LSG Celebrates Heroes of Hope at 8th Annual Gala


On Thursday, September 17, Lutheran Services of Georgia celebrated community heroes at the 8th Annual Heroes of Hope Gala. LSG staff, supporters, volunteers, donors, and clients gathered at the Historic Dekalb Courthouse for this evening of celebration.

Attendees enjoyed a buffet dinner, drinks, live music, and silent auction featuring items and experiences given by 43 generous donors. Rick Probst, host of radio show FaithTalk LiVE, served as emcee for the evening's program. LSG unveiled its brand-new agency video, created by vLink Solutions, to applause from the room.

Two LSG clients graciously shared their stories with the crowd. Mohamad Nazir Hussain, a refugee,  talked about his perilous journey from Burma to Thailand to Malaysia and finally to resettlement in the United States. He thanked LSG and his case managers for all their support in helping him, his wife, and his four children adjust to life in Georgia.


Mrs. Shamae Crosswhite spoke about her experience with LSG's Adoption program. She and her husband Perry are the proud parents of a brother and sister adopted through LSG. 9-year-old Nicolas and 6-year-old Kara joined their mother as she thanked LSG for helping make their family possible.

LSG then presented the 2015 Heroes of Hope awards to Kelly James and Kareem Ahmed of R. James Properties, John Timpe, and John Blend of Goshen Valley. The heroes spoke about their experiences with LSG and serving the community, and accepted their awards. Click here to read more about our 2015 Heroes.


The program wrapped up with a live auction as attendees pledged $10,00- to support LSG's various programs throughout Georgia. Attendees stayed afterwards to place final silent auction bids and to chat with new and old friends.

Lutheran Services of Georgia wants to thank everyone who made this event possible: our staff, supporters, silent auction donors, sponsors, clients, and, of course, our Heroes of Hope. LSG raised close to $40,000 to support individuals, children, and families throughout Georgia. More photos from the night are available on our Facebook page. Contact Allison Hood at or 404-591-7067 for information regarding the 2016 Heroes and other events.


Announcing the 2015 Heroes of Hope

Hereos of Hope Logo-page-001Lutheran Services of Georgia is pleased to announce our 2015 Heroes of Hope! Each year, LSG honors community heroes at the annual Heroes of Hope, Healing, and Strength Gala.

John W. Blend, III

John W. Blend, III serves as Chairman andJohn Blend Chief Executive of Goshen Valley Foundation, the parent of Goshen Valley Boys Ranch, Goshen New Beginnings, and Goshen Homes. Established in 1998, the Cherokee County-based organization provides residential care, independent living programs for young men and young women entering adulthood, and foster homes for reunited siblings. John serves as a Lifetime Council member at Lutheran Church of the Redeemer in Atlanta, Georgia. He and his wife Connie have 2 children and 4 granddaughters. John also serves as President and Chairman of Together Georgia, Georgia's Child Welfare Private Provider Associate.

John Timpe

John Timpe is a life-long Lutheran and a John Timpecharter member of Prince of Peace Lutheran Church, founded in 1981 in Alpharetta, Georgia. He served in the U.S. Navy before working as a salesman and executive in the food industry. Since moving to Georgia 38 years ago, John has been actively involved in the local community. He has been instrumental in raising awareness and funding for LSG over the past 14 years. John has one daughter.

R. James Properties, Inc:

R. James Properties, Inc. was formed in December 1993 by Richard James to provide management for apartment properties. The company presently manages approximately thirty properties totaling more than 4,000 units. In 2006, R. James Properties acquired Clarkston Townhomes, a 91-unit apartment community in Clarkston, Georgia. Since then, the management company has developed strong relationships with several refugee social service organizations and is committed to providing clean, affordable housing for refugees.

This year's Heroes of Hope, Healing, and Strength Gala will be held September 17 from 6:30 to 9:30 p.m. at the Historic DeKalb Courthouse. Click here for more information, sponsorship opportunities, and to register.

LSG Kids Club Celebrates Successful First Season

_MG_3318 This summer, Lutheran Services of Georgia launched LSG Kids Club! LSG Kids Club provides fun, therapeutic day camp experiences for newly arrived refugee children. The program aims to promote healing, adjustment, and confidence-building for recently resettled refugee kids who have experienced trauma.

Beginning on July 13, LSG Kids Club held four weeks of summer camp for refugee kids. 47 children attended camp who were recently resettled from Somalia, Burma, Bhutan, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Iraq, and Afghanistan. Together, the children spoke eight different languages: Somali, Nepali, Burmese, Rohingya, Malay, Swahili, Arabic, and Farsi. Kids participated in yoga, ballet, music and voice lessons, pet therapy, art projects, gardening, team and trust building activities, athletic activities, and fieldtrips to Piedmont Park and Zoo Atlanta.

Camp Coordinator Jessie Burnette reflected on the first season of LSG Kids Club:  "We have already received so many gracious thanks from parents who say their children benefited from their experiences with Kids Club. In our short pilot season, we saw children make great strides in processing fears, building friendships across language barriers, and leading other youth. I cannot wait to see what a full season combined with an ongoing mentor program can do for our children and the Clarkston community. It is our goal to serve each and every child that is resettled through our agency."


LSG thanks the following organizations and volunteers for making this first season a success:

  • Living Grace Lutheran Church (Camp Venue)
  • Atlanta Pet Partners (Pet Therapy Group)
  • Funda Yilmaz, LPC (Yoga instructor and licensed therapist)
  • Kathryn Farmer (Ballet instructor)
  • Whitney Burnette (Voice/Music instructor)
  • Matthew Johnson (Volunteer/Camp Counselor)
  • Pam Amy-Cupp (Volunteer/Camp Counselor)
  • Annie Goodman (Intern/Camp Counselor)
  • Alix Janke (Driver/Fieldtrip Chaperone)
  • Natalie Yasson (LSG Staff: Driver/Field Chaperone)
  • Melanie Johnson (LSG Staff: Camp Assistant/Volunteer/Supporter)
  • Padam Rai (Nepali Interpeter)
  • Abdul Rahman (Somali Interpreter)
  • Safa Shamsuddin (Burmese/Rohingya Interpreter)
  • Christine Nzamuranga (Swahili Interpreter)
  • Jessie Burnette (Camp Coordinator)
  • VSA Arts (for providing Zoo Atlanta tickets)

LSG Kids Club will continue to serve newly arrived refugee children by hosting therapeutic camps throughout the year. LSG also plans to implement a mentoring program serving the same population of children. LSG Kids Club welcomes volunteers who would like to be a part of making a positive impact in the lives of refugee children by teaching a skillset, such as art, yoga, dance, music, theater, athletics, teaching, counseling, and more.

LSG Kids Club is supported, in part, through a grant from the Lutheran Services for Children Endowment at the ELCA Foundation. To see photos from the camp, click here. For more information or to inquire about volunteering, contact Jessie Burnette at



Knitted with Love

knitting Ginny Wold hates to sit with her hands idle. Whenever Ginny has a spare moment, she knits. As her knitting needles clatter away, she makes beautiful blankets, hats, mittens, and scarves that will help keep others warm.

Ginny's love of knitting started while she was in grade school. Her grandmother would knit socks for World War II soldiers on needles that her father made out of metal rods. Ginny learned how to knit then, but didn't start knitting seriously until the early 70s when she decided to make afghans for her entire family. Her knitted winter hats, mittens, and scarves warmed her children and grandchildren through the winter months.

About 15 years ago, Ginny decided to participate in the Mitten Tree at her daughter's church. That was her first foray into knitting for people beyond her family and close circle of friends. Since then, Ginny has knitted baby caps for the hospital, lap robes for nursing homes and homeless shelters, shawls for a police department's elder abuse unit, hats, mittens, and scarves for school kids and adults who walk to work, chemotherapy caps for cancer clinics in Arizona and Georgia, baby blankets for LSG refugee clients and adopted children, and fancy scarves and stoles for Lutheran Services of Georgia fundraisers.

Ginny has no intentions to stop knitting. She said, "I don't like to sit with my hands idle. I receive yarn from family and friends and friends-of-family and family-of-friends. Right now, my craft room is pretty full, but eventually it will all get used and sent off to help keep someone warm."

LSG thanks Ginny Wold for helping keep so many of our clients and supporters warm.


Announcing the 2015 LSG Hunger Walk/Run Champion

trinity Lutheran Services of Georgia is excited to announce the 2015 Champion of LSG's Hunger Walk/Run Church Competition: Trinity Lutheran Church! Trinity raised $11,902 to fight hunger.

Thanks to all who joined LSG in fighting hunger at the 2015 Hunger Walk/Run. LSG had 34 teams participate with 289 walkers and runners. Together, LSG supporters raised over $77,000 for hunger-fighting programs throughout Georgia. LSG appreciates all those who walked, ran, volunteer, or otherwise supported us.

LSG also congratulates the other top finishers in the 2015 LSG Hunger Walk/Run Church Competition. Here are the results:

1) Trinity Lutheran Church (Lilburn) - $11,902 2) Cross of Life Lutheran Church (Roswell) - $8,533 3) St. John's Lutheran Church (Atlanta) - $7,155 4) Price of Peace Lutheran Church (Alpharetta) - $6,260 5) Holy Trinity Lutheran Church (Marietta) - $4,009 6) Grace Lutheran Church (Carrolton) - $3,683.55 7) Epiphany Lutheran Church (Conyers) - $3,306 8) Rivercliff Lutheran Church - $2,735 9) St. Luke's Lutheran Church (Atlanta) - $2,324.90 10) Good Shepherd Lutheran Church (Woodstock) - $1,885

For more photos from the day, including team photos, please visit our Facebook page. Contact Abi Koning, LSG's Communications and Public Relations Manager, at if you would like a photo emailed to you.

LSG is honored to be a beneficiary of the Hunger Walk/Run, a project of the Atlanta Community Food Bank. We appreciate the opportunity to work with them each year on this event. LSG has been a benefiting partner for almost 30 years and we look forward to another great Hunger Walk/Run on March 13, 2016!

Support Newly Arrived Refugees in Atlanta and Savannah

Refugee Family 2 When Mr. T. arrived in Savannah with his wife, teenage son, and baby on the way, he wanted start working immediately. He wanted to build a future for his family that would be better than the life they left behind in Myanmar. However, shortly after his journey to the United States, Mr. T. received devastating news. He was diagnosed with two separate medial conditions, one requiring surgery. Mr T. will not be able to work until he has fully recovered from surgery.

Most refugee families have a little more than a month to secure employment, which helps smooth their transition to economic self-sufficiency. Mr. T.'s medical conditions will delay his ability to work by two months, leaving the family without enough money to pay their rent. To add to their financial stress, Mr. T's wife gave birth one month early, and the family is using most of their financial resources to help support their newborn.

LSG connected the family to community resources that provide medical case management, free medicine, and baby supplies. Our staff has worked tirelessly to ensure that the family is safe and healthy, taking them to and from many doctor's appointments each week. Both parents are eager to work, and their 14-year-old son has asked many times when he can start working to support the family.

Like so many of our clients, Mr T. and his family have a bright future ahead of them, but will need some help along the way. By donating to LSG, you join LSG in giving individuals, children, and families throughout Georgia the support they need to reach happy, healthy futures. Please give today.

LSG's 2014 Annual Report Now Available

AR Lutheran Services of Georgia's 2014 Annual Report is now available! Our Annual Report features our financial Statement of Activities, our donor list, a letter from our board, stories and statistics about the clients we serve, and other information from fiscal year 2014. Limited hard copies are also available upon request.

Click to download our 2014 Annual Report. Contact Abi Koning at for more information.

LSG to Host Orientation for Short-Term Foster Care for Unaccompanied Children

uac featured image Lutheran Services of Georgia (LSG) will host an orientation at the Mike Daniels Recreation Center (LaGrange) on Monday, May 11, 2015 at 6 p.m. for individuals interested in providing short-term foster homes for Unaccompanied Children. The Mike Daniels Recreation Center is located at 1220 Lafayette Parkway, LaGrange, Georgia 30241.

LSG is collaborating with LaGrange area organizations and ministries to create safe, welcoming foster homes for children under the age of 13 who have migrated unaccompanied to the United States. LSG is seeking families in the LaGrange area to foster unaccompanied children for short-term periods until they are united with a family member or approved sponsor in the United States.

Prospective foster families must undergo a three-stage approval process involving orientation, training, and a thorough family assessment. The approval process takes three to four months to complete. Families with one bilingual adult are preferred.

Lutheran Services of Georgia invites interested parties to attend this informational meeting for more information on foster care as a compassionate and necessary response to the crisis of unaccompanied children. To register for the upcoming orientation and for further details, contact Gayle Cruz at Click here for more information about unaccompanied children.

Interim CEO Gary Johnstone Reflects on Social Work Month 2015

  Gary Johnstone

In honor of National Social Work Month, Lutheran Services of Georgia's Interim CEO Gary Johnstone reflects on the importance of social workers and how his background in social work has impacted his career in social services.

After I received my undergraduate degree in Psychology, I applied to do entry-level Social Work. I wanted to find out what it meant to work in the community and to be of service to people where they live. I accepted a job with Gordon County Division of Family and Children Services in Calhoun, Georgia, where I was a Services worker for about 50 family units. The families I served were primarily Aid to Families with Dependent Children (AFDC) mothers and their children, along with several folks on Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) due to physical or developmental issues.

My duties included Child Protective Services work, allowing me to develop my understanding of what was needed to strengthen families before they required intervention from the CPS unit. I also did Community Development work, organizing the county's first Inter-Agency Council designed to eliminate gaps between the agencies that were impossible for our clients to navigate. We designed a referral system that tasked the referring agency with making sure the clients made it to their next appointment, even if that appointment was with another agency. This included a transportation system that depended upon community volunteers, and was very successful.

My Director recognized me for my efforts and I was awarded a full scholarship by the State of Georgia so I could attend graduate school to obtain my Masters of Social Work. The next two years solidified my career direction as I focused on developing my Management and Planning skills from a Social Services perspective.

During my nearly 15 years at Lutheran Services of Georgia, I have used my social worker background in various ways. I was brought in to develop new programs that could be taken statewide. My knowledge of community-based Social Work prepared me to negotiate with State of Georgia officials in developing the Specialized Foster Care and FACES programs. Later, we were able to develop the Family Intervention Services programs. The programs are all aimed at supporting individuals and families in their communities. Without my MSW degree and my broad experiential background, I would not have been seen by the LSG Board and CEO and State officials as a leader for these programs. As Chief Operating Officer and now interim CEO, I am experienced in almost all facets of non-profit agency management, thanks to my MSW degree and my over 30 years in the field.

I am excited to celebrate Social Work Month. I believe that it is important for a new generation of committed people to take the lead in building coalitions to identify universal needs, envisioning more than simple "more, bigger, and better." We need a new reality, a way to serve and protect our most vulnerable people with the best intentions, the best systems, and the best outcomes possible. Who better to develop that new reality than Social Workers, particularly those who have a clear vision of what we need for a "best" world?

For more information about Social Work Month 2015, visit the National Association of Social Workers website.

LSG Receives Wheat Ridge Ministries Grant to Support Enhanced Cultural Orientation for Refugees

ECO Photo

Lutheran Services of Georgia recently received a generous, three-year grant from Wheat Ridge Ministries to support the Enhanced Cultural Orientation (ECO) program for newly arrived refugees.

After refugees arrive in the United States, they need support to learn how to navigate U.S. culture and adjust to life in their new communities. Federally-contracted refugee resettlement agencies like LSG are required to cover a checklist of orientation topics. While most agencies cover these topics in a one-day or less "crash course", LSG recognized that this was not enough. In March 2013, LSG launched the Enhanced Cultural Orientation program to better serve refugees.

ECO provides new arrivals with nine intensive cultural orientation workshops over the course of three weeks. Workshops cover essential topics such as US law, housing and personal safety, public transportation, domestic violence laws, US Citizenship and Immigration Services requirements, budgeting and banking in the US, and coping with stress. Childcare is provided, along with interpreters in multiple language, ensuring that participants are able to focus on and understand the lessons.

Along with providing cultural orientation, ECO offers direct food relief in a compassionate, convenient, and culturally-sensitive way. Although refugees are eligible for the temporary Georgia Supplemental Nutrition Program (SNAP) while they seek employment, it can take several weeks before these benefits are approved and can be accessed. With funding from Wheat Ridge Ministries, LSG will give refugees breakfast and a snack during each workshop session. Refugees will also sometimes receive lunch. LSG will either provide grocery store gift certificates or one bag of culturally appropriate staple food items, such as rice, beans, oil, salt, and juice, per week for the first two weeks for each family represented at the workshops.

Unlike many cultural orientation programs, ECO does not separate refugees according to their country of origin. Instead, refugees from various ethnic groups are encouraged to build relationships and learn together, which helps deepen community ties in Clarkston.

Wheat Ridge Ministries is a nonprofit organization that helps health and human care initiatives get off the ground by providing the initial funding and support they need to thrive. LSG thanks Wheat Ridge Ministries for providing funds to support refugees during their earliest days in the United States.

Wheat Ridge color logo

Gary Johnstone Appointed Interim CEO of Lutheran Services of Georgia

Gary Johnstone  

Lutheran Services of Georgia is pleased to announce the appointment of Gary D. Johnstone to serve as Interim Chief Executive Officer.

In May of 2014, the LSG Board of Directors appointed Gary to the role of Chief Operating Officer charged with managing all aspects of day-to-day operations. Gary's first challenge was to build a team of department leaders to manage the major components of the agency and support all programs, the people we serve, and the entire LSG team. Included in this Operations Team are: Kevin Mahaney, Finance and Accounting; Alie Redd, Programs; Elizabeth Chandler, Human Resources; Reginald Brown, Information Technology; Ryan Whitmire, Operations; Joy Jones, Performance and Quality Improvement; and Janet Tharp, Development. Assisting the team is Mary Kay Kates, Administration. The team is responsible for agency improvement and implementation of new projects, including the finalization of COA accreditation.

Effective December 10, 2014, the LSG Board of Directors appointed Gary Johnstone as the Interim Chief Executive Officer. The position will shift his responsibilities toward working closely with the Development Department in addition to providing the legal status required in key ventures in which LSG will engage. In Gary's new role, he will report to the LSG Board. He will work with the Board, Lutheran Services of America, and key decision-makers in the fields of government, private foundations, business, and faith communities to bring "restored hope, transformed lives, and healthy tomorrows" to all people throughout Georgia.

Gary has been married for 40 years and has two sons and twin grandchildren.  Gary has volunteered for many years as a coach for children's sports. He is an avid golfer and enjoys outdoor sports and traveling. He enjoys especially traveling to the state of Arizona.

Helping Mamas Supports Children in Foster Care

IMG_20141223_113021875_HDR On December 23, 2014, local nonprofit organization Helping Mamas delivered two SUVs-full of diapers and gifts for 23 of LSG's youngest children in foster care.

Karen Cramer and Jamie Lackey, two moms who were also social workers, started Helping Mamas in 2014 to help other moms "have it all". Helping Mamas partners with other organizations, including LSG, to support families and connect helping mamas with mamas needing help. Karen and Jamie generously dropped off the diapers gifts at LSG's Atlanta office, where they met several LSG staff members.

LSG thanks Helping Mamas for joining us to support children in foster care and their foster homes this holiday season.

Introducing the Unaccompanied Children's Defense Project

By Ashley LaRiccia, Equal Justice Works Fellow at Lutheran Services of Georgia Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of Lutheran Services of Georgia.


The court room is packed today. The rows are filled with children, some in their Sunday best and others in jeans. Some of the teenagers appear to be there alone, while the younger ones sit next to adults. Only about a third of the children appear to have an attorney with them. An eight-year-old girl walks up to the front of the court room. She fumbles with the gate and manages to pull it open, taking her seat at a table designed for a person much taller than her. The judge requests, through the court interpreter, for the young girl to speak her name into the microphone. The judge asks the child if her mother is in the court room today and she shakes her head no. After a brief back-and-forth, it is discovered the child’s neighbor brought her to court. It is likely that her mother, being undocumented herself, was too scared to set foot in the courtroom.

At the table to the child’s right sits the government’s experienced attorney, with a cart full of files containing the names of children on the docket for that day. The government has charged the children in the courtroom with entering or remaining the United States illegally and is seeking to have them deported to their home countries. The girl is asked if she understands the charges being made against her and she musters a weak yes. The judge requests that at the next court date the little girl's mother come along so that the importance of finding an attorney can be explained as well as the consequences of a removal order. The girl nods and says she understands, but it is unclear if she fully comprehends the gravity of her impending deportation. The judge then calls up the neighbor and explains this all over again, hoping an adult will be able to better explain the interaction to the child’s mother. Finally, the little girl is given a date for one month into the future, to return to the court. The little girl slides out of the chair, struggles again with the gate and skips to the back of the courtroom holding her neighbor’s hand.

This scene of gross inequality in front of the law, of a young child expected to represent herself against the government, armed with an experienced and well-trained attorney, plays out in immigration courts across the country every day. The Immigration Judge is not allowed to advocate for the child, as she is there to enforce the law, not to change it. In criminal courts, all defendants are provided with an attorney, regardless of their immigration status, but because immigration court is considered a civil court, such protections are not granted. Though an immigration offense is not a criminal one, the consequences of being found guilty can be a death sentence for children who have risked their lives to escape the violence of their home countries.

In America, a land that prides itself on promoting justice and protecting the rights of the most vulnerable, the courts are failing to protect the rights of our world’s most precious resource: our youth. There are many visas available to children who have come to the United States without their parents, escaping unimaginable violence from gangs, drug trafficking, domestic abuse, and forced labor. Although these visas provide routes to obtaining legal status, securing a visa is nearly impossible without an attorney. It is estimated that if represented a child will be able to remain in the US about 50% of the time, but without an attorney that figure drops to one in ten. In light of the recent increased migration from Central America, with nearly 70,000 unaccompanied children apprehended after crossing the border this year it has become even harder for these children to locate an attorney. The cost of a private attorney is prohibitive for many children and their families or friends who have stepped forward to care for them. Non-profits are operating at full capacity and, despite a nation-wide effort to increase the number of attorneys taking these cases pro-bono, thousands of children remain unrepresented and facing near certain deportation orders.

Lutheran Services of Georgia recognized the need for legal representation for these children even before the mass immigration seen at our southern border over the spring and summer. Back in the summer of 2013, Lutheran Services of Georgia reached out to my alma mater, the University Of Maryland School Of Law, through an alumni connection and asked for a recent graduate to apply for an Equal Justice Works Fellowship. This fellowship program provides recent law school graduates who are passionate about public interest law with funding to develop a project that will address an inequality in our justice system. After hearing about this opportunity, I decided to jump onboard. Together with LSG staff, I applied for funding and was awarded a fellowship through Equal Justice Works sponsored by McGuireWoods and Dupont. I started work on my fellowship project, entitled the Unaccompanied Children’s Defense Projectback in September 2014. Over the past few months I have been busy laying the groundwork and making the connections necessary to expand representation to unaccompanied minors in the Atlanta immigration court. I am looking forward to taking on my first clients and working to address the justice gap that exists when children are expected to represent themselves in immigration proceedings. I welcome any questions about my project, and also encourage any attorneys who may be interested in volunteering to contact me at

Thank You for Giving on Georgia Gives Day!

Hero of Hope-page-001Thank you for supporting Lutheran Services of Georgia on Georgia Gives Day! With your help, we raised $4,265 on November 13, 2014 in one 24-hour period. LSG thanks everyone who donated, spread the word, or otherwise supported LSG in raising funds for individuals and families throughout Georgia. A special thanks goes out to all our Georgia Gives Day donors:

  • Ed Aebischer
  • Taylor Brand
  • Holly Brewer
  • Charles Bridgers
  • Lorraine Dorough (Gift dedicated to the Agency Advancement - "Thank you for 12 great years!")
  • Vedad Fatic
  • David Fricke
  • Jane Gaunt (Gift dedicated to Lorraine Dorough - "Have the greatest retirement ever!")
  • Richard and Marsha Goerss
  • Pamela Gould
  • Jennifer Hall
  • Sung Bae Han (Gift dedicated to the Dong Hang Worship Community)
  • Sharon Hermann
  • Gary Johnstone
  • Paul and Mary Kaeser
  • Abi Koning
  • Tom and Betty Koning
  • Emily Laney
  • Cynthia McGuinness
  • Gerhard and Joan Michael
  • Nathan Miller
  • John Oliver
  • Andrea Pietri Diaz
  • Angela Sapp
  • Linda Smith
  • Stephen Spears (Gift dedicated to Melanie Johnson - "Thanks for all of the hard work that you do helping refugees.")
  • Rev. Robert and Mrs. Strickert (Gift dedicated to Mark Strickert - "In loving memory of our son")
  • Janet Tharp
  • Wanza Trice
  • Fritz Wiese
  • David Wilson
  • Deborah Wilson
  • Natalie Yasson
  • Timothy Young

Thank you for your generosity! You are truly heroes of hope.

If you have any questions about Georgia Gives Day, contact Abi Koning at



LSG Participates in National Adoption Month Forum

Group Photo - Fair Participants  

In honor of National Adoption Month, Lutheran Services of Georgia joined other agencies at Ray of Hope Christian Church on Sunday, November 9, 2014. Each November, a Presidential Proclamation launches activities and celebrations to help build awareness of adoption and the foster care system throughout the United States. This year's theme is "Promoting and Supporting Sibling Connections" and pays tribute to the unique bond between siblings.

Tha National Adoption Month forum at Ray of Hope brought together Lutheran Services of Georgia, Wednesday's Child, the Georgia Department of Human Services, and other groups to share information during two worship services. A panel of four individuals--two current adoptive parents, one child that has been adopted, and a psychiatrist--shared their stories and answered questions about foster care and adoption. The message for the day was  "It Takes A Village", further emphasizing the importance of caring for children in need of forever families. LSG staff members Latrice Stowe, Cynthia Kersee, and Tasondra Terrell represented LSG at the event.

LSG thanks Ray of Hope Christian Church for hosting this celebration and informational session. For more information about adopting through Lutheran Services of Georgia, click here.

LIRS Principles for Comprehensive Immigration Reform

hispanic As the nation waits for President Barack Obama's executive action on immigration reform to be announced tonight, Lutheran Services of Georgia would like to share our national affiliate Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Service's Principles for Comprehensive Immigration Reform. These principles provide a framework for immigration reform that is just, humane, comprehensive, and flows from the call for people of faith to welcome the newcomer. Please consider sharing the principles below. Visit for more information about immigration.


An estimated 11 million undocumented immigrants currently reside in the United States. These are people who migrated here to join their families, to work, or to seek refuge from persecution or violence. They are our friends, neighbors, classmates, and members of our churches.

In recent years, the federal government has expanded the use of immigration detention and other harsh enforcement efforts, resulting in the separation of families and the suffering of communities nationwide. Moreover, many close family members must wait years, even decades, to be able to enter the United States to reunite with their loved ones. These and other consequences of our current immigration laws compel us to seek reform.


The United States should acknowledge our history as a nation of immigrants by creating an immigration process that honors migrants' contributions and commitment to our country. As people called to welcome the newcomer, LIRS supports a comprehensive solution to the challenge of the United States' broken immigration system. We urge Congress and the Obama Administration to work collectively to pass and enact fair and humane immigration reform.

LIRS advocates for reform that will:

* Provide an earned pathway to lawful permanent residency and eventual citizenship for undocumented immigrants and their families. * Ensure the humane and just enforcement of U.S. immigration laws, specifically by reducing the use of immigration detention and expanding the use of community support programs for immigrants who do not need to be detained. * Protect families from separation and ensure an adequate supply of visas for families seeking to reunite. * Provide adequate resources and protections to ensure the successful integration of refugees, asylees, survivors of torture and trafficking, unaccompanied minors, and other vulnerable migrants. * Ensure the protection of U.S. citizen and migrant workers.

LSG Hosts Orientation for Fostering Unaccompanied Children


On Thursday, October 30, 2014, Lutheran Services of Georgia hosted an orientation for individuals interested in opening their homes to unaccompanied migrant children. In response to outreach efforts in LaGrange, several families came out to LaGrange Memorial Library to learn more about becoming short-term, transitional foster homes for this vulnerable population.

The evening began with snacks and introductions. Gayle Cruz, LSG’s Specialized Foster Care Recruiter, and Anton Flores, co-founder of LaGrange’s Alterna, presented on short-term foster care. Attendees watched a video explaining the conditions that cause unaccompanied children to flee their countries of origin and the treacherous journeys they make to the United States. Afterwards, LSG gave out packets of information including applications to begin the foster care training process. Five families expressed interest in becoming short-term foster homes, and two families have already taken the first steps to begin training.

LSG is collaborating with other LaGrange area organizations and ministries to create safe, welcoming foster homes and a supportive community for unaccompanied children. A local recreational center has offered to provide space for the trainings and for family gatherings once the children have arrived. LSG is grateful to community partners, including the LaGrange Memorial Library, for their support.

LSG is currently determining the next location in metro Atlanta and the surrounding areas where foster homes for unaccompanied children will be developed. Prospective foster families must undergo a three-stage approval process involving orientation, training, and a thorough family assessment. The approval process takes three to four months to complete. LSG expects to begin receiving children from the Office of Refugee Resettlement in February 2015. Families with one bilingual adult are preferred, but those without will be considered on a case-by-case basis.

If you are interested in learning more about becoming a foster home, contact Gayle Cruz at or 404-207-0131.

LSG Participates in Georgia's Inaugural Heart Gallery!

heart gallery Lutheran Services of Georgia recently participated in Georgia’s first-ever Heart Gallery! Now in its thirteenth year, Heart Gallery is a nationwide traveling photographic and audio exhibit created to find forever families for children in foster care. On Saturday, November 1, 2014, LSG joined other adoption agencies at Savannah Christian Church to showcase 16 of the 600 waiting children in Georgia’s foster care system to prospective adoptive families.

LSG Savannah staff members Lydia McCrary, Tacarra Hayes, and Teer Mitchell helped showcase several children who are part of LSG’s Wendy’s Wonderful Kids caseload, including a sibling group of three, a teenage girl, a medically fragile toddler, and a sibling group of two pre-teen girls. Several families expressed interest in adoption, while others asked questions about becoming foster parents or providing respite through LSG. Next week, LSG will host an adoption party where these families will have the opportunity to meet many of the children.

LSG is excited to have participated in the inaugural Heart Gallery, especially as being showcased in the Heart Gallery triples a child’s chance of being adopted into a forever family. Families who are not interested in adopting but would still like to support foster children can donate money to help pay for the cost of showcasing a child in the gallery. LSG looks forward to more events and hopes to participate in the next gallery, scheduled to take place in Bulloch County.

Click here for more information about adopting through LSG or click here to learn more about the Heart Gallery of Georgia.

Win Up to $500 for LSG with an "Unselfie"!


Georgia Gives Day is less than a month away on Thursday, November 13! As November 13 draws near, Georgia Gives Day wants to see your stories of why you give...and give you a chance to win up to $500 for nonprofits like Lutheran Services of Georgia.

Want to Support LSG? Here's How it Works:
1) Between now and November 3, take a selfie that shows why you're giving to LSG on Georgia Gives Day.
2) Post it to your Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram and tag it #unselfie and #GAgivesday. Georgia Gives Day will be sharing occasionally from the GA Gives Day Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram accounts. You can also tag your photo with #LSGGives or email it to Abi Koning at and we'll share on the LSG pages.
3) On the week of November 10, GA Gives will share the top finalists on Facebook and count on followers to vote for their favorite with a like. The top three vote-getters will receive a donation to the GA Gives Day nonprofit of their choice in their name--$500 for first place, and $100 each for second and third.
And don't forget: On November 13, visit our profile and give what you can. Every donation, no matter how small, supports those in need and helps us compete for GA Gives prizes.
For more ways to support LSG on Georgia Gives Day, click here.

Lutheran Services of Georgia Honors Heroes of Hope, Healing, and Strength


On Thursday, September 25, 2014, Lutheran Services of Georgia honored community heroes at the seventh annual Heroes of Hope, Healing, and Strength Gala. Held at the Defoor Centre, the gala brought together LSG staff, volunteers, and supporters to recognize the Rev. Darrel and Mary Peterson, Mr. Erroll B. Davis, and R.N.C. Industries for bringing hope, healing, and strength to those in need.

The evening began with a cocktail reception and silent auction. Over 35 individuals, corporations, and organizations generously donated gift cards, handmade scarves, brewery tours, hotel stays, and more for the auction. As attendees mingled and out-bid each other, they enjoyed live music from local jazz musicians, the TAJ trio.

Scott Light, news anchor for CBS 46, served as the Master of Ceremonies, expressing his excitement at telling the “underreported stories” of people doing good work in their communities. As attendees enjoyed a three-course meal, LSG staff and clients told stories from Foster Care, Adoptions, and Refugee and Immigration Services. Robert and Geraldine Smith, a couple who has both adopted through LSG and served as foster parents, shared how LSG helped them open their home to children. Jamshid Samadi, a former interpreter for the U.S. military in Afghanistan who arrived in the U.S. on a Special Immigrant Visa, thanked LSG for providing him with employment services.

Attendees watched tribute videos about LSG’s 2014 Heroes and the heroes were given the opportunity to speak. Adam and Derek Peterson introduced their parents, the Rev. Darrel and Mary Peterson, praising them for their “intentional lives full of faith, service to others, and most importantly, good times.” Darrel and Mary’s ties run deep with Lutheran Social Services agencies and with the Lutheran church. Darrel and Mary thanked LSG for bridging Lutheran congregations and the community through social ministry to those in need.

LSG next recognized Mr. Erroll B. Davis, the former superintendent of Atlanta Public Schools, for his commitment to education and to Georgia’s children. Erroll spoke about his connections with Hmong and Vietnamese refugees resettled in Wisconsin with help from Lutherans. He thanked his wife Elaine for her support throughout their 22 years of marriage.

LSG then honored local family-owned business R.N.C. Industries for partnering with LSG to employ recently arrived refugees. Taylor Clark, Vice President of Marketing, and Maria Cornejo, the Human Resources Manager, represented the company. Taylor shared her personal story of watching her family’s business grown and affirmed R.N.C. Industries’ commitment to give their employees a brighter future.

LSG thanks all those who made this celebration possible, especially silent auction donors, supporters, the Defoor Centre, Scott Light, and our 2014 Heroes of Hope. We look forward to 2015, when we will celebrate other community heroes who bring hope, healing, and strength to those in need.

 For photos from the event, visit our Facebook page. To watch the tribute videos, check out our YouTube channel.