MapleCreek Residents send backpacks to foster care students

by Megan Streng 21. August 2012 08:05

On August 15, 13 residents from The Lodge at MapleCreek packed backpacks to give to school-aged kids in Lutheran Social Services of Michigan (LSSM) Foster Care in Grand Rapids.

The backpacks were full of supplies including pens, pencils, pencil boxes, folders, notebooks, scissors, glue sticks and bottles, coloring supplies, rulers, snack packs, tote bags and a small piece of advice from the residents "Do your best at whatever you do!"

"The residents wanted to do something to reach out to others," said Christa Schwarz, activity director at the Lodge at MapleCreek. "Our goal was to have enough supplies to provide bags for 50 foster children, and we're happy to say we exceeded that goal."

Items were donated by MapleCreek family and staff as well as by Meijer, Elmer’s Glue, Wolverine, Sodexo and Walgreens. The residents were able to give back to the community, and enjoyed reminiscing about their school days while packing the bags.  We hope to make it an annual event!

Holy Trinity Hosts Foster Parents

by Barbara Lewis 27. March 2012 13:18


Holy Trinity Lutheran Church in Livonia hosted several hosted Lutheran Social Services of Michigan foster parents and their families on March 24, providing respite, a good meal and some entertainment. In the afternoon, teen and adult volunteers did crafts and games with the children so the foster parents could take a few hours off. Then the families came together for dinner.

Al and Cynthia Lucas attended with four members of their extended family. Al recently retired from Chrysler but maintains his position as pastor at Goodwill Missionary Baptist Church in Detroit. He and his wife have been foster parents with Lutheran Social Services for more than 20 years. He estimates they have cared for over 100 children. They adopted several, and many of their foster children have gone on to college. With them at Holy Trinity were their daughter Shania, 9, and three sisters, aged 5 to 8, who they are adopting. Michelle Wells is an unmarried grandmother caring for two of her grandchildren. She also has two foster children, 10-year-old Peter and 13-year-old Nicole.  She has been a foster parent for many years, and is often asked to take on a case in an emergency situation. She hopes all four of her charges can attend Lutheran Social Services’ camp for foster children this summer.

“It was humbling to spend time with these people who have opened their homes to the very vulnerable young people here in our area,” said Paul Drenkow, a longtime Lutheran Social Services volunteer and a member of Holy Trinity. “It was inspiring to see Holy Trinity members reach out to these families—especially our young people who spent the day playing with the foster children. I also enjoyed seeing Jack Bailey, who provided entertainment, delighting the young girls by dancing with them.”

Audrey Williams-Burton, director of Lutheran Social Services’ programs for children and families in Southeast Michigan, says there are about 14,000 children in foster care in Michigan. She noted that children become “eligible” for foster care at all ages. There is a critical need for homes for teenagers, who will “age out” of foster care support when they reach 18. Host families are needed to house these youth and be a role model so they can become independent adults. In this situation, the host families do not need to go through the same training as foster parents, but do receive compensation.

Members of Holy Trinity know the value of a strong family. “By continuing to support Lutheran Social Services’ foster care program, we can help can help those in need experience the same feeling,” said Drenkow.


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Student “heroes” raise funds for foster care

by Barbara Lewis 5. March 2012 14:51

Mary Muliett, director of Services for Children & Families in Kalamazoo and Benton Harbor, attended a basketball game at Wayland High School Thursday night and came back with a check for $2,000 and load of stuffed animals.

Lutheran Social Services became the beneficiary of the school’s annual fundraiser at the suggestion of student Mercedes Rookus, whose parents have adopted many children from foster care through Lutheran Adoption Service. Mercedes noted that when her younger siblings came into care, they received stuffed animals that they still sleep with.

The school council asked the students to bring stuffed animals to Thursday’s game, when they presented a check for the funds they raised. At halftime, the stuffed animals were tossed onto the court. The students also wore T-shirts that said “It’s our time to be heroes.”

The Southwest Michigan program will use the funds to purchase gift cards for children coming into care and bus tokens to help birth parents get to appointments. Every child who comes into care will be able to select a stuffed animal from the supply donated by the students. “Having great partnerships with our caregivers provides wonderful opportunities to enhance the services we provide,” said Mary (at right in the photo).

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Former "Lost Boy" builds a health clinic in Sudan

by Barbara Lewis 9. February 2012 10:04

Jacob Atem, one of the "Lost Boys of Sudan" who was helped by Lutheran Social Services' refugee foster care program, is raising funds to equip a health clinic in his native village, Maar. Jacob was only 6 when he joined other Lost Boys fleeing from civil war in Sudan. They walked for months across the desert to find refuge in Kenya. Jacob arrived in the U.S. as a refugee in 2001 and became a U.S. citizen in 2009. Now he is a Ph.D. student at the University of Florida and president of the Southern Sudan Healthcare Organization (SSHCO). The organization has built a small clinic in Maar and now hopes to be able to ship a container full of medical supplies there from Chicago. Here's a short video where Jacob talks about his hopes for the clinic.




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Thank you, Holy Trinity Lutheran Church!

by Barbara Lewis 13. December 2011 10:33

Thank you, Holy Trinity! In honor of their 50th anniversary, Holy Trinity Lutheran Church in Livonia will help our foster care program in Southeast Michigan. The church presented a check for $500 to Audrey Williams-Burton, director of Services for Children & Families in Southeast Mcihigan, to buy winter clothing for the children they serve. The church will also hold an foster parent appreciation event at the church on March 24.

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Foster care expands to Tuscola County

by Barbara Lewis 12. December 2011 14:20

Lutheran Social Services is now providing foster care in Tuscola County, through the Saginaw office of Services for Children & Families under the direction of Cheryl Sibilsky. The staff are currently working with 15 children under a contract with the Tuscola County Department of Human Services.

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SWELL start to the school year

by Barbara Lewis 23. September 2011 11:11

SWELL – Sharing With Everyone Lutheran Love – is a swell group of volunteers from Lutheran churches in the Kalamazoo area who come together to support the children in Lutheran Social Services’ foster care program. Over the summer, they put together 70 backpacks for the children in Lutheran Social Services’ care in southwest Michigan, stuffing them with everything a child needs to begin the school year right. The backpacks (which seemed almost bigger than the children who received them) contained toiletries such as soap, toothbrush and toothpaste as well as school supplies like notebooks, glue, scissors, crayons, pens, pencils, markers and more. Foster parents receive a daily stipend to provide for all the children’s needs, but at the beginning of the school year, when children need so much all at once, paying for everything can be a struggle. “Our children’s faces lit up when they saw their backpacks,” reported Mary Muliett, director of Services for Children & Families in Southwest Michigan. The Kalamazoo-area foster care program has been growing quickly. As a result of the Children’s Rights settlement, many foster care cases are being transferred from the Department of Human Services to private providers like Lutheran Social Services.



New Children & Families office opens in Port Huron

by Barbara Lewis 28. June 2011 09:04

Lutheran Social Services of Michigan's Services for Children & Families has opened an office in Port Huron to serve St. Clair County. The office will provide foster care and adoption services. The new office is in St. Paul Lutheran Church at 3790 West Water Street. The phone number is (810) 479-9932. It will function as a satellite of Lutheran Social Services’ Southeast Michigan office, Services for Children & Families, in Southfield, under the direction of Audrey Williams-Burton.

Lutheran Social Services is the state's largest private provider of foster care, which offers temporary safe homes for children who have been abused or neglected. More than half the children taken into foster care return to their birth parents. The others have had their birth parents’ rights terminated, and they are available for adoption. On any given day, Lutheran Social Services manages approximately 800 children in foster care through nine offices around the state.

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Foster care team to join Tulip Time Parade May 14

by Barbara Lewis 24. March 2011 11:58

Lutheran Social Services' foster care programs in West Michigan will have their very own float in this year's Tulip Time Parade in Holland, Mich. on Saturday, May 14. The parade committee selected Lutheran Social Services as a participant. Laura Mitchell, director of Services for Children and Families in Grand Rapids, said the LSSM entry will have a large sign at the back of the float with the slogan, "Be a Hero, Become a Foster Parent." The float will be decorated with tulips, including huge klompen (wooden shoes) with tulips planted in them, and a small stage for klompen dancers in costume. Staff in "Be a Hero" T-shirts will walk alongside handing out goodie bags with information about foster parenting. Tracy Piasecki, foster care licensing coordinator, arranged for the R E Barber Ford dealership in Holland to donate the use of a full size pickup truck to tow the trailer, which is being built in Muskegon. For more information about 2011 Tulip Time, visit







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Your gifts DO change lives

by Barbara Lewis 12. November 2010 10:56

Ever wonder if your gifts to Lutheran Social Services of Michigan make a difference? They did for Jacob Atem. He arrived in Michigan from a refugee camp in Africa. We gave him a foster home and family through our unaccompanied refugee minor foster care program. Now he is building a health clinic in Sudan and speaking at the United Nations.

“When I was about 6 years old, my parents were killed by Northern Sudanese Arabs militias waging war on Southern Sudan,” Jacob said. “My older cousin, Michael, and I had taken our goats and cows to find grass and water. We heard the attack and saw the smoke from our burning village. From that day on, Michael became my protector. During our thousand-mile journey to Ethiopia, he often carried me on his back for six or seven hours. Michael saved my life many times.”

The two ate mud and dodged lions and bullets. Jacob never lost his faith in God. “I’ve been called a Lost Boy, but I’m not lost from God,” Atem said. He graduated from high school and Spring Arbor University, became an American citizen, and is finishing a Master of Public Health degree from Michigan State University.

He and his friend, Lual Deng, started the nonprofit Southern Sudan Healthcare Organization ( to raise money and build a medical clinic in Jacob’s home town. “Currently, there is a rusty, bullet-riddled dispensary that managed to survive the war, where the people receive little or no healthcare assistance,” he said.

Jacob recently spoke at the United Nations for a gathering of UNESCO (United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization) and has been invited back. He says he owes everything to Lutheran Social Services of Michigan for the opportunities he’s been given. Help us minister to more people like Jacob with a contribution to Lutheran Social Services of Michigan. Visit our website to contribute online, or call Doug Lachniet at (616) 443-9761. You can make a difference in someone’s life!



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