Lutheran Services in America launched a new tradition in 2021 to recognize distinguished member organizations in the network each year for their exceptional work and leadership and for exemplifying our core values.
THE INNOVATOR AWARD
This award recognizes a member organization that is pioneering new solutions, technology or business practices to solve complex issues. Their breakthrough solutions are designed to empower all people in America to lead their best lives.
THE MICAH AWARD
This award recognizes a member organization that is leading the way in its work in addressing justice, mercy and equity. This member best exemplifies the spirit of 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
In honor of the late Lutheran Services in America board member Ken Daly, this award recognizes a leader with an exceptional gift for spotting potential in people and lifting up the next group of leaders.
Get inspired by the stories of our 2022 award winners featured in the November 16 episode of the podcast “In the Ring” with Héctor Colón, president & CEO of Lutheran Social Services of Wisconsin and Upper Michigan.
2023 AWARD WINNERS
THE INNOVATOR AWARD
Lutheran Services Florida Health Systems
Lutheran Services Florida Health Systems expanded an enhanced Certified Recovery Peer Specialist (CPRS) training program that addresses the region’s shortage of paraprofessionals with the skills and competencies to work with people at risk for behavioral health disorders — the first of its kind in Florida that has trained more than 300 people. It’s now expanding to include a specialized program for veterans and first responders. In addition, LSF Health Systems established one of the first apprenticeship programs for behavioral health paraprofessionals in the state of Florida.
LSF Health Systems’ Dr. Christine Cauffield has promoted a culture of innovation within her team and throughout the state of Florida by launching and hosting annually Florida’s Behavioral Health Innovation Summit (now in its third year). This event provides an opportunity for local, state and regional stakeholders to learn more about how to promote innovation within their organizations. It also helps participants discover innovative programs that are achieving impact in local communities and can be replicated throughout the state.
Learn more about the work of Lutheran Services Florida Health Systems.
THE MICAH AWARD
We Raise Foundation
We Raise Foundation used its resources to guide Lutheran Services in America member organizations on how to apply diversity, equity and inclusion initiatives through the newly created Reimagining Diversity Collaborative, which brings members together to explore race and inclusion in a safe setting.
Not only has We Raise Foundation sponsored this work, but its leadership has modeled this commitment in their approach to their mission execution. Paul Miles has been a champion of this work, and his willingness to be transparent and share his own learning has been inspiring.
THE PARAGON AWARD
The Ken Daly Award for Excellence
Ted Goins of Lutheran Services Carolinas
Ted Goins exemplifies the Paragon Award through his warm welcome and mentorship of CEOs new to the Lutheran Services in America network. Ted listened, offered advice and connected with Lutheran social ministry leaders who were experiencing similar challenges. Through his generosity of time and mentorship and willingness to connect CEOs with other leaders, Goins helped his peers to see that they are not alone in navigating these challenges and has provided motivation and encouragement to pursue their goals.
2023 AWARD NOMINEES
Amelia Fox of Lutheran Services Florida
Over her 30-year career from Atlanta to Tampa, Amelia Fox has mentored at least 100 women.
During her six years at Lutheran Services Florida (LSF) as the Chief Strategy Officer / Chief of Staff, Amelia has recognized and encouraged women to achieve their goals. Amelia identified several women at LSF with potential and worked to ensure they had opportunities to grow and to showcase their talents. One of these women received two promotions within three years; another left the organization to pursue her dream career; and yet another was hired into LSF and quickly rose to be the right hand to her program executive director.
During Covid-19, Amelia helped form the LSF Women of Impact, a group of 20 senior women leaders in the organization. She worked quietly in the background to provide them with more than $30,000 in leadership training, ensuring as women that they were ready for the next level. The group is still meeting, thriving, and building each other up today!
Amelia is engaged with women in the community too. She has mentored young teens in the LSF foster care program and challenged them to approach things differently, to share their stories more holistically in order to help them grow from their trauma and become the person God intended them to be.
Amelia has also molded and mentored many of Tampa Bay’s up-and-coming professionals and leaders through the Tampa Bay Chamber mentorship program. In them she instilled servant leadership as the moral compass to pursue their career goals.
Learn more about the work of Lutheran Services Florida.
David Trost of St. John’s United
For 27 years, David Trost has served the residents, families and staff of St. John’s United through its mission to provide living opportunities within nurturing environments of hope, dignity and love. In the spirit of the Paragon Award, David has guided more than 20 people through a robust internship program that has produced leaders within the organization and externally in Montana and across the nation. The program has impacted the healthcare industry by producing hospital CEOs and CFOs and long-term care administrators. It has also produced teachers, consultants and numerous other industry leaders.
David’s unique approach to educating and mentoring interns and helping them navigate the long-term care landscape has not only set up St. John’s United for many years of continued innovative leadership but has also intentionally spread the organization’s mission throughout the community by way of those who go on to other sectors and positions of leadership.
Learn more about St. John’s United.
enCircle’s diversity, equity and inclusion work is grounded in its mission and articulated in its Guiding Principles. enCircle’s mission is to make the world a more loving place. Part of living out that mission is recognizing and honoring the diversity of races, religions, abilities and identities of the people in the community. enCircle’s beliefs are not rooted in any political agenda but in its founding as a Lutheran organization. To facilitate understanding of how we can live out its Guiding Principle, enCircle implemented a required staff training on DEI, offered DEI training to its board of directors and revised its strategic plan for diversity and inclusion.
To help change its culture and hold themselves accountable for results, enCircle created the director of DEI as a leadership position reporting directly to the CEO. With coaching from Tommie Lewis of Make It Plain Consulting, enCircle’s DEI director, Maurice Gallimore, helped create a DEI Committee that helps inform executive leadership decisions regarding employee engagement, programs, talent management, and development and training. With enCircle’s recommendation, Tommie Lewis shared DEI best practices and facilitated diversity conversations during the three-part Lutheran Services in America Strength & Service webinar series “Reimagining Diversity in the Workplace.”
Learn more about enCircle.
Lutheran Senior Services
Lutheran Senior Services in St. Louis, Missouri, is on a journey to transform the delivery of aging services, moving from a primarily health care orientation to one where wellness is prioritized and proactive, potentially predictive, action in partnership with those it serves. LSS knows that residents of the future value a holistic approach to wellness that includes a fit and active lifestyle and high-quality dining options. They’ll want to be more engaged than ever with what’s going on outside of the walls of LSS communities. They’ll be more tech savvy and connected.
The change within LSS to meet this need is imperative. In 2022, LSS unveiled a new strategic framework for growth that will guide it in this journey. It’s an ambitious vision that will innovate the types of services offered to older adults and where they can receive them. Optimizing experiences will be key in the future. That’s why LSS has installed one of the only Chief Experience Officers in the aging services field as a key member of the leadership team. LSS is poised to not only continue as a leader in the Life Plan Community and Affordable Housing markets, but to grow in new ways to serve a more diverse cross section of older adults.
Learn more about Lutheran Senior Services.
Lutheran Social Services of the Southwest
Responding to the growing need today for advocates for the vulnerable, Lutheran Social Services of the Southwest has taken a multi-faceted approach to tackle issues ranging from hunger, housing, inequity, and discrimination that individuals face daily. LSS has expanded its outreach, amplifying voices across Arizona to advocate for those in need. By educating stakeholders, partnering with essential organizations, and working to combat the biggest issues facing those in need, LSS has helped to strengthen the bonds of community and become a leader in equity and inclusion.
LSS created an Advocacy Committee and an advocacy stakeholder group to educate and call others to action. The Advocacy Committee keeps our staff, supporters and community apprised of the current obstacles and injustices facing clients and explains related legislation that could benefit or negatively impact populations.
LSS has also partnered with other organizations to promote equity among all Arizonans. LSS co-founded Lutheran Advocacy Ministry Arizona (LAMA), an advocacy ministry of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America. Their mission states they were founded “to join with the most vulnerable of our society to voice our common needs in the public square, activating our faith in love.” In addition to LAMA, LSS has partnered with We Are All America to host a Refugee Day at the Capitol to educate representatives and support needed legislation. LSS committed themselves to learning about the obstacles to affordable housing and the inequities that exist, to better support clients.
Learn more about Lutheran Social Services of the Southwest.
Maria Dillon-Owens of Lutheran Social Services of Southern California
Maria Dillon-Owens, M.S., has truly revolutionized the way Lutheran Social Services of Southern California conducts employee hiring and staff relations. She recently conducted a series of employee forums and focus groups open to all of our nearly 200 employees. The data and comments garnered were a great gauge to let us know that our employee job satisfaction is on the rise.
More than any other executive on our team, Ms. Dillon-Owens, has mastered our LSSSC Dashboard software and gives timely and accurate breakdowns on employee matters to our board and executive team. From how many Covid exposures each week, to reporting on our increasing employee retention under her leadership, the pie charts and statistics are always coupled with her direct concern for each and every employee.
Maria loves to see people promoted from within and has been LSSSC’s biggest cheerleader of our employee education program that offers scholarships for further education. Her example causes others to pay forward the care and encouragement she gives. It’s simply infectious!
Learn more about Lutheran Social Services of Southern California.
Sally Montgomery of Mosaic
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’s mentoring and leadership within Mosaic goes beyond her team. 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.
Find out more about Sally and learn more about Mosaic.
In 2021, Upbring responded to the rise of cryptocurrency and entered a new frontier of fundraising by accepting cryptocurrency as one of its donation types. This fall, Upbring Innovation Labs (UIL) launched the Crypto Endowment Fund for Better Childhood — a first-of-its-kind fund that enables donors to give cryptocurrency and maximize the impact of their gift by letting its value grow with the market. The endowment not only fields donations through the traditional sense of “an ask,” but has created earned-revenue partnerships with blockchain companies that help it sustainably fund its growth; these partnerships range from relationships with Bitcoin mining companies, NFT artists and cryptocurrency protocol companies.
UIL also launched a proof-of-concept blockchain application for child welfare data. The application is now being used as a case study and being shared with senators, house representatives and business leaders to demonstrates blockchain technology is applicable to child welfare and should be explored further. Future phases of the application will be developed should UIL garner support from outside investors and the Texas legislative community.
Upbring is intent on shifting the conversation from child welfare to child wellbeing. They are relentless in their efforts to revolutionize standards of care not only for the children of Texas, but for all current and future children of the world.
Learn more about Upbring.
2022 AWARD WINNERS
THE INNOVATOR AWARD
Amidst a shortage of caregivers and an increase need for caring for seniors with dementia, the Samaritas CARES (Caregiver Accessible Resource Education Services) Program improves health outcomes for seniors by investing in the education of caregivers through a credentialed dementia care training program. Samaritas CARES utilizes a proven dementia care training model to empower caregivers with the knowledge to support seniors at Samaritas and in the community at large with innovative Google Glass and Vuzix glasses technology. Samaritas’ mission-driven focus of education, training, and outreach, has resulted in a stronger community of skilled caregivers to impact seniors adversely affected by dementia.
Samaritas CARES addresses the lack of innovative training for informal and formal caregivers and is implemented in a dedicated single-issue focused approach that addresses dementia, to better support senior health through education, technology, and outreach to professionals and families in a variety of settings familiar to the patient.
THE MICAH AWARD
Lutheran Social Services of the National Capital Area
Lutheran Social Services of the National Capital Area (LSSNCA) has made a significant impact on its community by serving and resettling nearly 2,000 Afghan Allies in the Maryland, Northern Virginia and Washington, DC area. The LSSNCA team mobilized to meet the ever-increasing need for refugee and immigration support, housing, and job placement.
In addition to helping our Afghan allies, LSSNCA is still working to provide programs to unaccompanied youth from Central America, asylees from Cameroon, asylum-seekers from Haiti and Central America, and providing a COVID-safe outdoor getaway for youths who are living with, or whose parents have HIV/AIDS.
THE PARAGON AWARD
The Ken Daly Award for Excellence
Marian Baldini of KenCrest Services
Under her guidance, the agency hosts book clubs on David Marquet books on the leader-leader concept. Every week since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, she has led a weekly virtual town hall with 250 employees who join in real time (alongside hundreds of others who watch the recordings); kept her team abreast of COVID protocols and resources, and shifts impacting the agency, including updates on funding models; and shared presentations focused on leadership models. Through Marian’s town halls she not only keeps employees up to date and connected, but helps them further their leadership skills through improving their critical thinking, emotional intelligence, and understanding of true interdependence at KenCrest.
Learn more about the work of KenCrest Services.
2022 AWARD NOMINEES
Darrell Gordon of Wernle Youth & Family Treatment Center
Darrell Gordon has served as President & CEO of Wernle Youth & Family Treatment Center for 20 years. Darrell has received numerous awards during his tenure for performing exceptional work with youth in addressing justice, mercy and equity.
Darrell visits local, regional and national organizations to discuss ways to promote DEI (diversity, equity, and inclusion) initiatives in a safe and trusted learning environment—topics that are not easy to address, but are necessary. As an expert in the field of DEI, he has provided guidance to many organizations and national leaders in examining organizational policies and practices as they relate to diversity, equity, and inclusion. He encourages candid conversation among his audience throughout the process while developing a path forward to implement values of DEI into their organization’s strategic plan.
Darrell leads the Wernle Youth & Family Treatment Center through the Indiana Association of Resources and Child Advocacy’s Race Equity Work Group to improve racial equity and inclusivity to maximize the benefit of the community’s work for all families. IARCA’s mission is to promote cooperation, communication, development and mutual support among organizations and systems providing services to children and their families, and to advocate for the establishment and maintenance of high quality, effective, culturally competent, and appropriate services to achieve the best possible outcomes for children and their families.
Wernle Youth & Family Treatment Center recognizes the importance of DEI training. Darrell Gordon is Wernle’s first African American leader who has been relentless in ensuring the agency serves a diverse population of young men and women who are treated with equity to develop into outstanding citizens in their years of adulthood. The organization has empowered Darrell to diversify its managerial pool and leadership team, bringing in new perspectives whereby Wernle is sure to be inclusive of all races, genders and ages, understanding the value it presents in providing quality care to the very diverse youth population it serves throughout Indiana, Ohio and parts of Illinois and Kentucky.
Learn more about the work of Wernle Youth & Family Treatment Center
Lutheran Social Services of Northeast Florida
Lutheran Social Services of Northeast Florida started as a small hunger relief ministry 42 years ago. Since then, LSS has added additional programs to fill other unmet needs in our community, including refugee resettlement, HIV services, representative payee services and financial/career coaching. What was started by a group of Lutheran congregants in someone’s garage in 1979 has grown to a premier nonprofit addressing a range of needs and serving more than 30,000 individuals annually.
LSS CEO Bill Brim hopes to continue the organization’s legacy of meeting multiple needs in the Jacksonville community with a one-stop, nonprofit hub model. In addition to LSS’s five core programs, the organization leases space to three other nonprofits providing specialty HIV physician and dental care, vision screenings and free eyeglasses, and referral for free specialty healthcare for uninsured individuals. Other partners join LSS onsite regularly to offer free primary care and information about low-cost health plans.
Bill Brim’s ultimate vision is to purchase the building next door to expand further and make even more services available to underserved individuals. His top priorities include mental health and substance abuse counseling, which are in high demand among the clients we already serve.
Metro Lutheran Ministry
In 2020, it was clear that the Kansas City Metropolitan Lutheran Ministry needed to change all of its congregational services in response to the pandemic. The ministry turned its food pantry, which allowed families to enter the building and browse while they selected their food, into a curbside service that allowed it to distribute up to three times its normal amount of food at three different locations.
To keep people from being evicted from their homes, Metro Lutheran Ministry increased its rent assistance program. With support from the government, the ministry provided more than $6 million a year in rent and utility assistance, up from $500,000. During the Christmas holiday season, Metro Lutheran Ministry used every closet, waiting room, hallway, office that it could find to store presents for 1,400 families and distribute them from the curb.
At a time when many agencies were cancelling programs, Metro Lutheran Ministry increased its support to the community. The organization used a $1 million grant to provide PPE and hand sanitizer to other nonprofits in Kansas City.
Learn more about the work of Metro Lutheran Ministry.
Before the pandemic, Mosaic held local events in-person. As COVID spread, Mosaic implemented virtual event platforms, including:
- Monthly Discover the Possibilities (DtP) events to introduce their mission, work and commitment to relentlessly pursue opportunities for people with diverse needs.
- Annual Partners in Possibilities (PiP) events to promote sustainable fundraising and build long-term community relationships to support the organization’s purpose of service and love.
Since the pandemic greatly limited in-person DtP and PiP events at Mosaic agencies, Mosaic applied the sustainable fundraising strategy to national storytelling videos posted on Facebook. The videos increased Mosaic’s donor base while furthering viewership connections with our organization.
Learn more about the work of Mosaic.
Shepherd’s Canyon Retreat
Shepherd’s Canyon Retreat 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, and conflicts of all kinds. Shepherd’s Canyon Retreat has hosted 600 men and women on these retreats, which focus on healing and hope. The organization’s 103rd and 104th retreats were held in November 2021.
Learn more about the work of Shepherd’s Canyon Retreat.