Holiday Season Marks Fifth Anniversary of the Affiliation Between Lutheran SeniorLife and Lutheran Service Society

The time between Thanksgiving and Christmas is always special, particularly for a caring nonprofit agency like Lutheran SeniorLife’s Lutheran Service Society.

It is especially meaningful this year for the staff and individuals served by Lutheran Service Society, as this season marks the fifth anniversary of Lutheran Service Society’s affiliation with Lutheran SeniorLife.

And for Sarah Israel, the comparison of Lutheran Service Society before and after the affiliation is almost surreal.

Israel, who had been director of Lutheran Service Society’s adoption and foster care services at the time of the affiliation, remembers Lutheran Service Society being in dire straits when the agency joined Lutheran SeniorLife in November of 2014.

“We were struggling financially and facing significant challenges,” she said of the time leading up to the affiliation.

Israel was recently promoted to the position of Administrator of Lutheran Service Society for Lutheran SeniorLife, a position she sought due in part to Lutheran SeniorLife’s management prowess.

“Partnering with Lutheran SeniorLife gave us a lot of hope; it generated a lot of excitement among the staff and those we serve,” she remembers.

“I also would like to think [the affiliation] has brought a new element to Lutheran SeniorLife,” she added.

Donna Van Kirk, vice president of system development for Lutheran SeniorLife, was charged with leading the transition at Lutheran Service Society. She concurs with Israel’s assessment.

“Enhancing the Lutheran SeniorLife continuum with Lutheran Service Society’s variety of programs has added a lot of energy and excitement and has put Lutheran SeniorLife in the unique position of being a senior-living organization that also serves children and families,” she said.

Lutheran Service Society continues to focus on community-based programs, such as adoption and foster care services, the Center at the Mall and PrimeTime senior centers, and Meals On Wheels, which provides nutritious meals to seniors as well as other adults in need.

Lutheran SeniorLife also sees Lutheran Service Society as filling a special role in the ministry aspect of the organization.

The response of the clergy to the affiliation has been very positive throughout these first five years.

The Rev. Dr. Clif Suehr served as chairman of Lutheran Service Society’s board of directors at the time of the affiliation.

Seeing immediate improvements in Lutheran Service Society from the affiliation, he remarked, “This is absolutely the best thing that could have happened for Lutheran Service Society.”

Though Suehr’s words were spoken almost five years ago, in Israel’s mind, they were prophetic.

“The awareness of Lutheran Service Society has been lifted higher than at any time that I remember,” she said. “I am excited and honored to now be in a position to work with both boards and the staff to continue moving forward.”

As the New Year approaches, Lutheran Service Society looks forward to a bright future under the continued direction of Lutheran SeniorLife and Lutheran SeniorLife looks forward to Israel’s leadership there.