LSSM refugee specialist and former refugee becomes U.S. citizen

by John Elmore 19. August 2011 16:05

 Today, LSSM’s Thawng Uk can proudly say, “I am an American.” The former refugee from Burma, now a refugee specialist in the Battle Creek office of Lutheran Social Services of Michigan, took the oath of U.S. citizenship on Aug. 17, 2011, at the Gerald R. Ford Presidential Museum in Grand Rapids, Mich.  

Thawng came to the United States in February 2005 with his mother, brother and sister. His father had arrived earlier and sponsored the rest of the family. Also becoming citizens with Thawng were his mother, Sang Kit, and his brother, Za Uk. The Honorable Ellen Carmody, United States Magistrate Judge (in photo, shaking Thawng’s hand), presided over the federal court proceedings and welcomed 78 new citizens from 37 countries.

There to witness the U.S. naturalization ceremony were Chris Cavanaugh (in photo with Thawng), manager of Refugee Services programs in the Grand Rapids and Battle Creek offices, and Dana Doll, refugee specialist in Grand Rapids.

Countries of origin represented at the naturalization ceremony Aug. 17, 2011: Argentina, Australia, Belarus, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Brazil, Burma, Cambodia, Canada, China, Cuba, Ethiopia, India, Iran, Iraq, Italy, Jamaica, Jordan, Laos, Lebanon, Malawi, Mexico, Nepal, Nigeria, Philippines, Poland, Romania, Rwanda, Somalia, South Korea, Spain, Sri Lanka, Sudan, Taiwan, United Kingdom, Vietnam, Yemen, Zambia.



Ride with LSSM in West Michigan for "Ride for Refuge" Sat. Oct. 1

by John Elmore 10. August 2011 15:37

Here is fundraising opportunity that mixes fun and exercise with a good cause. “Ride for Refuge” will take place on Saturday, Oct. 1, 2011. That gives you plenty of time to sign up to ride your bike with us, and even become a team leader and recruit more riders to get additional sponsors. You will be supporting the Grand Rapids office's Refugee Services program for Lutheran Social Services of Michigan.

The Grand Rapids area ride will start and end in Byron Center, and lunch is provided after you finish. Riders will raise support from sponsors and can do a ride of their choice: 5 miles, 15 miles, 30 miles, or 60 miles. With a rolling start, the 60 milers will set out first. People can register to ride with the LSSM team, support our LSSM riders, or volunteer at the Grand Rapids “Ride for Refuge.”

Visit for more information, including start-finish address and times, registration form and lunch plans. Questions? Contact Dana Doll at or call 616-916-5770.

Joining Dana on the LSSM team of riders are two refugees, one of whom is sponsoring himself for the ride. “He works part-time at Best Buy,” Dana said, “and he decided he could help out other refugees that will come after him.” Also planning to ride is MapleCreek employee Rob Lemon, son of LSSM Vice President Sue Lemon. "I'm going to do the 60-mile ride," Rob said.

Dana would love to have anyone who can ride a bike join the LSSM team. “If you are associated with a church, organization or group, sign up to be a team leader and invite others to ride with you,” Dana said. “We would like as many teams, and as many riders, as possible. Even teams of one are welcome!”






"Be a Hero" foster care float a hit in Coast Guard Festival Grand Parade

by John Elmore 8. August 2011 11:38

The Grand Rapids foster care team appeared in their second parade of the year Saturday, Aug. 6, 2011, with their float, "Be a Hero. Become a Foster Parent.” In May, they were in the Muziekparade for Tulip Time in Holland. This time they were in Grand Haven honoring the U.S. Coast Guard in the Coast Guard Festival Grand Parade. Gone was the Dutch theme of a wooden shoe and tulips; now it was toy sail boats and a sand castle at the beach. The nautical theme felt appropriate for the wet weather.

For several hours, rain soaked the Lutheran Social Services staff, spouses and children as they huddled under umbrellas. Just before it was time for the LSSM float to begin moving, the rain miraculously let up. Foster care licensing worker Tracy Piaseki drove the tow vehicle, her family SUV. Along the hour-long parade route, people clapped and cheered for Lutheran Social Services and the foster care "Be a Hero" theme. One spectator called out, "Thanks for coming!" It made the team feel very welcome.

Photos from the parade are posted on Facebook on the “Lutheran Social Services of Michigan – West Michigan” page:!/media/set/?set=a.10150257445825847.324819.92824750846




Adoption Day at the West Michigan Whitecaps game Sunday, Aug. 21

by John Elmore 26. July 2011 15:00

Friday afternoon, July 29, 2011, 3-5 p.m., near Celebration! Cinema upstairs at Rivertown Crossings Mall in Grandville, Michigan, look for the Lutheran Social Services of Michigan table.

During the fun premiere party for the new movie “The Smurfs,” we’ll be selling tickets for the Adoption Day home game of the Detroit Tigers A baseball affiliate West Michigan Whitecaps, 1 p.m., Sunday, Aug. 21. Kids ages 2 and under get into the ballpark for free. Buy a $9.50 reserved seat ball game ticket from Lutheran Social Services and the Whitecaps will donate $2.50 to our foster care program! Stop by and get your tickets from us for a great Sunday afternoon of baseball at the Fifth Third ballpark. We’ll also be giving away temporary tattoos for the kids at our table! And there will be information about becoming a Lutheran Social Services foster parent for a child in need of a safe, caring home.

By the way, Sundays are Family Days at Fifth Third Ballpark. The first 1,000 children through the gate eat free! There are pre-game autographs, you can play catch on the field, and take a post-game run around the bases. Pre-game activities start at 12:15 p.m. Game time is 1 p.m.

Meanwhile, Lutheran Social Services has purchased 100 tickets to the Adoption Day baseball game and will have a drawing to treat foster families and members of their households to a fun afternoon at the ball park on Sunday, Aug. 21. If you qualify as a LSSM foster family and want to get into the drawing for game tickets, please contact Kate Wert at 616-356-1934, ext. 22, or by email at




Lodge resident depicted in "American Gothic" style painting

by John Elmore 20. July 2011 16:32

Martha "Marty" Murphy, 90, is tickled that her daughter brought a painting from home to put up in her room at The Lodge at MapleCreek. At first glance, it reminds you of the classic painting "American Gothic," painted by Grant Wood in 1930 and imitated countless times in the past 80 years. The Wood painting hangs in the Art Institute of Chicago. The one in Marty's room depicts Marty and her husband, Red, standing in place of the original subjects in front of the Carpenter Gothic style house. Instead of the three-pronged hay fork, Red is shown holding a mop. The story behind the painting explains all.

"Red and I were custodians for the Thornapple-Kellogg school district in Middleville for 18 years," Marty said. "He was in charge of the custodial staff at the middle school, and I was a custodial worker at the new high school - and I was a safety guard for the children to help them cross the street. When we both retired at age 62, the art teacher painted this portrait of us. It was a gift from everyone at the school."

Look over on the shelf in Marty's room, and you'll see a photo of LeRoy Harold "Red" Murphy and his bride on their 50th Anniversary in 1991. "I was a few weeks older than my husband," Marty said. "So for 23 days, between our birthdays, I was a year older." Red passed away in about 1997. These days Marty is pleased that she is still doing pretty well. She has wonderful memories of Red. "I had the best husband in the world," she gushed. "He never did anything without me."






Client Stories | General | LSSM | MapleCreek | News

MapleCreek resident Diet Eman receives NEA Rosa Parks Memorial Award

by John Elmore 12. July 2011 13:36

MapleCreek resident Diet Eman was recently honored by the National Education Association with their Rosa Parks Memorial Award. The award, announced at the NEA’s annual Human and Civil Rights Gala in Chicago on July 1, 2011, is presented someone who inspires others to champion the cause of human and civil rights. Diet certainly fits that description.

She was a 20-year-old working as a bank teller when the Germans invaded her country of the Netherlands. She and her fiancé, Hein Seitsema, joined the Dutch Underground Resistance. During the five-year Nazi occupation, Diet and her comrades daily risked their own lives to save the lives of countless Jews and downed Allied pilots. She spent time in a Nazi prison and then a prison camp, where she met and became friends with Corrie Ten Boom. Released as the Allies approached the camp, she went right back to resistance work.

 After the war, Diet Eman studied to become a registered nurse and for 10 years she served 5,000 day laborers and their families at a Shell Oil complex in Venezuela. Years later, as a Red Cross volunteer in Grand Rapids, Michigan, she traveled all over the world helping families after natural disasters.

Today, at age 91, Eman serves as a volunteer Spanish-English language translator in a free health clinic for the uninsured. A devout Christian, she draws strength every day from her Lord to live out her convictions. Her message is an unequivocal: “Stand for what you believe.”

Watch a video of the NEA presentation of the Rosa Parks Memorial Award to Diet Eman, here:




LSSM | MapleCreek

MapleCreek celebrates baseball with the Whitecaps - July 12, July 20

by John Elmore 11. July 2011 08:45


MapleCreek loves baseball! Please join us AT MAPLECREEK for a FREE event on Tuesday morning, July 12, 2011, starting at 10:30 a.m. -- under the tent out in front of The Terraces at MapleCreek, 2000 32nd St. SE, Grand Rapids, MI 49508. (RAIN LOCATION: INDOORS)

Enjoy baseball nostalgia and trivia with West Michigan Whitecaps' Glenn Eckelscamp -- with a special appearance by the Whitecaps mascot, Crash the River Rascal. AND BE SURE TO ENTER THE DRAWING FOR TWO TICKETS TO THE JULY 20 WHITECAPS GAME, SPONSORED BY MAPLECREEK. 

And meet Frances Vukovich, who played in the All-American Girls Professional Baseball League in 1950-51 with the Chicago Colleens and the Racine Belles, teams featured in the movie "A League of Their Own." This is a rare opportunity to say hello to Frances, who lives in North Hollywood, California. She is spending the summer months in West Michigan, and has graciously agreed to be with us as our guest for this special gathering. 

A free picnic lunch featuring hot dogs and apple pie will be served -- but seating is limited. Please RSVP by Monday, July 11, by calling MapleCreek at (616) 452-5900.

And then on Wednesday, July 20, 2011, MapleCreek is sponsoring the 7 p.m. West Michigan Whitecaps game at Fifth Third Ballpark in Comstock Park,  MI. Come for the fun and food and a great baseball game against the Kane County Cougars. And then stay for the post-game fireworks show. Summer fun with MapleCreek and the Whitecaps, a Class A affiliate of the Detroit Tigers!

BONUS: On July 20, the Whitecaps will honor the Negro Baseball Leagues. Stars of the Negro Leagues will throw out first pitches, sign autographs and meet fans. At the July 20 Whitecaps game will be: Willie "Honey" Honicutt, 79 (Detroit Stars, Kansas City Monarchs -- and father of MapleCreek HR Director Betty Honicutt); Ray "Boo Boy" Knox, 77 (Chicago American Giants, old Chicago Industrial Leagues); Hank "Baby" Presswood, 89 (Kansas City Monarchs, Cleveland Buckeyes); Johnny "Lefty" Washington, 81 (Chicago American Giants, Houston/New Orleans Eagles - 2 purple hearts in Korea); Nathan "Sonny" Weston, 80 (Chicago American Giants, & was the "last cut"  for the 1951 Brooklyn Dodgers and the Chicago White Sox); and Ray Richardson, 79 (Detroit Stars, Kansas City Monarchs). Also on hand that night will be family members of Ted Rasberry, who owned the Grand Rapids Black Sox and also owned the Detroit Stars and the Kansas City Monarchs. They will include Ted’s niece Minnie Forbes, original owner of the Detroit Stars. This is going to be a great night for baseball!

FOR GAME TICKETS: Visit, or call the Whitecaps front office: 616-784-4131 or buy tickets in person at the ballpark box office (M-F 10am-6pm, Sat 10am-2pm, and at the game). $13 premium seats; $11 box seats; $9.50 reserved seats (including the Gentex Family Section); $6 McCain Foods Lawn seating. Children 2 and under are free.







Container Gardening Workshop promotes green thumbs at MapleCreek

by John Elmore 29. June 2011 09:10

On June 14, MapleCreek hosted its first outdoor creative container gardening workshop behind The Terraces. It was attended by MapleCreek residents and people from the community. "The weather couldn't have been better," said Diann Gilliam-Johnson, marketing coordinator. "It was just perfect for it."

The workshop was taught by landscape architect Patricia Cornelisse, who was the designer of the landscaping for the MapleCreek grounds during the renovation and expansion project a few years back. She was joined in leading this workshop by MapleCreek maintenance worker Doug Spencer.

"I think those who with gardening experience probably picked up some extra tips," said Gilliam-Johnson. "And those who are beginners got enough good information to give them a jump start on doing their own container gardening."

Topics included how to create a beautiful container of flowering plants, and the ins and outs of vegetable container gardening. A drawing was held to win a garden kneeler seat that makes gardening easier. There was a wonderful picnic lunch for all following the workshop. "The workshop was well received," Gilliam-Johnson said. "We'll definitely want to do this again."

Spencer is a handyman who likes to fix up equipment and build new things for the benefit of this senior living community. A few months ago, he partially disassembled, cleaned and painted the MapleCreek tractor, making it look almost new for very little cost.

Recently, he built some raised garden bed tables that will allow MapleCreek residents to enjoy putting their hands into soil again without having to bend over or kneel. 

Gilliam-Johnson appreciates Doug's resourcefulness. "Those raised gardening beds that Doug built are great for the residents," she said. 















MapleCreek resident honored at Acton University opening dinner June 14

by John Elmore 27. June 2011 14:28

 What was at first a misunderstanding and huge surprise turned into a very nice evening for Diet (DEET) Eman, 91-year-old resident of The Terraces at MapleCreek. Diet, originally from the Netherlands, has a special heart for people and for liberty issues, having been an active member of the Dutch underground movement against the Nazi occupation during World War Two. She participated in efforts to hide Jewish people and downed Allied pilots from the Germans. She was also a nurse for the native workers in the oil fields of Venezuela before coming to the U.S.

Diet said, “I got a phone call asking me if I could go to dinner with Father Sirico on Tuesday night.” Father Robert Sirico co-founded the Grand Rapids-based Acton Institute in 1990 for the study of religion and liberty. “This was a nice invitation,” Diet said, “so I said yes, I would enjoy having dinner with my friend. I thought it was just going to be the two of us. But then they brought me to DeVos Place, the convention center downtown, and there were hundreds of people there at this big dinner. I had no idea I would be sitting at the head table with Father Sirico, or that he would bring me up on the stage to talk.”

The event on Tuesday, June 14, marked opening night of the 2011 Acton University, a unique, four-day exploration of the intellectual foundations of a free society. The more than 70 courses range from the theological and the philosophical, to the policy-oriented and the practical, and are presented by a world-class faculty. “The Acton Institute is an educational think tank that examines the foundations for a free society,” said Holly Rowley, executive assistant. The groundwork for the conference each year is laid when Father Sirico talks about the dignity of the human being. “We are made in the image of God, made to create and to be a good steward,” Rowley explained. “He always says, ‘If we get that part wrong, we get everything else wrong.’ So it was very fitting, especially with an audience of 700 people from 70 different countries, to hear Diet’s story.”

Participants in Acton University come from many walks of life:  business, academia, clergy – actively working or retired.  “There were three of them sitting near Diet at dinner who are in their late 80s,”  Rowley said. “So she was in good company.” 

 Film clips of Diet were shown, taken from the documentary “The Reckoning: Remembering the Dutch Resistance.” The movie features four Dutch people who were in the resistance, two in the Netherlands and two in the U.S., including Diet. Then, when Father Sirico announced that she was in the crowd, she made her way to the stage and people immediately stood to their feet.

Twenty minutes of questions from the audience included, “At what point did you make the decision to put your life in danger?”  “Did you tell your parents and what was their reaction?” “Why did you get involved?” “Would you have done it even if you only helped one person?” “How did you deal with your fears?” When the Q&A time formally concluded, there were still 20 hands in the air. Several people came up and talked to Diet afterward.

On Friday, June 24, Diet gave Rowley a little tour around The Terraces at MapleCreek, and she liked what she saw. “The name MapleCreek is kind of symbolic of how life ‘flows’ there, with people from so many different backgrounds coming together to be a community.  I was very impressed when I went to lunch with Diet.  Servers, residents----all created a wonderful atmosphere.  Diet is so happy there!”



LSSM | MapleCreek

MapleCreek ladies minister to Lodge resident

by John Elmore 17. June 2011 15:14

It was an unusual request for Cottages resident Elizbeth Druckrey, who has a clothing mending outreach to MapleCreek residents. "It came from The Lodge skilled nursing center," she said. "A man there, Mr. White, had his lower legs amputated some years ago because of diabetes, and the aids would tie the empty legs of his sweat pants together to keep it out of the way. But that made it hard for him to move around. So I was asked if I could shorten the pants legs for him."

So Elizabeth fixed one pair of sweatpants, and he liked her work so well that she was given eight more pairs to fix. Cutting off the legs and stitching up the ends of the shortened sweatpants, Elizabeth soon saw her cloth scraps box was overflowing. "Ethel Evert, who lives at The Terraces, helps me with the mending here. I told her that we had to do something with all these pants legs. She suggested that we make a patchwork quilt or throw out of them." So Elizabeth cut open the tubes of cloth and laid them flat on the floor. Ethel, 98, told her where to put which panels. Elizabeth double stitched them together so the whole thing would look like the double stitching in one of the pairs of pants, and then she ran a special cutting wheel tool around the edge to make holes. Ethel crocheted the edges together with multi-colored yarn. "I was surprised how quickly Ethel got it done," said Elizabeth. 

On Monday, June 6, 2011, Elizabeth drove Ethel from The Terraces to The Lodge next door to present their hand-crafted throw to the man whose pants legs scraps went into it. Frank "Tom" White was surprised by the story of how the ladies came to make it from the discarded ends of his pants legs, and he was very pleased with the thoughtfulness of the gift. He likes to spend time sitting outside in his wheelchair, so the throw will come in handy. He announced to Elizabeth he thought he had two more pairs of pants that needed shortening, and Elizabeth, with a chuckle, took them to work on. Tom, 73, was born in Standale, just west of Grand Rapids, Michigan. He graduated from Coopersville High School, and though he was diagnosed with diabetes at age six, he was a strong and hearty man who worked outdoors most of his life doing yard work and maintenance. Since the amputations in 2000 and 2001, he has come to appreciate whatever help he is given. He won't soon forget the kindness shown him by his fellow MapleCreek residents through their mending and sewing ministry.


LSSM | MapleCreek

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