Today’s Front Line Hero: The Village On The Isle

June 30, 2020

Today’s Front Line Hero is The Village On The Isle, which showed gratitude to the high school seniors employed there by throwing them a prom.

The Village On The Isle (VOTI) is a large retirement community in Venice, Florida, with 450 residents and 300 employees. Many of those employees are high school students, and for the past few months, they have been delivering meals to the 450 residents with smiles under their face masks.

Like other high school seniors across the US, the students working at VOTI have been denied rites of passage like prom and graduation since the COVID-19 pandemic forced schools to close. One of the students was overheard saying that they should wear their prom dresses to work, since they would not otherwise get a chance to wear them.

The student’s idea about wearing their prom dresses to work made its way up the chain, all the way to CEO Joel Anderson. Anderson decided to go even further, and held a prom for the 24 high school students who work at VOTI.

The prom occurred on May 15 and began with a parade around VOTI’s campus, during which the high schoolers rode in golf carts, wearing their prom attire, and residents stood on their balconies to cheer and wave as they went past. Then, the students sat down to a plated dinner, served by the senior management staff at VOTI, which was followed by music and dancing.

Anderson wanted to show gratitude to the high school students who have worked faithfully throughout the COVID-19 pandemic. “We are vested in their lives and proud of their accomplishments and we know that everyone in The Village on the Isle appreciates their care and service to our mission and our residents,” he said.

Thank you to The Village On The Isle for the kindness and gratitude you show to your employees, and for ensuring that the high schoolers working at VOTI got to enjoy a prom experience!

Fed Acknowledges “Critical Role” Nonprofits Play

June 2, 2020

The Federal Reserve Board continues to develop guidelines for the Main Street Lending Program. Authorized under the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act, this low-interest loan program for mid-sized businesses with up to 15,000 employees provides funding to be used to retain at least 90 percent of the recipient’s workforce. This program is especially important given that the Paycheck Protection Program currently doesn’t provide funding for nonprofits with more than 500 employees.

Unfortunately, as of April 30, the Federal Reserve has published an FAQ indicating that nonprofits are NOT currently eligible for this program (see Question E6). However, the Fed has stated that it recognizes “the critical role that nonprofit organizations play throughout the economy and [is] evaluating a separate approach to meet their unique needs.”

Given that the CARES Act provides the Federal Reserve with the authority to include nonprofits in this program, we will continue to urge senators to support nonprofits through this program and to include our key priorities in their next round of coronavirus relief legislation. Join us by using our advocacy tool to ask your senators to support health and human services nonprofits through the Main Street Lending Program and CARES 2.0.

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!

Language of the Unheard

June 5, 2020

I’m a first generation college student at Valparaiso University, pursuing a nursing degree. My keen interest in pursuing a career in the medical field is fueled by my commitment to providing quality services to marginalized communities. My guiding motivation is to eradicate poverty through empowering poor individuals to become self-sufficient and lobbying the government to end poverty, create positive change and promote justice for all.

Often it seems as if I’m fighting an uphill battle. I’m from an impoverished neighborhood on the South Side of Chicago where I’ve seen firsthand how lack of healthcare, poor education, unstable housing, corruption issues, and unjust authority figures aid in keeping the disadvantaged at a disadvantage. Most recently, the death of George Floyd has sparked an outrage in my community, causing people to protest, riot and loot. As a young black male and an active member of my community, I share their sentiment. Initially, I felt a sense of dejection, but now I feel empowered and motivated to be a better leader and to take a stand.

To understand the psychology of protests fragmenting into riots, we should revisit Martin Luther King Jr.’s 1967 speech entitled, “The Other America.” In the speech, King states, “I think America must see that riots do not develop out of thin air. Certain conditions continue to exist in our society which must be condemned as vigorously as we condemn riots. But in the final analysis, a riot is the language of the unheard.”

My community is unheard. People aren’t rioting solely because of George Floyd’s death, but because of the many other injustices that people of color endure. The acts of police brutality are happening in conjunction with the pandemic. People of color are dying from the virus at a higher rate than anyone else, largely due to the lack of healthcare. People of color also make up the majority of essential workers, yet are losing their jobs at a faster rate. Imagine constantly working more, but achieving less.

I had the chance to interact with various members from my community during a protest last weekend. A few elderly members of a Baptist church expressed their concerns to me about black youth and their endangered social position. They spoke about an overall desperate need for change and how they are willing to sacrifice their lives for future generations. A pastor from a local church discussed the effect systemic racism has on the black collective, making it much more difficult for individuals in impoverished communities to have the opportunity to succeed. One female protestor no older than 16, told us the heart wrenching story of losing her grandmother to the virus and two of her brothers to police brutality. Reliving that moment while writing this is emotionally triggering and reiterates the fact that something needs to be done!

I feel there is a better way to initiate change other than rioting, however, the “why” behind a riot is important. The Boston Harbor riots in 1773 started the fight that resulted in the formation of the United States. The Haymarket Riot in 1886 resulted in significant developments in the organized labor movement and people ultimately being granted 8-hour workdays. The King Assassination riots in 1968 led Congress to pass the Fair Housing Act to prevent racial discrimination in housing. The common thread in each of those cases is minority groups manifesting a desperate plea to be heard.

As a Nursing major, I tend to look at rioting as the symptom of a deeper disease. In order to treat the symptom, we have to treat the disease, which, in this case is systemic racism along with a history of black oppression. Rev. Dr. Otis Moss III stated, “Racism is a virus. It infects the spirit. It infects the soul.” This virus/disease has infected the soul of this country. It has rotted the basis of everyday life in the United States and managed to persist over 50 years after Dr. King’s “The Other America ” speech and his assassination.

Understanding the historical conceptualization of rioting is not at all saying it is civil or justified. Yet, trying to address the symptoms of a virus/disease without addressing its root causes is bad medicine. If we choose to ignore the underlying problem, we can never fully heal.

This is no longer just an issue of race, nor that of police brutality. This is a moral issue and when broken down and further explored, this is simply a matter of “right vs. wrong.” And as a faith based organization, Lutheran Services in America speaks to this issue by serving vulnerable populations, many of whom are people of color, with Christ like intention. Lutheran Services in America is guided by God’s call to love and serve. These values motivate Lutheran Services in America to stand in solidarity against injustice and systematic racism, to bring about a change that is long overdue. I am proud to be a part of that effort.

Today’s Front Line Hero: Lutheran Child and Family Services of Illinois

June 9, 2020

Today’s Front Line Hero is Lutheran Child and Family Services of Illinois, which is speaking out against structural racism, and is dedicated to dismantling inequitable systems in society.

LCFS of Illinois improves the wellbeing of people across Illinois through their children, youth, and families services. They offer programs such as foster care, adoption, and counseling, and their mission is to nurture children and strengthen families in need.

As part of the LCFS Illinois mission and vision, the organization voices a commitment to be color cognizant, “believing in the importance of racial and ethnic differences because of their profound impact on individuals, groups, communities and society, as well as acknowledging the accompanying widespread racism and discrimination in our broader society.” LCFS of Illinois has made a public profession to be a place where explicit, productive conversations about race are welcomed, and advocates for racial justice.

After the recent death of George Floyd at the hands of Minneapolis police and the protests that followed, LCFS of Illinois released a statement about social justice and racial inequity that aligns with their long-standing commitment to being an Anti-Racism organization. LCFS Illinois recognizes the justifiable anger and grief that followed the most recent acts of violence against African Americans in the United States, though this pattern of violence has been present for centuries. In their statement, LCFS of Illinois reaffirmed their vow to work toward dismantling systemic racism in the United States, and professed their intention to affect change within the organization, in the state of Illinois, and around the country.

Thank you to LCFS of Illinois for your leadership and long-standing dedication to racial justice.

New Law Affords Greater Flexibility for Paycheck Protection Program Loan Recipients

June 10, 2020

President Trump signed the Paycheck Protection Program Flexibility Act (H.R. 7010) into law last week Friday. The act provides additional flexibility for recipients of Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) loans by:

  • Extending the original eight-week period where entities needed to use the money to qualify for loan forgiveness to 24 weeks.
    Changing the original 75/25 rule to now require funding recipients to use 60 percent of the money for payroll costs and no more than 40 percent on other costs.
  • Easing the rehiring requirement based on inability to rehire former or similarly qualified employees, or possible inability to return to operations levels, and extending the rehiring deadline to the end of the year.
    Increasing the maturity timeline for new loans to five years.
  • Deferring payments of principal, interest, and fees until the date the lender receives payment for the forgiven amount of the loan, or 10 months after the end of the covered period.
  • Making PPP participants eligible for employee payroll tax deferral.

The remaining PPP funds, which are estimated at up to $120 billion, are expected to be allocated quickly. Those eligible are encouraged to apply as soon as possible. More information about the rollout is expected at today’s Senate Finance Committee hearing, which you can watch live at 2:30 p.m. ET here.

Today’s Front Line Hero: Lutheran Social Services of Wisconsin & Upper Michigan

June 10, 2020

Today’s Front Line Hero is Lutheran Social Services of Wisconsin & Upper Michigan, which recently released a powerful statement about the death of George Floyd and the ongoing struggle for racial equity.

LSS of Wisconsin & Upper Michigan provides a wide array of holistic services, including programming for children and families, people suffering from addiction, refugees, people with disabilities, and seniors. For generations, LSS has been addressing the states’ most complex challenges with the core values to act compassionately, serve humbly, and lead courageously.

LSS President and CEO Héctor Colón demonstrated that courageous leadership with a recent statement he shared with LSS employees, the board of directors, community members, and the media. In the statement, Colón shares his thoughts on George Floyd’s tragic death, and he begins by reading Floyd’s last words as he died at the hands of the police in Minneapolis. Colón says that his heart pains seeing the video and reports of Floyd’s death, as well as the larger story of racial and ethnic disparities that continue to exist in our justice system, healthcare system, and other systems in society.

Colón recognizes that his experience as a person of color differ from the experiences of George Floyd and others in the African American community, but he can identify with some of the racial and ethnic injustices. He relives some of his own experiences with racial injustice, including being needlessly stopped and aggressively searched by the police, having obscenities and racial slurs yelled and him, and being prohibited entry from establishments due to his race.

Colón is hopeful that the country can unite to address complex challenges in our society, and that some good can come from this tragic event. He calls on the viewer to look to systems and policies that foster the conditions in which senseless violence against people of color are allowed to occur, and to act courageously to change those systems. Colón quotes Martin Luther King, Jr., who said that, “Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that.” He encourages us to peacefully seek justice, and to act compassionately in the fight for racial equality.

Thank you to Héctor Colón and all the staff at Lutheran Social Services of Wisconsin & Upper Michigan who continue to act compassionately, serve humbly, lead courageously, and stand in support of the infinite worth of black lives.

Today’s Front Line Hero: Lutheran Family Services of Virginia

June 11, 2020

Today’s Front Line Hero is Lutheran Family Services of Virginia, which is making efforts to ensure the Direct Support Professionals (DSPs) are shown well-deserved recognition for their hard work during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Lutheran Family Services of Virginia (LFSVA) has provided support and services to children, families, and adults for 130 years. Their programming includes services for individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities, helping children in foster care find temporary or permanent families, adoption counseling, and supporting children with behavioral challenges.

LFSVA offers a wide community of care for individuals with intellectual disabilities, and their efforts are driven by the belief that everyone is worthy. They provide extensive programming to address needs across the state, including group homes, day support, in-home care, and a supported employment to help people with disabilities who seek to fulfill their dream of a real job with a real wage.

The Direct Support Professionals (DSPs) who serve adults with intellectual disabilities are considered essential, and have continued their work every day throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, demonstrating their deep commitment to the individuals they support. LFSVA is grateful for those DSPs and their heroic efforts through the pandemic, and showed their gratitude by purchasing hoodies with a logo that identifies the DSPs as heroes. The LFSVA employees love the hoodies, and DSPs Stormie Shelton, Ang Quinn, and Vicky Hurt are shown above wearing the hoodies proudly and posing as superheroes, with smiles on their faces

Thank you to the incredible Direct Support Professionals who work hard every day to serve individuals with disabilities across Virginia, and to the staff at LFSVA who are recognizing them as heroes!

Today’s Front Line Hero: Lutheran Social Service of Minnesota

June 12, 2020

Today’s Front Line Hero is Lutheran Social Service of Minnesota (LSSMN), which is providing much needed resources to its community in times of unrest and uncertainty.

On June 2, LSSMN put out a call to its community for donations to support people in Minneapolis impacted by grocery store closures, damaged business, and transportation challenges. With just two days’ notice, the community members showed up on June 4 with immense generosity. People from all over Minnesota arrived at the LSSMN donation drive with van loads of supplies to support their fellow Minnesotans. Donations came in the form of financial gifts, gift cards for grocery stores and transportation, baby items, hygiene items, and household supplies. People also donated their time, with more than 65 volunteers working at the donation drive.

Word spread quickly among residents in Minneapolis, and the LSSMN became a go-to distribution center for people in need. LSSMN recognizes that the need for resources will persist in Minneapolis, and it plans to continue the donation drive. LSSMN expresses its gratitude to the hundreds of Minnesotans who demonstrated an outpouring of compassion and support for their neighbors.

Thank you to LSSMN for helping to resource residents in Minneapolis, and for fostering unity across the state!

Today’s Front Line Hero: Lutheran Social Services of New York

June 15, 2020

Today’s Front Line Hero is Lutheran Social Services of New York (LSSNY), which is making efforts to recognize the unsung heroes of the pandemic.

Lutheran Social Services of New York (LSSNY) has sustained and even amplified its much-needed services in New York throughout the COVID-19 pandemic. LSSNY continues to serve its community, including the formerly homeless, people struggling with addiction, immigrants and refugees, people living with mental illness, families who are food insecure, and children in foster care.

Though they are providing crucial services in New York, social services providers are often overlooked. People thank doctors and nurses for their important work during the COVID-19 pandemic, but they forget about other care providers like social workers, case managers, and many others who are continuing their essential work. At the beginning of April, LSSNY started a series in which they recognize those unsung heroes in their midst.

Last week, LSSNY recognized Sandra Bisono, a case planner for LSSNY’s foster care program. For the last two years, Sandra has juggled part-time work at LSSNY and full-time graduate school, and she graduated this year with her masters in social work from Fordham University. LSSNY recently promoted Sandra to a foster care supervision position, a job she has worked hard to achieve and truly earned. Sandra has always stepped up to take on additional work to support the program, and is willing to help whenever needed.

During COVID-19, Sandra has gone the extra mile for her clients, including a 5+ hour’s long trip to the emergency room with an 11-year-old girl when a foster parent couldn’t leave her other children at home alone. She maintains her composure amidst the challenges COVID-19 presents so she can serve her clients well. Fordham University’s alumni magazine also recently recognized Sandra in a piece about alumni on the front lines of the pandemic.

Thank you to LSSNY employees like Sandra Bisono who are committed to the community they serve during the COVID-19 pandemic, and to LSSNY for elevating their work!