the CDC, where to find testing, and the importance of wearing masks—and remaining transparent with the families it serves. KenCrest rolled out a series of toolkits focused on safety protocols such as proper mask-wearing and implementing quarantines, as well as an assessment tool for rating activities for high-risk individuals.
As the pandemic progressed, the organization also turned to former direct care staff who had retired from day programs but still wanted to provide support. Many submitted ideas about what the 12,500 individuals that KenCrest helps support might like to do and where the organization could look for partners. KenCrest intends to create logistics teams after the pandemic to manage staff resources more effectively and better connect clients with each other based on mutual interests.
Learn more about KenCrest’s work.
Lutheran Family & Children’s Services of Missouri
Lutheran Family & Children’s Services of Missouri actively works to empower millions of children with the tools they need in their early years at its Hilltop Child and Family Development Center. The Center serves the North St. Louis community with holistic family intervention and support services, including early childhood education, behavioral health services and parenting education.
The Center’s innovative model aims to improve the overall development, stability, health and safety of both the child and family in an area severely affected by poverty and crime. Nearly two-thirds of children served have parents earning less than $20,000 per year and 61 percent live in single-parent households. Exposure to violence and crime in the community, living in poverty, or living in a single parent household are all risk factors for abuse and neglect.
The services provided by Hilltop mitigate those risks and improve other outcomes such as third-grade reading proficiency, high school graduation rates, long-term health and more. Ultimately, Hilltop provides 140 children with an equitable beginning to their education every year.
In addition, Lutheran Family & Children’s Services of Missouri shares the lessons learned at Hilltop with fellow Lutheran Services in America members through the Results Innovation Lab to inform new strategies for dramatically improving the lives of thousands of children across the country.
Learn more about the work of Lutheran Family & Children’s Services of Missouri.
Lutheran Social Services of Northeast Florida
From hunger relief, refugee resettlement and HIV services to money management and financial/career coaching, Lutheran Social Services of Northeast Florida transformed all of its services to proactively respond to the COVID-19 pandemic with effective and innovative methods.
Lutheran Social Services of Northeast Florida transitioned direct client services to virtual platforms and adjusted its food pantry to have zero-contact, curbside distribution. The food pantry especially proved to be a welcome service within the community. Before the pandemic, the food pantry served 1,000 households each month. At the height of the pandemic, the pantry served more than 3,000 households, representing more than 10,000 people. With their regular army of volunteers unable to join the effort due to COVID safety policies, the organization received back-up from the local network of Lutheran churches, which were instrumental in helping meet the community’s needs.
The Lutheran Social Services of Northeast Florida organization’s agility in responding to the pandemic helped ensure that no one was turned away. In 2020, the organization served an estimated 41,000 unique individuals, an increase of 150 percent over the prior year.
Learn more about the work of Lutheran Social Services of Northeast Florida.
Lutheran Social Services of Wisconsin and Upper Michigan
Lutheran Social Services of Wisconsin and Upper Michigan is on the forefront of addressing social determinants of health through trauma-informed social programs.
In following servant-leadership principles, the 139-year-old organization innovates alongside key community partners and donors in ways that address each client’s essential needs and long-term success. In 2020, the organization received a 92 percent client satisfaction rate with 93 percent reporting that its services improved their lives.
Lutheran Social Services of Wisconsin and Upper Michigan’s commitment to the growth of people and building community are two servant-leadership tenets that it brings to life when working with Milwaukee’s south side population, particularly through LSS School-Centered Mental Health (SCMH) and tax credit housing. The organization is particularly committed to ensuring better access to mental health services and affordable housing for Hispanic Americans.
Thirteen31 Place Apartments, which is currently under construction, is part of the Low-Income Housing Tax Credit program that promotes the acquisition, construction and rehabilitation of affordable housing in a variety of neighborhoods. The housing project promises to offer opportunity to people who might not otherwise have access to a safe, affordable home.
The LSS SCMH and Thirteen31 programs activate the Servant-Leadership tenets of Commitment to the Growth of People and Building Community for Latinos living in Milwaukee’s south side community. Through these innovative programs, Lutheran Social Services of Wisconsin and Upper Michigan is helping to empower children and families to thrive within strong equitable systems.
Learn more about the work of Lutheran Social Services of Wisconsin and Upper Michigan.
It has been essential for healthcare providers to change the way they offer services during the COVID-19 pandemic to reduce exposure for their staff and patients. Healthcare systems had to adjust the way they triage, evaluate and attend to people. Telemedicine—the use of technology to administer remote clinical services—enabled providers to maintain a continuity of care. While telemedicine is not new, it has not been as accessible for people with intellectual and developmental disabilities or for those who are deaf or hard of hearing.
Mill Neck Services in New York is helping to integrate Video Remote Interpreting into telemedical care. In partnership with Long Island Select Healthcare, Mill Neck provides remote Sign Language Interpreting and telemedical visits to adults with intellectual and developmental disabilities and people who are deaf or hard of hearing. Mill Neck is developing systems that are fully accessible so that all patients have access to medical services in sign language.
Learn more about Mill Neck Services.
The Micah Award
Lutheran Child and Family Services of Illinois
The harmful impact of institutional racism and implicit bias continues to plague the child welfare system. Lutheran Child and Family Services of Illinois recognized the need for a focused and strategic plan of action to address the system’s racial inequities.
The result: The Dismantling Institutional Racism Brick by Brick initiative, which focuses on using data-supported results to decrease disparate outcomes for children of color. The goal of Brick by Brick is for all children in Illinois to have forever loving homes, and in doing so, demands the elimination of disparate outcomes supported by institutional racism.
Following the framework of the Lutheran Services in America Results Innovation Lab, which uses a results-based model to ensure measurable changes for vulnerable children and their families, the organization set targets of 5 percent for decreasing the median length of foster care stays and 5 percent for increasing the achievement of permanency for children of color. Two years later, Lutheran Child and Family Services of Illinois significantly surpassed its original targets with a 16 percent decrease in the median days in care and a 47 percent increase in achieving permanency.
Lutheran Child and Family Services of Illinois intends to share its learnings and model with other agencies throughout Illinois and across the United States.
Learn more about the work of Lutheran Child and Family Services of Illinois.
Lutheran Services Carolinas
In the true spirit of Micah 6:8, Lutheran Services Carolinas has a long history of advancing justice, mercy, and equity in communities across North and South Carolina.
In 2003, Lutheran Services Carolinas replaced an old skilled nursing facility that had housed residents who were primarily impoverished with a new facility located in the heart of Winston-Salem’s African American community. Since that same year, Lutheran Services Carolinas has been involved in the North Carolina Synod’s African Descent Strategy Team and Racial Justice Network.
For Lutheran Services Carolinas, the fight for equity within its own ranks is just as important. The organization regularly offers cultural competency training around implicit bias and racial equity and has an active Diversity Council that is open to each of the organization’s employees.
Lutheran Services Carolinas has also been a steadfast source of support for refugees for decades. Since 1979, the organization has assisted hundreds of refugees resettle in the United States and become contributing members of their communities, despite at times hateful pushback, including intimidation from the Ku Klux Klan. Lutheran Services Carolinas aims to not only support refugees but also to educate communities on how they can benefit from refugee resettlement programs.
Learn more about the work of Lutheran Services Carolinas.
Lutheran Social Ministries of New Jersey
In the true spirit of the Micah Award, Lutheran Social Ministries of New Jersey displayed outstanding leadership in its work to support its community. Early into the pandemic, the organization dedicated countless hours to ensure its residents and team members were afforded personal protective equipment and was one of the first providers in the nation to create negative pressure rooms — an isolation technique to prevent cross-contamination from room to room — in skilled nursing homes to prevent the spread of COVID-19.
Lutheran Social Ministries of New Jersey undertook all its work with equity in mind. The organization went to extraordinary lengths to ensure older adults in its affordable housing, PACE, and hospice programs did not go without the COVID-19 vaccine at a time when the state was focused on vaccinating long-term-care residents.
Following the death of George Floyd, President and CEO Colleen Frankenfield called for unity amongst its workforce. Ms. Frankenfield affirmed the organization’s commitment to diversity and equality as “a human birthright that no person, agency, or government can wave away. There is no justice or peace without that universal understanding.”
Learn more about the work of Lutheran Social Ministries of New Jersey.
Shepherd’s Canyon Retreat
Shepherd’s Canyon Retreat in Wickenburg, Arizona, provides care for those in need of assistance with one principle in mind: mercy. The Shepherd’s Canyon Retreat ministry is the only Lutheran based-ministry in the world that provides week-long counseling retreats for men and women in full-time ministry who are in various stages of burnout, stress, depression, compassion fatigue, and conflicts of all kinds.
Shepherd’s Canyon Retreat has hosted nearly 600 people at 95 counseling retreats led by two licensed Christian counselors and the retreat chaplain. Men and women come in search of healing and hope—hope for their ministries, their marriages, and sometimes even their lives.
Learn more about the work of Shepherd’s Canyon Retreat.