the Spirit of LSI

Spring 2015

Joyful and Amazed | LSI’s Endowment Campaign | Faith in Action | Recent Events | The Power of PIHH


Joyful and Amazed

A journey of motherhood

Little Ella is almost ready to take her first steps.

“She is getting braver and braver,” her mom Dawn said. “She tipped the laundry basket on its side the other day and used that to walk.”

Moments like that are melting Dawn’s heart as she sees her baby girl grow.

“If I sit there and watch her, I start crying, I really do,” she said. “I’m just joyful and amazed.”

That’s because Dawn’s motherhood journey started not with amazement, but with anxiety. She learned she was pregnant when she was 23, and she didn’t have a solid support network in her life.

“I was flabbergasted,” she said. “I didn’t believe it. I sat in the doctor’s office for two hours bawling. I thought about adoption, but I decided against it.”

Instead, she decided she would build a great life for her daughter. And at her very first WIC (Women, Infant, Child) appointment, she learned how LSI’s Families Together program could help her do just that.

“I thought it couldn’t hurt, and I’m so glad it I did it!” Dawn said.

Dawn was paired with Hillary, an LSI family support worker who began helping Dawn learn about child growth and development, praising Dawn’s strengths and connecting her with local resources. Through the Families Together program, LSI can partner with families at any time from before their child is born up to age 18. On average, an LSI caseworker will meet with families for 10 – 12 months.

Dawn’s ambition is for Ella to have a healthy, happy childhood.

“I want to be there for my daughter and for her and I to have an inseparable bond,” said Dawn. “Whatever she wants to do, whether it’s play Barbies or go catch some frogs, I’m up for it.”

Dawn now looks toward the future with hope regarding what she can achieve for her family. She currently works at a Casey’s convenience store in rural Iowa, but she wants more. “

My yearly income with a kid doesn’t cut it,” she said matter-of-factly. “I need to go back to school, and I’m interested in a hands-on career, like plumbing or maybe starting my own business.”

When it comes to Ella’s future, Dawn is bursting with possibilities.

“I want to start potty training her early and make sure she knows her ABCs and can count by the time she goes to preschool,” she said. “I want to be involved in her schooling and have her be at least a B honor roll student.”

Hillary reminds Dawn often how much she has blossomed in her confidence as a mom, a compliment that still sometimes surprises Dawn.

“I laugh,” she said. “That’s true though. I’m even really impressed with myself. Sometimes it’s still overwhelming. It helps a great deal to have someone behind me telling me my strengths. To have someone telling me I’m doing a great job? Well, I’ll go with them on that!”

Dawn hopes other moms will allow LSI to cheer them on, too.

“I would suggest it to any new mom, anyone who is unsure or not as confident, do it, do it, do it!”

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“What do I want to accomplish with my estate plans that will be the most meaningful to me?”

It’s an important question. And because people like you answered it, LSI is close to celebrating a great milestone: meeting our five-year endowment campaign goal!

In 2010, LSI set a goal to raise $12 million for the LSI endowment by 2015, and you’ve already contributed more than $10 million toward our goal.

The endowment helps provide a firm foundation for LSI, contributing more than $400,000 each year to support our mission.  A planned gift or pledge to LSI’s endowment is a wonderful investment because your gift never stops giving, and it can be made in many ways. It can be a simple change to a beneficiary designation or something more complex involving your estate planning team, including LSI’s philanthropy staff.

We would love for you to be part of achieving this milestone accomplishment in 2015! For information about how you can benefit Iowans for years to come, contact Jason Lee, director of planned giving and major gifts, at or 515.817.0980.


Faith in Action

Pastor Vaage

Pastor Bob Vaage first learned about LSI (then Lutheran Social Services of Iowa) as a young boy, sitting in the pews of Trinity Lutheran Church in Mason City.

“There was a social worker named Lyn Lienhard who would give Temple Talks at church services,” he said. “I remember wondering, what is LSI all about? As a small boy, I just always knew it was an important part of the church’s mission.”

Little did Bob know both he and Lyn would one day become leaders at LSI: Lyn served as executive vice president for the agency, and Bob now serves as chair of LSI’s board of directors.

He joined the LSI board in 2012, later accepting the chair role during LSI’s 150th anniversary in 2014.

“It was special because I feel like a Johnny-come-lately to the board,” he said of the opportunity to serve during the historic anniversary year. “To be asked to be chair and be part of the story and history of LSI was very humbling.”

It’s a history rooted firmly in Lutheran congregations, such as those Bob has served in Western Iowa. From 1986 to 1996, Bob served as pastor at First Lutheran Church in Sioux City, and he currently serves as pastor of First Lutheran Church in West Okoboji. Over the years, he and other local pastors have partnered with LSI, to help provide past programs such as premarital counseling.

Today, though, Bob is getting more in-depth answers to his childhood question as he learns about the agency’s wide-ranging services for children, families and adults.

“Since I joined the board, I’ve gotten to know the LSI staff,” he said. “I’ve dropped by the Spencer office a few times. They really care. They have an enthusiasm and spirit when they talk about what they do. I am surprised by the degree of calling they feel. It is more than just a job for them.”

In fact, their work may very well be helping a family you know.

“I wish people knew the stories,” Bob said. “These are our neighbors. These are people living across the street. The struggles and concerns they have are not unique to big cities.”

Helping respond to those struggles is what Lutherans call faith in action, Bob said, noting that response can take many forms, such as volunteering, prayer or financial support.

And faith in action is the heart of LSI’s mission statement.

“Our compassion and service flows from a response and gratitude that we have received through God’s love,” said Bob.

LSI Events

Sharing Our Voices

Thank you to the LSI advocates who joined us on March 9 in Des Moines for Lutheran Day on the Hill! Your collective advocacy with legislators has a real impact. Together we raised our voices to lift up three issues: legislation to assist refugee communities in Iowa; a rate increase for Iowa child welfare providers; and an adjustment to the Family Investment Program that helps struggling families.

The Table: Sharing Food and Stories from Bhutan 

The Des Moines Bhutanese community also shared their voices in March at “The Table: Sharing Food and Stories from the Table eventBhutan,” a community event held at Lutheran Church of Hope. This new event series highlights the history and culture of various ethnic groups in Iowa’s vibrant refugee community.


PIHThe Power of PIHH

Anthony* hated going to school. He’d been held back twice and was much larger than his classmates, making him a target for bullying. When his mother received notice that charges were being filed against her for Anthony’s poor attendance, she didn’t have to panic: LSI’s Pediatric Integrated Health Home (PIHH) program was there to help.

Caring for a child with a mental health diagnosis can be a real struggle for families. Through LSI, families find the help they need to manage their child’s care and the diverse challenges they face daily. Launched last year, this program now helps more than 200 children and their families in Black Hawk and Grundy Counties.

In Anthony’s case, LSI’s PIHH team helped get the truancy charges dropped by showing the steps taken to remedy the situation. They then worked with Anthony’s school to advocate for additional testing and an Individualized Education Program (IEP). They learned Anthony had dyslexia, which had never been identified. Now Anthony is in a more appropriate learning setting, and he’s already shown a boost in confidence and self-care! That’s the power of PIHH.

*Name changed for privacy.