Lutheran and Episcopal Bishops Weigh In On "Immigration and the Welcoming Church"

 

Inspiritus is grateful to have both Bishop Julian Gordy of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America Southeastern Synod and Bishop Robert Wright of the Episcopal Diocese of Atlanta join us for a Faith Leaders Breakfast this month. The Bishops led a panel discussion on “Immigration and the Welcoming Church” and provided insights for attendees on how faith leaders can encourage their congregations to embrace immigrants and refugees.  Held on April 10, 2019 at Lutheran Church of the Redeemer in Atlanta, the ecumenical gathering included faith leaders and congregants from Lutheran, Episcopal, United Methodist and Jewish congregations in the Atlanta area and well as others with an interest in immigration related topics.

“Inspiritus is grateful to both Bishop Gordy and Bishop Wright for sharing their insights and practical advice on how religious leaders can guide their congregations and faith groups toward becoming more welcoming to immigrants,” says Melanie Johnson. “Both Bishop have been strong advocates for immigrants and for social justice, and it was an honor to have them lead this discussion with other faith leaders who are passionate about these topics.”

About Bishop H. Julian Gordy

The Reverend Julian Gordy served congregations in Mississippi and Tennessee before his election as bishop of the Evangelical Lutheran Church In America (ELCA) Southeastern Synod in June 2007. A long-time proponent of ministries of mercy and justice, Bishop Gordy has been a voice for immigrants and refugees, serving as the chair of the Conference of Bishops Immigration Ready Bench. He serves as a member of the Conference of Bishops Theological and Ethical Concerns committee and was a member of the Criminal Justice Task Force, which wrote the ELCA’s social statement on criminal justice reform.

 

 About Bishop Robert C. Wright

The Right Rev. Robert C. Wright is the 10th bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of Atlanta, which covers north and middle Georgia. At the time of his election in June 2012, he had served 10 years as rector of St. Paul’s Episcopal Church in Atlanta. Prior to that, he was a school chaplain and on the staff of the Cathedral of St. John the Divine, New York City. Since becoming bishop, Wright addressed the Georgia legislature about gun control, spoke up for Medicaid expansion and has been a vocal and active opponent of the death penalty in Georgia.

 

Inspiritus Launches Host Homes for Youth Experiencing Homelessness

 
joel-danielson-1436369-unsplash.jpg

Inspiritus has launched a new program focused on ending youth homelessness in Atlanta. The first program of its kind in Georgia, the THRIVE! Youth Host Home program provides welcoming spaces for young adults (ages 18-24) who are experiencing homelessness to live safely as they figure out their next steps and secure more permanent housing.

THRIVE! is designed to be temporary housing, and youth can stay in the host home for as little as a couple of nights up to nine months. The program places special emphasis on being inclusive and supportive of youth who identify as LGBTQ and youth who have aged out of foster care. In addition to housing, youth in the program will receive ongoing support, including education and employment assistance and other case management services.

youth+photo.jpg

“Inspiritus is honored to have been selected by the City of Atlanta to pilot this youth-focused program, one of many initiatives the city is implementing to reduce homelessness around the metro area,” says John Moeller, CEO, Inspiritus. 

“One of the aspects of the program that is so special is that it emphasizes youth choice. We’re placing youth in supportive environments based on their needs and goals and preferences around how each individual does ‘home.’” says Alix Janke, Program Manager, Inspiritus.

Inspiritus is currently seeking compassionate individuals and families who are interested in opening their home to youth experiencing homelessness. Training is provided.

Bishop Julian Gordy of the ELCA Southeastern Synod gave this encouragement to individuals and families considering opening their home: “Some people with think it’s a big risk, but it's important to take the risk. Important for the youth, of course, but it's important for the whole society we live in. When more people grow up, knowing that they are supported and cared for, so many of the things that people often struggle with in later years, won’t be such difficulties.”

Are you interested in learning more about how you can become a host home or support host homes by donating, volunteering or advocating? Join us for an open house at 7 p.m. on Wednesday, April 24 at Druid Hills Presbyterian Church (1026 Ponce De Leon Ave NE, Atlanta, GA 30306).  Registration is not required.

For more information on getting involved with Thrive! Youth Host Homes, visit  weinspirit.org/thrive or contact Inspiritus Youth Host Home recruiter Fran Patrick at fran.patrick@weinspirit.org

 

Inspiritus' Disaster Team Helps Survivors of Storms in Southwest Georgia

 
2019 ga ala tornadoes.jpg

In the past few years, the Southwest region of Georgia has experienced a number of weather-related disasters. To help individuals and families get back on their feet, Inspiritus has assembled a disaster team to work in the region.  Inspiritus recently hired Richard Tison as a construction manager to join our current disaster response construction team, who also oversees projects in both the Soutwest and Coastal regions. 

 To provide additional support to families, Inspiritus brought on Sabrina More as Inspiritus’ Disaster Relief Caseworker for the Southwest.

 “As a disaster relief caseworker, I provide wrap around services for disaster survivors,” said Sabrina. “I find out what their story is, what they went through, what they need, and how to get them back to where they were before the storm. I come alongside each family and see how we can best serve them.”  

Sarah Burns’ Story

 Recently Sabrina worked with Sarah Burns*, a 71-year-old disaster survivor and mother of two adult daughters with disabilities.  Sarah has cared for her daughters all of their lives and was fearful that they would lose everything due to the challenges they faced following Hurricane Michael.  

clint-mckoy-417010-unsplash.jpg

Sarah’s area of town was without power for two weeks after Michael came through Albany.  Her vegetable garden supplies most of the food she and her daughters eat. During the storm, she lost much of her garden and the food supply she had stockpiled in the freezer.  Money that would typically pay for her mortgage and utilities was spent on groceries.  Thankfully, Sarah was able to work out a payment plan with her bank for her home mortgage, and Inspiritus stepped in to help connect her to money for utility bills and a grocery store gift card to help with food. 

 Sarah told Sabrina, “You have no idea how much this means to me. I don’t know where you came from, but I’m glad God sent you.” 

 Once Inspiritus was able to remove some of the burden and worry from Sarah, she shared with Sabrina that she finally felt like she could relax.   

“She’s single with two daughters with special needs, she’s been taking care of them all of their lives,” says Sabrina. “She’s always been so strong for them.  I’m inspired by her strength to push forward and to provide for her daughters.” 

52717041_803610753325034_5778490081400586240_o.jpg

 The Timmons Family’s Story

 On the construction management side, Inspiritus’ construction managers Al Kates and Richard Tison have been working with Albany residents to restore their homes following the tornadoes of 2017 and will soon start work on homes damaged during Hurricane Michael. 

 Donna and Albert Timmons, members of Lutheran Church of our Savior in Albany, GA, have been living in various temporary housing situations for more than two years after half their home was destroyed in 2017.

They were blessed to survive the huge oak tree that crashed through their bedroom, where Donna had been laying just moments earlier. However, their home was uninhabitable. The Timmons quickly learned that many of their neighbors were in similar situations. With the large amount of property damage in the area, the Timmons had a difficult time finding a contractor who was available to do the work. . 

christ shep 2.jpg

They finally found a contractor. Following the advice of FEMA they hired a local business, but the Timmons still ran into problems. The contractor they hired disappeared and declared bankruptcy, leaving them without a contractor and dwindling hope. 

 This is when the Inspiritus construction management team stepped in to help.  

 “When we got on the right path, it was a great relief.  We finally had someone to show us what to do.  We felt we had someone looking after us and that we were going to get some help. It was a blessing,” says Donna. 

IMG_0144.jpg

 Inspiritus’ Al Kates and Richard Tison worked to find local contractors to complete the projects so the Timmons will get back in their home as soon as possible.  The Inspiritus disaster team has worked with several churches from the metro Atlanta in providing volunteer groups to assist in some of the work.   

Groups from Good Shepherd Lutheran in Peachtree City and Lutheran Church of the Resurrection, Faith Lutheran Church, Papermill Baptist and Johnson Ferry Baptist in Marietta and Rivercliff Lutheran in Roswell have been a huge help in getting the Timmons closer to moving back home.

 Inspiritus is in need of donations and volunteer groups to help us continue to restore the lives and homes of these disaster survivors.  Donate to Inspiritus’ disaster recovery work to provide support. Select disaster response to direct your funds specifically to our disaster work.

 

MyCanvas On Display As Featured Charity at Predators Game on March 21, Annual Art Show Follows on March 22

 
art 2.jpg

 MyCanvas Mobile Youth Community Arts, a program of  Inspiritus serving middle Tennessee, has been chosen as the featured charity for the March 21, 2019 Nashville Predators game against the Pittsburgh Penguins.  During the game, the Nashville Predators Foundation will host a supply and fundraising drive to help support MyCanvas’ mobile art workshops, serving underprivileged youth with limited exposure to arts programming.  

 The following day, March 22, MyCanvas will welcome the public to its annual community art show featuring artwork created by MyCanvas youth artists over the past year.  Held from 4:00-7:00 p.m., the art show will take place at the community room at Cheatham Place (1564 9th Avenue North, Nashville).   

  “MyCanvas workshops offer art-based opportunities for children and youth to explore and develop their talents, find their voice, and tell their stories with confidence,” says LeeAnn Love, Lead Art Therapist and Co-Founder of MyCanvas. 

f90c432eb94aff0137f739bdfb084f70.png

 “We are grateful to the Nashville Predators for choosing MyCanvas as a featured charity.  The fundraising drive at the March 21st game will supply MyCanvas with the materials and resources needed to continue our work of fostering self-esteem, self-confidence, and community resiliency through art,” says Janet Arning, Regional Director of Inspiritus’ Middle Tennessee region. 

About MyCanvas 

MyCanvas offers mobile art therapy experiences to youth in low income neighborhoods in middle Tennessee. MyCanvas art therapists work to help youth develop their own identities and self-esteem, learn healthy coping skills, and build community resiliency. Art engages creativity, imagination, and self-expression, but it can also be a powerful tool for change and healing. MyCanvas nurtures self-esteem, self-confidence, and community resiliency through artistic creation and expression, all provided free of charge to participants. 

 About Inspiritus 

Inspiritus is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization that guides individuals and families on a path from surviving to thriving.  Inspiritus empowers people whose lives have been disrupted to discover their strengths and resilience, accompanying them as they grow into vibrant contributors to their community. Inspiritus delivers quality social services programs in the areas of Community Enrichment, Adoption, Specialized Foster Care, Family Intervention Services, Disability Services, Refugee and Immigration Services, Disaster Response and Financial Empowerment to communities in middle Tennessee and statewide in Georgia.  

 

"Hearts to Love" A Celebration of Love Between Foster Parents and Children

 
To God’s wonderful gift, whose name is Kembe. We love you and embrace you every minute and every hour. We pray to God that he keeps you safe and to us, grant us the wisdom to be just what you need. We love you very much.
— Kembe's Foster Parents
52161596_803077830044993_3056675667048398848_n.jpg

 Last month, children in our Albany foster care program received a “dedication of love” from their foster parents at our first annual “Hearts to Love” event, an event created to celebrate the love between foster parents and their foster children. Surrounded by the Inspiritus Southwest community of staff, foster parents and children, each parent stood to present certificates inscribed with their heartfelt messages of love and encouragement to each of the children in their care. Each child also received an “I Love You” teddy bear donated by Build-A-Bear in Albany.  

 
 Dear Madison, To a family that isn’t always blood. It’s the people in your life who want you in theirs; the ones who accept you for who you are. The ones who Would do anything to see you smile and who LOVE YOU no matter what! 
— Madison's Foster Parents
 
51982077_803077836711659_2911233222408929280_n.jpg
52173544_803077826711660_5285767537668128768_n.jpg

“For many of our foster children, in their past they’ve heard the word ‘love,’ but there was no action behind it.  I believe they know they are loved by their foster parents, but it means more when a child gets to hear that message from the heart verbally expressed, put it in writing, and presented in front of witnesses.  I think it makes it more real for child,” said Carmalete Daniels, Case Manager, Inspiritus, Albany, GA. 

 
Dear Cameron,  We love you very much. We love the way you have matured and becoming your own man. We are so blessed that God has allowed you to be in our lives. You are such an inspiration to us and we have learned a lot from you. Can’t wait to see what your future holds! 
— Cameron's Foster Parents
 

Though a child’s stay in foster care is temporary, a foster parent and their care and love can have a lasting impact on a child’s life.  Both the teddy bear and the certificate are items that the child can keep and treasure as they move onto the next phase of their journey.   

“It is hoped that our children will keep their ‘I Love You Teddy Bear’, and when they are a little older, will pass on this ceremony by giving their bear to someone in their life they wish to express and dedicate their love to,” said Carmalete.  

The event and ceremony were so well received by both the parents and the children that Inspiritus Albany plans to make the event a yearly tradition. 

2.jpg

“I believe the kids felt special. We all want to feel special and feel loved.  They felt both on that Saturday,” said Carmalete. 

Our Albany office hosts monthly events designed to support foster parents and provide therapeutic enrichment opportunities for the children in care.   Interested in learning more about becoming a foster parent, contact Dawn McCune at dawn.mccune@weinspirit.org or 229-344-6350 to learn more or to attend an orientation. '

*Names have been changed to protect the privacy of our children and their families.

 

Inspiritus Offers Enrichment Programs in Nashville, Tenn Area

 
Tennessee_Welcome_Sign_I-65_Southbound_Photo-sixflashphoto.jpg

By now, we hope you have heard that Inspiritus is serving individuals and families in middle Tennessee, following Lutheran Services of Georgia and Lutheran Services in Tennessee joining forces and changing names to Inspiritus in January.

With social service programs like MyCanvas Youth Art Workshops, Healthy Gardens and Building Healthy Families, Inspiritus’ Middle Tennessee Region serves hundreds of individuals and families in Nashville and the surrounding area each year. 

“In middle Tennessee, our programs are focused on enriching the lives of children, individuals and families who are economically disadvantaged,” says Janet Arning, Regional Director – Middle Tennessee. “Like the programs offered in Inspiritus’ Georgia regions, our mission is to empower those we serve to find their own strength and resilience, leading to a more fulfilling life and allowing them to contribute meaningfully to their communities.”

Our Tennessee Programs:

My Canvas

f90c432eb94aff0137f739bdfb084f70.png

MyCanvas is a mobile youth art enrichment program serving low-income children in the middle Tennessee region. 

MyCanvas was designed to help children in economically challenged communities learn to cope with daily stress and frustrations.  The program works to nurture self-esteem and self-confidence of the participants through artistic creation and expression.  MyCanvas encourages children and youth to explore and develop their talents, find their voice, and tell their stories with confidence. 

MyCanvas programs are conveniently offered in local neighborhoods and offered free of charge.  

On March 22, MyCanvas is hosting an art show and reception to celebrate and showcase new work created by MyCanvas Youth Artists.  The art show will take place from 4-7 p.m. at the Community Room at Cheatam Place.  (1564 9th Ave N, Nashville).

 

Healthy Gardens

IMG_0651.JPG

Inspiritus’ Healthy Gardens equips low-income communities with the knowledge and tools they need to grow their own garden.  Inspiritus provides everything needed for a family or individual to start their own garden, including raised-bed garden kits, soil, seeds, plants, watering cans and more. Education is offered before the season begins and continues throughout the growing season.

Through Healthy Gardens, families and individuals have easy and free access to fruits and vegetables to supplement their meals as well as a healthy outlet for relieving stress and staying active.  Gardeners often experience immense satisfaction and empowerment through growing their own food right outside their door.

The Healthy Gardens program began in 2011 with 12 gardens in the Cheatham Place Community in North Nashville. Those 12 gardens grew to 158 gardens in three counties in Middle Tennessee in 2018.

 

Building Healthy Families

building healthy families.jpg

Building Healthy Families offers an educational support group for women living in poverty focused on encouraging healthy family skills.  Participants gather weekly for a class, meal, and the opportunity to choose personal or household items from the Caring Closet. As it says in the Building Healthy Families Community statement, it is “a time for multi-generational therapeutic sisterhood to learn, grow, and become more powerfully whole.”

 

Inspiritus Introduces Refugee Youth Career Pathways Program

 
IMG_0448.jpg

At Inspiritus, our refugee and immigration team recently launched a Refugee Youth Career Pathways (RYCP) program in the metro Atlanta area, and we are looking for volunteers to mentor and share their career experiences with teen and young adult refugees.  The RYCP program is designed to guide and assist young men and women ages 16-24 who are interested in pursuing skilled and professional careers in a variety of fields. Mentors will work with refugee youth to assist them in identifying their career goals, developing job readiness skills, and learning more about their career of interest.  

“Most youth have difficulties when trying to secure their first job and establish a career path. Refugee youth encounter the same difficulties along with their own set of unique struggles” says Spencer Clark, RYCP Case Manager. “By using a multi-faceted approach, the Refugee Youth Career Pathways program makes accessing meaningful employment in America more attainable. Whether through career development classes, one-on-one counseling, or a mentorship, RYCP participants obtain the skills needed to achieve their career goals and aspirations.” 

Youth enrolled in the Refugee Youth Career Pathways program work closely with the RYCP Case Manager to achieve long term career goals. Steps taken to ensure goals are met include:

  • Individual Career Development Planning

  • English Language Training (if needed)

  • One-on-one Career Counseling

  • Career Development Classes

  • Career Mentorship

  • Training Referrals

  • Higher Education Referrals

  • Other Services As Needed

  • Volunteer Mentors Needed 

neonbrand-618320-unsplash.jpg

Want to learn more about this opportunity to have an impact on the future of a refugee teen or young adult? Please join Inspiritus for our Refugee and Immigration Services Volunteer Orientation on Sat. March 2nd or Sat. April 6 from 9:30 -12:30 am. We will be discussing this new volunteer to serve as a Refugee Youth Career Pathways (RYCP) Mentors.  

If you work in the healthcare, medical, or teaching fields, or are a flight attendant you are strongly encouraged to come! Please join us to learn about all the volunteer opportunities Inspiritus has to offer and to make a difference. See the link below for information on our Volunteer Orientations: 

Click here to register for March 2, 2019 Inspiritus Volunteer Orientation! 

Click here to register for April 6, 2019 Inspiritus Volunteer Orientation!  

 For more info on this exciting new volunteer opportunity, contact Grace Paulsen at grace.paulsen@weinspirit.org 

 

Inspiritus Staff, Supporters Take a Stand for Refugees at Annual New Americans Celebration

 

On February 14, Inspiritus staff, Board members and supporters joined with hundreds of others in support of refugees during the New Americans Celebration at the Georgia State Capitol. Organized by the Coalition of Refugee Service Agencies (CRSA), this day of advocacy and celebration gives participants a chance to meet with their Representatives to share why they are passionate about welcoming refugees in Georgia and urge them to support refugee friendly policies and laws.

Inspiritus employee and pastor of Good Samaritan Ministry Crispin Wiljonda spoke during the press conference portion of the event. Crispin shared his inspiring story as a former asylum seeker now U.S. citizen and highlighted the important contributions refugees and immigrants brings bring to our state and our country.

Photos from the 2019 New Americans Celebration

 

270 Volunteers Participated in Inspiritus' 2019 Lutheran MLK Day of Service

 

On Monday, January 21, Inspiritus, formerly LSG, held its 10th annual MLK Day of Service at Christ the King Lutheran Church in Peachtree Corners. 270 volunteers filled the fellowship hall to assist in 21 service projects benefiting people served by Inspiritus as well as projects hosted by local Lutheran churches.

Their service will have a lasting impact on those we serve and those served by churches in our community. The day began with the dynamic and inspiring Fearless Dialogues program, which trains and empowers participants to engage in hard heartfelt conversations that see gifts in others, hear value in stories, and work for change and positive transformation in self and other The whole-hearted participation of everyone in the Fearless Dialogues program made for a powerful experience of growth and connection.

Photos from the 2019 Lutheran MLK Day of Service

 

How Inspiritus Refugee Services Celebrated the Holiday Season

 
Fun with arts and crafts with Azure Community Development Arts for Inspiritus refugee children.

Fun with arts and crafts with Azure Community Development Arts for Inspiritus refugee children.

In early December, artist Christy Mansfield of Azure Community Development Arts facilitated a fun-filled morning for refugee families in Atlanta.  Christy guided parents and their children through two crafts, with each family going home with winter decorations for the holiday season.  Several budding artists were overheard dreaming of weekly art classes after their session with Christy!

The Little Helpers enjoyed sharing snacks and games with a refugee family and provided gifts for 26 individuals!  Founded by former refugee and news producer Tran Bui Smith, Little Helpers seeks to engage parents and their children in meaningful volunteer opportunities.  Year after year, the Little Helpers have helped Inspiritus kick off the holiday season with good cheer!

Little Helpers once again helps make the holidays special for refugee families served by Inspiritus

Little Helpers once again helps make the holidays special for refugee families served by Inspiritus

 Faith communities and individuals throughout the state made sure that each of the 642 individuals Inspiritus accompanies received a gift this winter.  Close to 300 refugees in Atlanta and Savannah received warm coats, clothes, and toys for what was for many of them their first winter in the U.S. 

University of Florida students help sort and deliver hundreds of gifts for Inspiritus families

University of Florida students help sort and deliver hundreds of gifts for Inspiritus families

 Refugee and Immigration Services staff sorted and delivered gifts in Atlanta in record time thanks to a hardworking group of students from the University of Florida.  As soon as finals were over, these students hit the road, making the drive up to Atlanta in order to learn firsthand about the experiences of refugees and to offer their support and assistance to Inspiritus and the families we accompany.

A Circle of Welcome team hosts a potluck for refugee families.

A Circle of Welcome team hosts a potluck for refugee families.

 Circle of Welcome teams enjoyed sharing the joy of the season with families from Afghanistan, Pakistan, and Burundi.  One team, pictured here, used their Thrivent Action cards to host a winter potluck and celebration.  Another team exchanged cultural traditions on New Year’s, sharing hoppin’ john and an Afghan dish typically eaten on the Persian New Year together with their familes. 

 

 

 

Coastal Georgia Residents Give Back and Help Those Served by Inspiritus

 

December is traditionally a month brimming with color and light.  In its one-of-a-kind style, this holiday season Savannah charmed locals and tourists alike with decorative accents highlighting classic architecture, tunes of joviality spilling onto the streets at all hours and, most impressively - and unforgettably - caring community members giving testament to the phrase, "goodwill towards men".  

20181207_132526.jpg

 

Staying true to tradition, Inspiritus, formerly Lutheran Services of Georgia, organized its annual Hope Tree program, a gift-giving drive to bring cheer to its clients - refugee families, foster care and adopted children, disabled adults and at-risk youth. 

 

After sharing a wish list of what each client hoped to receive, for days and days and days Inspiritus staff welcomed a stream of "sleighs" dropping off the fruits of Santa's workshop.  Those of us receiving the bounty couldn't contain our astonishment.  "Did the baby really just get new clothing and toys and a gift card to boot?" "Just look at the quality of these girls' clothes!" "Imagine, a sorority raising hundreds of dollars for our refugee families." 

20181207_111222.jpg

 

All in all, members of 7 churches, a preschool, a sorority plus 4 individuals meticulously purchased  and wrapped 210 gifts in the sparkly colors of the season.  Loving kindness ripples far and wide as we were reminded of our better angels by the community's  outpouring of goodwill to all. 

 

Lutheran Services of Georgia Changes Its Name to Inspiritus

Media Contact:
Melissa Pinsky
404-932-4327
melissa.pinsky@weinspirit.org

 Lutheran Services of Georgia Changes Its Name to Inspiritus

Inspiritus Name Reflects Expanding Scope of Services for the Non-profit Organization

 (Atlanta, GA) January 16, 2019 – Lutheran Services of Georgia, a non-profit social service agency, has officially changed its name to Inspiritus after joining forces with Lutheran Services in Tennessee. Inspiritus works with thousands of individuals and families each year to provide disability, foster care, family intervention, adoption, refugee, and disaster response services.

 After reflecting on the organization’s work and impact, the board of directors for Inspiritus believes the new name better embodies the essence of Inspiritus’ mission to guide individuals and families whose lives have been disrupted on a path from surviving to thriving.

 “We had a superb reputation as Lutheran Services of Georgia, but as our services expanded over the years, the name did not adequately reflect what we do. And, it felt limiting as some people believed that you had to be Lutheran to benefit from our various services, which is not the case.” said Inspiritus CEO, Rev. John Moeller.

 “The new name Inspiritus derives from the word ‘inspirit,’ which means to fill with courage or strength of purpose. That is precisely what we do at Inspiritus. We embolden individuals and families to find their courage, inner strength and resilience so that they can lead a more fulfilling life,” said Moeller.

 In 2018, Inspiritus provided the following to families in need:

  •   Foster care services for 197 children and placement of 57 children in permanent homes. More than 1,200 children have been assisted on their road to permanent housing through foster care and adoption services since the organization’s founding in 1981. Thirty adoptions were finalized in 2018.

  • Placement of 98 individuals with intellectual disabilities in homes with caring and qualified support companions to improve their physical, social and emotional well-being.

  • Support of 432 refugees who resettled in Georgia, providing essential needs for these refugees, such as an apartment, food, health screenings, legal support, and school registration for children. In the last five years, Inspiritus also has secured more than 1,665 jobs for refugees. 

  • Long-term recovery assistance to 183 people following Hurricane Irma in Coastal Georgia. Inspiritus will continue to provide these long-term recovery services in 2019, including services for those affected by Hurricane Michael in Southwest Georgia.

With over 35 years of providing critical services, Inspiritus has impacted the lives of more than 100,000 individuals across Georgia and the southeast. Over the past several years, Inspiritus has expanded both the scope and geographic reach of its services and, hence, impact. Inspritus serves the Atlanta Metro area, Northwest Georgia, Northeast Georgia, Southwest Georgia, Coastal Georgia and now Middle Tennessee with offices in Atlanta, Athens, Albany, Columbus, Rome, Savannah and Nashville.

 The organization’s new logo includes a dove, which symbolizes both new beginnings and the Holy Spirit, highlighting the Christian and Lutheran faith that is central to its mission and daily work. It is with this spirit that Inspiritus continues to uphold its values of innovation, excellence, advocacy, holistic life span approach, empowerment, integrity, and collaboration.

 “As we at Inspiritus embrace our new name, our mission and vision remain unchanged,” said CEO John Moeller. “We will continue to offer services to help with basic needs, stability and safety, community integration and self-sufficiency. We feel called to do so, and we are excited about both the meaning and power of our new name.”

 ###

Circle of Welcome Teams Celebrate Fall with Refugee Families

It’s been a busy fall for LSG’s Circle of Welcome teams! The volunteers have taken time recently to share fall traditions and fun with the refugee families resettled by LSG.

What is Circle of Welcome? Circle of Welcome is a program that pairs a community or faith group made up of 5 to 10 volunteers with a recently resettled refugee family. The Circle of Welcome team walks along side the family in service, friendship, and as advocates for the refugee family’s first year in the United States. In addition to working with the refugees on building essential skills and knowledge such as English language skills and providing assistance navigating the education, healthcare and other systems, the Circle of Welcome groups introduce their families to American cultural traditions, and, of course, have fun!

Here’s a glimpse into what our current teams have been up to lately!

  • The Lutheran Church of the Redeemer team recently hosted their Circle of Welcome family for a potluck with their church community.  This family of four happily reported, “The was the best Sunday of our lives!”

Redeemer Potluck 1.png
Redeemer Potluck 2.png


  • Members of the Triad team—comprised of Rock of Ages Lutheran Church, Living Grace Lutheran Church, and Resurrection Lutheran Church—trained their family in hurricane preparedness just in time for Tropical Storm Michael.  They have also been busy sewing with and for the family so that the kids can bundle up as the weather gets colder!   

  • Members of Trinity Lutheran Church’s team enjoyed fundraising for the Circle of Welcome family during their annual Oktoberfest.  They also had fun introducing the kids to Halloween through a Trunk or Treat experience!

Trinity CoW Trunk or Treat.jpg
  • Our newest Circle of Welcome team formed through the Lutheran Outreach Partnership of LCMS and ELCA churches in the Atlanta area.  Volunteers from Rivercliff Lutheran Church, Prince of Peace Lutheran Church, and Faith Lutheran Church are preparing to welcome a refugee family scheduled to arrive in Atlanta just in time for Thanksgiving!  

 

Will your faith or community group be the next to embrace refugees in friendship and love through Circle of Welcome? Email Janelle jmoore@lsga.org to learn more!


 

 

Volunteer Group Assists with Hurricane Irma Recovery Work

 

As our neighbors in North and South Carolina deal with continued massive flooding and begin to assess the damages left by Hurricane Florence, we at LSG are praying for their safety and for a full recovery from the devastation we’ve seen in photos and videos.

Last week marked the one year anniversary of Hurricane Irma’s landfall in Coastal Georgia.  Irma arrived just 10 month after Hurricane Matthew hit the coast, and many homeowners on Tybee Island and the surrounding area were still dealing with damages from Matthew.  When Irma brought more flooding and destruction, residents were overwhelmed and disheartened to begin the long recovery process all over.  In the weeks following Irma, LSG began meeting with homeowners and assessing property damages. Though Coastal Georgia was spared the worst of the storm, it was clear that the need for our help was still great.  Since then, LSG has been working with families in Coastal Georgia to help restore their lives following the 2017 storm. 

Volunteers Make Our Work Possible

25.jpg

We couldn’t do it without the help of volunteers teams from around the state who assist on these recovery projects. In August, a team of volunteers from Acworth United Methodist Church in Acworth, Georgia travelled to Coastal Georgia to assist in repairing a home damaged by Hurricane Irma.  The home belongs to Ms. Ruth*, an elderly woman who lives in downtown Brunswick.  A tree fell through Ruth’s home during Hurricane Irma, allowing in rain and causing extensive damage to the interior of the home and ruining much of her belongings.  Ruth* had been living with a tarped roof and water damage and mold since the storm hit last September.  Thankfully, the roof was repaired in early August, and these volunteers came to help with the interior repairs.

Edward Bridges, member of Acworth UMC and part of the team of volunteers shares about the volunteer experience:

14.jpg

“As you know, Jesus taught his disciples to feed the hungry, clothe the naked, and otherwise serve those in physical need.  When natural disasters devastate communities, people with few resources are unable to recover on their own.  So we started forming a disaster response team roughly a year ago at Acworth United Methodist Church to help meet this need.  We spent the last year organizing, training, and planning; our trip to Brunswick was our first chance to actually serve hands-on.

8.jpg

Our team removed ruined ceilings, insulation, walls, cabinets, kitchen fixtures, and carpet, replaced some rotted structural wood, and treated the studs to prevent/eliminate mold.  We also helped Miss Ruth sort through belongings to clear rooms for demolition & construction work.  It was exhausting work, but we found it deeply rewarding to help a person in such dire straits.  Seeing the condition of Miss Ruth’s home also raised our awareness of how richly we are all blessed.  We will continue to pray for Miss Ruth and hope to return to Brunswick soon to continue work on her home.

We were also very grateful for the support we received from Lutheran Services of Georgia and Lord of Life Lutheran Church, our hosts for the week.  The local coordinator from LSG helped us make arrangements and provided expertise on the work project.  Lord of Life church provided facilities that we used for showering, eating, and sleeping, as well as giving us prayer support, encouragement, and a wonderful meal every evening we were in Brunswick.  The fresh local seafood was delightful at the end of a hard day’s work.  The church members were genuine partners in our team’s work.”

 LSG thanks the team from Acworth UMC for their hard work on Ms. Ruth’s home and their continued prayers!   LSG will have opportunities for groups to volunteer with home repairs throughout 2019.  For more information, please contact Lauren Cruickshank at lcruickshank@lsga.org.

22.jpg
 

Circle of Welcome Team Commemorates Year Walking Alongside Refugee Family

 
LCR Team on Sept 9.JPG

September 9th was God’s Work, Our Hands Sunday, a day of service for Evangelical Lutheran Church of America churches around the country.  One of our Circle of Welcome teams compromised of members Lutheran Church of the Resurrection in Marietta and First United Lutheran Church in Kennesaw took this opportunity to celebrate the refugee family they’ve been working with this past year.  The team gathered at Milam Park in Clarkston to celebrate and acknowledge the end of their year with their Circle of Welcome family.  They shared a feast from Jerusalem Bakery and then presented the family with a framed photo collage of favorite shared moments from the past year.  They then took turns presenting family members with symbolic items to bless their new home and shared a blessing (see below).  The group then enjoyed parachute games, corn hole, and time outdoors together.

Corn hole 2.JPG

 

Here’s the blessing that was shared with the family:

BREAD so you never go hungry
SALT so you always have spice in your life
HONEY so you may enjoy the sweetness of life
CANDLE so you always have light
RICE so the love in your home may multiply
OLIVE OIL so that you may be blessed with health and well-being
CLOTH so that your home may be forever filled with warmth
PINEAPPLE so you may enjoy good cheer, warmth and celebration
HOUSEPLANT so your home may always have life
BROOM so your home may always be clean
WOOD so your home has stability, harmony and peace
COINS so that you may always have good fortune. 

One team member shared: “This was a wonderful team.  Each of us had gifts which were of value to the family and the team…I loved working with the family and watching them adapt to their new environment.”

LCR Parachute 2.JPG

Thank you so much to the team members from Lutheran Church of the Resurrection and First United Lutheran Church for your dedication to the Rohingya family you walked alongside for the past year. Your support of the family and your support of each other were an inspiration to us at LSG!

 

Newest Circle of Welcome Greets Family at the Airport

 
redeemer airport arrival.jpg

When the Circle of Welcome volunteers from Redeemer Lutheran Church learned that they would be paired with a young, African family coming to the U.S. in less than a month, they were filled with gratitude and anticipation.  Having recently heard from LSG staff members during a presentation and sermon on Refugee Sunday, the volunteers knew well how few refugees have been able to make it through the system, and they had expected to have to wait for months before the next refugee family arrived in Atlanta.

The team flew into action to prepare for the Shabani family’s arrival, mobilizing dozens of other church members to assist with a donation drive to equip the family’s apartment*. They recruited friends from their community with relevant language skills and circulated links to help one another learn about the region and culture of the family. 

Finally, the big day arrived, and a group of eager Circle of Welcome volunteers assembled at the Atlanta airport to welcome the Shabani family.  When the young couple with their two toddlers walked through to the revolving door into the baggage claim area, six Circle of Welcome members were there to greet them, along with several of the family’s relatives who had been resettled a few years before.  Soon, the Shabani’s were hugging and laughing with the Cirlce team. 

Zak, the LSG case manager, smilingly reported, “You don’t see that hugging each time, before they know each other, but the family was just so happy—happy that people were there for them!” 

Will your faith or community group be the next to embrace refugees in friendship and love? Email jmoore@lsga.org to learn more!  

 

*Family name has been changed for the protection of their privacy. 

 

Summer Camp Offers Welcome, Connection and Community for Refugee Children

 

By Whitney Conner, LSG's Camp Mosaic and Refugee After School Program Coordinator

I sat down across from Amare*, watching his little face as tears streamed down his cheeks. A few days into our first week of camp, it had been a rough morning for my newest elementary school friend. He was having a difficult time adjusting, unsure of himself and his new surroundings.

36317595_1823772691017595_2427181246984486912_o.jpg

I sat and listened as he told me about his home country. He described the food they ate and the games they played. I got teary eyed listening to him share pieces of his experience. We laughed together as he reminisced about fun times with his cousins, grandparents, and their farm. We were sad together as he shared how much he misses the extended family he left behind. Their home country remains unsafe for him and his family, but it is home nonetheless. He worried about being the only child at camp from his home country and the only one who speaks his language, unsure how to make friends when he struggles to communicate and doesn’t know who to trust. The words that came to mind as we sat together, reflecting on his journey in games and drawings, were fear, grief, transition, adjustment. However, the biggest was isolation.

It’s in moments like these that I am reminded why we do the work that we do, how we truly are the hands and feet of Jesus. We are called to embrace and love the foreigner, to welcome them. For, if we do not, who else will? For many, summer camp may simply be an opportunity to get their kids out of the house during the summer stretch, but for these children it is a source of needed connection and community. It is “welcome” to them!

0J6A4143.jpg

During Camp Mosaic, the children are encouraged to seek, celebrate and embrace all of our stories and cultures, painting a greater story as a mosaic of our community. Children from around the globe stepped into camp with cultural and ethnic walls, only to leave camp with deeper friendships and an empowered strength that allowed them to embrace their differences.  

At the end of our first year of camp, I am in awe of how Camp Mosaic served to paint a broader picture of community, crossing borders and mending hearts affected by conflict on a personal level. As I was driving camp carpool one morning, I discovered that I had two children from different sides of the same international conflict in the back seat of my 4Runner. The children jumped into my car, excited to share news from their home countries. Their leaders had met, hugged, and decided to move forward in peace. The kids were elated, sharing their joy that conflict was over. They were grateful that family members in their home country had been able to reconnect with friends and family from the opposing side after years of being forbidden to contact them. Peace and reconciliation had started in the backseat of an SUV during camp carpool weeks before, but was being evidenced in the celebration of two children in Clarkston, GA regarding international issues of their home countries.

36352744_1823773164350881_8581954731742593024_o.jpg

As I prepare to go back to Clarkston High School for our 2018-2019 after school program, continuing the work we began at Camp Mosaic, I am reminded of my elementary school friend Amare. You know, the one with the tear-streaked cheeks? He is starting school this week. But, he will not begin in the way he began camp.  Now Amare has a sense of belonging and connection. Through Camp Mosaic, he experienced the fruit of welcome and the bridging of gaps that helped him make friends. He is no longer alone in his community, for he found his place of belonging in a greater mosaic that is the Clarkston story.

Thank you to all who partnered in donating time, space at Living Grace Lutheran Church, sports equipment, and many other things! You played a key role in helping our kids thrive as they step into a different season of their stories, something that will serve as foundational in their ability to not just survive, but to thrive.

Thanks to your support, we had a wonderful summer!

 

About Camp Mosaic

Launched this summer, Mosaic is a trauma informed and resiliency development summer day camp, created to help refugee and immigrant kids aged k-12 to adjust to life in the United States. Kids also had the opportunity to be assessed for PTSD, anxiety, and other clinical mental health barriers they might be facing. In addition to receiving mental health support, kids were given one-on-one reading and literacy instruction, lessons in science and technology, math lessons, as well as opportunities to engage in therapeutic art and journaling activities.

0J6A4107.jpg

Teens in the program were given leadership roles, allowing the chance to complete required community service hours for high school graduation, as well as opportunities to feel empowered in their skills and abilities to lead. The children went on numerous field trips, giving them a chance to explore their new community and city, including a trip to Zoo Atlanta, which hosted a backstage tour just for our children.

*Name has been changed to protect privacy

 

Refugees Connect with their Elected Officials through Migrant and Refugee Leadership Academy

 
w31.jpg

In collaboration with LIRS, LSG recently hosted the two-day Migrant and Refugee Leadership Academy in Clarkston.  Spearheaded by LSG staff members Meron Daniel and Aimee Zangandou, the academy was attended by former refugees resettled by LSG and a number of community members.  LSG staff members led workshops alongside special guests from Women Watch Afrika, Amnesty International, the American for Civil Liberties Union, Black Alliance for Just Immigration, and the Georgia Center for nonprofits on topics ranging from leadership to organizing and advocacy.

C4.jpg

Throughout the course of the Leadership Academy, participants had the opportunity to put what they had learned to action.  Attendees broke into small groups to meet with Clarkston City Council Member Awet Eyasu, Representative Hank Johnson, and Senator Johnny Isakson’s staffer to discuss their hopes and concerns.  During the meetings, these refugee leaders made sure their elected officials were aware that the U.S. is not on track to meet its commitment of resettling 45,000 refugees this year and asked each official to join them in advocating for the U.S. to welcome at least 75,000 refugees in 2019. Officials were also asked to join the Refugee Caucus and sign a Dear Colleague letter expressing their support for refugees and immigrants publicly.

While networking and strategizing over delicious meals from Ebrik, Kathmandu Kitchen, Lidet, and Tena Mart, one refrain clearly emerged: “We need to do this again!”

 

LSG's Response to the Reports on a Possible 25,000 Cap for FY 2019 Refugee Admissions

 

As the Administration prepares to announce the refugee admissions ceiling for FY 2019 next month, reports have emerged that the White House is considering another drastic reduction in the number of refugees the United States will admit. Yesterday the New York Times reported that the Administration is discussing one plan that would reduce the current refugee admissions cap by more than 40 percent – setting the limit for refugee arrivals at just 25,000.

Lutheran Services of Georgia urges the Administration to continue our nation’s proud tradition of welcoming refugees and asylum seekers and to raise the refugee admission ceiling for FY 2019. 

The United States as long been a beacon of hope for persecuted and displaced individuals from around the world.  In the midst of the current refugee crisis, we are saddened that as the number of people who have been forcibly displaced increases, the United States continues to decrease the number we admit.  We believe our country and our state are better because we have welcomed these mothers, fathers, sisters and brothers. We celebrate the many contributions refugees bring to our communities – from their work ethic and entrepreneurial spirit to the tax dollars they contribute and their positive impact on our economy.

In FY 2018, the administration cut the ceiling for refugee arrivals from 110,000 to an unprecedented low of 45,000. Lowering that number to 25,000, if implemented, would reflect more than a 77% decrease to the U.S. refugee ceiling in just three years.

For the last several months, our national partner LIRS has been leading an advocacy effort to encourage the Administration to set the refugee ceiling at 75,000 in FY19.  To learn more about how to advocate for refugees and to contact your Representative and Senators, visiting lirs.org/raise-the-ceiling.

Stay up-to-date with LSG's refugee and immigration program by signing up for our e-newsletter Crossing Oceans.  

 

Kaiden Finds His Forever Family

 
20180412_175424.jpg

For Matt and Kimberly, adopting Kaiden has been a whirlwind of emotions and mountains of paperwork in just a few short months.  Kimberly, an elementary school teacher, and Matt, director of the City of Bremen Parks and Recreation Department, weren’t thinking about adopting when five-year-old Kaiden came into their lives. 

The opportunity to adopt came at a difficult time.  Matt and Kimberly, who had struggled with infertility for years, had suffered a devastating miscarriage after getting pregnancy through IVF fertility treatments.  Just days into grieving the new loss, Kimberly found out about Kaiden.  Kaiden was a kindergartner at the school where Kimberly teaches.  In the previous few weeks, the school counselor and his teacher began to realize that Kaiden, who was in foster care at the time, really needed the stability of a permanent home. The close-knit staff was aware of Kimberly’s recent miscarriage, so they were hesitant to approach the Codys about the possibility of adopting Kaiden.  However, the counselor decided the timing was right for Kaiden and thought it would be a great match. 

Fresh off her recent heartbreak, Kimberly wasn’t sure she was ready, but when she met the adorable and sweet five year old and learned about his need of a home, she fell in love.  She believed that this was God’s answer to her prayers.

However, Matt wasn’t so sure. 

He told Kimberly that he would support her, but she was going to have to pursue this and do the leg work.  “I told her I was going to have to keep my distance. I just couldn’t put my heart out there,” said Matt.

So with help of the LSG adoptions team, Kimberly began the hard work of getting approved.  Typically, prospective parents spread out the mounds of paperwork over several months, but in order to fast track their approval the Codys had to fill it out in one sitting. The couple was able to get a home study in just three weeks, typically it takes between 3-6 months, and Kaiden moved to their home just two months later.

For Matt and Kimberly, adding an energetic kindergartener to their lives was a big adjustment.

“Kaiden handled it like a champ. He was settled right in.  He was never on edge,” says Matt.  Kimberly chimes in, “For us it was life changing.  The days of doing our own thing were over.”

But after a challenging first week, the Codys settled into a routine and schedule that worked for all of them and has Kaiden thriving. 

Due to Kaiden’s past experiences, Matt and Kimberly have had to work on building trust with Kaiden.

In such a short time, the Codys and all of the staff at school have noticed a big change in Kaiden. 

Laura Fowler, adoption recruiter, LSG, says, “Kaiden was always so still and quiet.  Like he’d been told that children should be seen not heard.”  Now he’s a typical fun loving, often noisy, kindergartner.

While Matt was cautious about getting too attached during the home study and paperwork, once Kaiden moved into their home just two months later, he was all in.  Kimberly says that one of the best parts of parenthood so far is seeing her husband become a dad.

And it’s clear that he is enjoying his new status as well. Matt beams with pride when he talks about coaching Kaiden’s team for her first season of baseball and Kaiden’s attempts to do things “like Daddy.”    

“It’s those little moments. It’s tiring but it’s so worth it.  It fills your heart,” says Kimberly.

 Before moving in with the Codys, Kaiden had a difficult time at school. Now he is excelling. Matt and Kimberly want to instill in him that he can be anything he wants to be.

“He’s so smart.  I told him ‘you’re going to be a doctor,’” says Matt.  On career dress up day, the Codys made sure that Kaiden was fully decked out in the career of his choice – a doctor’s coat along with a stethoscope and other accessories.

What was a low point in their lives turned into a miracle. “Now we realize that we weren’t meant to have a child through IVF at that time,” says Kimberly. “We didn’t have that child, so we could have Kaiden.”