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Seen and Heard: 2 win Lutheran Social Services work awards

October 8, 2018

Lutheran Social Service of Minnesota (LSS) is the state’s largest nonprofit with more than 2,300 staff and 10,000 volunteers.

LSS was founded in 1865 by a Lutheran pastor near Red Wing seeking to provide care for four orphaned children. Today LSS serves children, youth, families, older adults, and persons with disabilities in all 87 Minnesota counties.

Last month, two LSS employees in Rochester received the 2018 Spirit Award for their commitment to the mission of LSS and service to our community. The Spirit Award recipients were nominated by their co-workers.

Mya Conrad, a LSS case worker with an educational background in law enforcement, works with victims and survivors of sex trafficking. Mya, honored by the award, but very modest, said that her commitment to her work and clients actually prevented her from attending the Spirit Award ceremony.

Mya’s work isn’t over at the end of any workday. If there is a crisis, she attends to it anytime, even during the night or after hours. As a caseworker, she is an advocate for her clients. And she relishes the rewards. Describing a client’s graduation from high school, Mya said, “The rewarding moments, the roller coaster ride, it’s all worth it.”

Mya personally values the services LSS provides here in Rochester. She was a beneficiary of their LINK (Living Independently with Knowledge) program, which supports youth who are experiencing or are at-risk of homelessness. Mya said, “As I grew up and pursued my education, I reached out and contacted my old caseworker. Now we are co-workers.”

Chad Larimer, a financial counselor for LSS, also received a 2018 Spirit Award. Financial stress is considered one of the top-five stressors among Olmsted County residents. While LSS has offered financial services for more than 30 years, the office providing financial counseling in Rochester has only been open for a year.

Many adults grow up without financial education; they may lack budget-making skills or find themselves caught up in the cycle of credit card debt. Chad hopes to be a “light at the end of a tunnel, not a train” for his clients. He finds great reward in his work, “setting people up for success.”

Seeking counsel for financial challenges is not easy in our culture. Chad says, “You can see the anxiety. Sometimes they are afraid to open up.” His confidential counseling along with a non-judgmental approach, allows his clients to begin a journey towards financial recovery, and he hopes to provide each one with a “path toward hopes and dreams.”

Julie Zachariason, the LSS co-worker who nominated Chad, said, “He keeps the best interests of those served top-of-mind when providing thoughtful, relevant information regarding money strategies. He is good about sharing a smile and instilling a sense of hope — and he has made a positive difference in the lives of many as a result.”

For more information about Lutheran Social Service of Minnesota and its services, visit www.lssmn.org.

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