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Lutheran Services in America Works to Strengthen Local Communities

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Charlotte Haberaecker, President and CEO of Lutheran Services in America (LSA)

Ed. Note: This post is part of the Commerce in the Community series highlighting the work of community leaders and organizations that are strengthening the middle class and providing ladders of opportunity for all Americans.

Below is an interview with Charlotte Haberaecker, President and CEO of Lutheran Services in America (LSA), one of the nation’s largest health and human services networks. Prior to joining LSA in 2012, Charlotte was the number-two executive at Global Impact, a $110 million non-profit organization that provides funding for critical humanitarian needs at home and around the world. Previously, she held senior leadership positions at Price Waterhouse where she directed a management consulting practice and Fannie Mae where she led an industry transformation initiative. 

Q1: Tell us about Lutheran Services in America. What is your mission and main focus?

Lutheran Services in America (www.lutheranservices.org) is one of the largest health and human services networks in the country. Our more than 300 members 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 touch the lives of 1 in 50 Americans each year in thousands of communities across the United States.

Ranked at #25 on the Philanthropy 400, the LSA network represents close to $21 billion in combined annual revenues in the U.S. Our members employ close to 250,000 people in all 50 states and parts of the U.S. Virgin Islands. Our members provide services to all, regardless of their religious affiliation, race, or social or economic background.

LSA works to ensure our members’ resilience in an increasingly evolving environment. Our newly revised mission is to “build valuable connections, amplify our voices and empower our members,” and our vision is a network of “connected, strong and thriving” members that “transform the lives of people and communities.” A distinguishing characteristic of our network is the deep trust and sharing that come from a shared set of values and goals. Our network strives to help people become self-sufficient so they can lead more independent, secure and higher quality lives. The deep trust facilitates rapid innovation and scale.

We help our members to build resilience through specialized programming for CEOs and executives; we also work to help build the capacity and infrastructure of our member organizations, for example by exploring new business models that can create more sustainable revenue streams. We also find opportunities for our 307 members to work together to achieve outcomes they couldn’t achieve on their own so they can grow and continue to serve their communities for generations to come.

Q2: How is Lutheran Services in America working to promote economic mobility and opportunity at the local level?

At the local level, our members promote economic mobility through a broad range of education, employment, housing and other programs to help people become more self-sufficient.

Some examples of the incredible “boots on the ground” work our members are engaged in:

The Language Bank, Lutheran Social Services of New England – Creative Employment Solution: LSS of New England is active in refugee resettlement. They identified a growing need for interpretation services in their communities and for the people they were helping to resettle, coupled with funding challenges. This drove a creative solution: the Language Bank, a service that provides interpreters for the healthcare and legal system. Today the Language Bank is the largest interpretation and translation provider in New Hampshire.  It is led by a former Bosnian refugee resettled by LSS of New England who now manages a staff of eight employees and 150 interpreters who speak approximately 70 languages.

Lutheran Metropolitan Ministry, Cleveland, Ohio – Social Enterprise: LMM has launched their own business “think tank” to apply earned-income strategies to operating businesses that empower individuals. Through viable businesses, LMM provides work experience and short-term training to individuals they serve. Programs include Metro Metal Works, an enterprise that designs, manufactures, sells and installs bicycle racks while training individuals from an under-utilized workforce, and Central Kitchen, which provides fresh food for Cleveland’s homeless shelter system while training and employing people who have significant employment barriers.

Bethel New Life, Chicago, Illinois – Micro-Enterprise: Bethel New Life’s Entrepreneurship Training Program is a micro-enterprise program geared toward low-income people who want to start a new business, owners of informally run businesses who want to become licensed and legally structured, and owners of new, existing businesses that want to expand or standardize their business operations. Entrepreneurs selected for this highly competitive program participate in 14 weeks of classes on business plans, marketing, financing, accounting, risk management, legal issues, and more, followed by a year of personal mentoring from a business leader. Qualified participants are also eligible for loans. 

Lutheran Social Services of Central Ohio – Veterans’ Employment Programs:  LSS of Central Ohio launched the Patriot Pride Painting Company to hire area veterans seeking employment. Employees are offered a competitive work environment that is dedicated to equipping them with the necessary skill sets to live a more independent and satisfying life. Profits go directly toward empowering veterans in their community to reach self-sufficiency by gaining employment and housing.

Q3: In what ways are you partnering with other organizations to increase your impact?

Our focus is largely on helping our members connect with each other to increase their impact exponentially. We look to harness the power of that collective network to address a variety of needs in our society such as assisting youth who are aging out of the foster care system, responding more effectively to natural disasters, and supporting people with disabilities to lead more self-directed lives by working across state lines to fundamentally change the way services are provided and funded for people with intellectual and developmental disabilities.

We’re also working with 10 other national nonprofit organizations on the “Future Without Poverty Coalition” to address group strategies for education, innovation and action to tackle the complex issue of poverty in America.

Q4: If people want to learn more about Lutheran Services in America, what should they do?

We invite you to connect with us on social media! Follow us on Twitter: @LutheranSvcs and like us on Facebook: www.facebook.com/LutheranServices. You can also visit our website at www.lutheranservices.org to learn more and sign up to receive information about our events, advocacy work and news.

To learn more about some of the amazing work our members are doing in communities around the country, check out the cover story in the Nonprofit Digest that talks about LSA and our network. Thank you for your interest.

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