Ukrainian Sanford Health Nurse Reunites with her Family

April 20, 2022

Weeks of fighting in Ukraine have been felt inside and outside the European nation, including 5,000 miles away in rural Bemidji, Minnesota. Olha Finnelly is a nurse at a local Sanford Health clinic whose family lives in Dnipro, about 250 miles southeast of capital Kyiv. The longer the war continued, the more her colleagues worried about her and her family.

“We’d ask, ‘how’s your family?’ One day all of the sudden she wasn’t functioning so well. Very teary-eyed. She was trying to get them out (of Ukraine). When we all heard that, we had to help,” said Kim Schulz, a medical laboratory scientist at Sanford Bemidji.

While Finnelly’s father and brother stayed in Ukraine to support their country, her mother, sister and three-year old niece traveled 22 hours by train, sharing a room that was designed for four with 16 people.

“They didn’t have any luggage with them,” Finnelly said. “The only belongings that they had were backpacks. They brought underpants for the little one. Some snacks, because you are not sure if you are able to get some food.”

Finnelly’s family would take a small bus to the Polish border, eventually making it to Krakow. From there, Finnelly booked them plane tickets to Minneapolis. The total expense for their travel was $3,000, all paid for by Finnelly’s co-workers who raised the money.

“In our Ukrainian language, we have this saying. ‘Tell me who is your friend, and I can tell you who you are.’ So I’m just so happy with my colleagues. (The) Sanford family in Bemidji … we are really like real family over here,” said Finnelly.

Sanford Health is the parent organization of the Evangelical Lutheran Good Samaritan Society, which is a member of Lutheran Services in America, a national network of 300 Lutheran health and human services organizations that lifts up one in 50 people in America each year. This year, The Evangelical Lutheran Good Samaritan Society celebrates 100 years of lifting residents, loved ones, and members of its community.

Learn more about Sanford Health and the Evangelical Lutheran Good Samaritan Society.

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This is an abridged version of a story that was originally featured in Sanford Health News.

Empowering Older Americans to Age Their Way

May 2, 2022

Older adults play vital, positive roles in our communities—as family members, friends, mentors, volunteers, civic leaders, members of the workforce and more. Just as every person is unique, so too is how they age and how they choose to do it—and there is no “right” way. That’s why the theme for Older Americans Month 2022 is “Age My Way.”

Every May, the Administration for Community Living leads the celebration of Older Americans Month. This year’s theme focuses on how older adults can age in their communities, living independently for as long as possible and participating in ways they choose.

While “Age My Way” will look different for each person, here are common things everyone can consider:

  • Planning: Think about what you will need and want in the future, from home- and community-based services to community activities that interest you.
  • Engagement: Remain involved and contribute to your community through work, volunteer and/or civic participation opportunities.
  • Access: Make home improvements and modifications, use assistive technologies and customize supports to help you better age in place.
  • Connection: Maintain social activities and relationships to combat social isolation and stay connected to your community.

This year, we are excited to celebrate Older Americans Month with our partners in the aging community. Follow along throughout the month to find resources on aging in place, addressing gaps in care in rural America and connecting people to vital services.

First up is our Strength & Service Series webinar on May 5, where you can learn how to leverage technology based on innovative and timely research from our partner iN2L to improve the quality of life for older adults.

Diverse communities are strong communities. Ensuring that older adults remain involved and included in our communities for as long as possible benefits everyone.

To learn what we’re doing to empower older adults, review our Senior Services webpage. You can also check out the official Older Americans Month website and join the conversation on social media using the hashtags #OlderAmericansMonth and #LutheranServices.

Today’s Front Line Hero: Lem Cartman

June 5, 2020

Today’s Front Line Hero is Lemuel Cartman, intern at Lutheran Services in America, who is promoting racial justice and equity in his community.

Lem will be a junior this fall at Valparaiso University in Valparaiso, IN, and is doing a summer internship with Lutheran Services in America. Due to the spread of coronavirus, Lem is completing his internship remotely from his home on the south side of Chicago. Lem is majoring in Nursing, and has worked as a Certified Nursing Assistant, as well as for numerous community service organizations. He serves on the executive board of his school’s service fraternity, and hopes to one day start a non-profit to address health disparities in his community in Chicago.

As police brutality and injustices committed against African Americans have received greater public attention over the past weeks, Lem has stepped up to be a leader in his community. Lem believes strongly that this moment is ripe for positive social change, and he is taking peaceful action to further that change. From cleaning up his community after riots, to protesting peacefully, to having respectful conversations with community members, Lem is making his voice heard. He made a public statement on behalf of the service fraternity he leads at Valparaiso University, saying that the brothers stand in solidarity against injustice and systemic racism to bring about change that is long overdue. He writes that this is a moral issue, and that we have a moral obligation to stand in the name of justice to “combat the forces of hate that plague our society.” Lem also posted about racial justice to the Lutheran Services in America blog page here.

Lutheran Services in America is honored to have Lem on board this summer, and proud to recognize him as Today’s Front Line Hero for his ongoing commitment to racial justice and equity!