Archive for the ‘BeREAL’ Category

The Measure of a Year: What LSS Accomplished in 2012

February 27, 2013

2012 blockThis past year, as with every year of the last 13 decades, LSS served the most vulnerable members of society. Of those we served, 96 percent are low income or impoverished. Through providing innovative, quality Christian care, and adapting to the needs of our clients, we strive to strengthen lives, families, and communities.

To help convey the scope of our services, and who they touch, we compile a list of what our agency has achieved in the past year and post it on our website. The numbers tell quite a story!  What they don’t tell is the sheer volume of hard work and loyal support of our volunteers, donors, and a statewide staff of more than 800 individuals who make all of it possible.

In addition to adoption and foster care, our vital programs and services also include residential children’s centers, charter schools, disaster response, emergency assistance, senior retirement communities, and spiritual care.

Following is our 2012 accomplishment list. We’re grateful that we have been given the opportunity to serve so many in need—over 25,000 to be exact.

Children’s Services

  • 1,913 children were provided foster care in 15 communities across Texas—Amarillo, Austin, Conroe/The Woodlands, Dallas, El Paso, Fort Worth, Harlingen, Laredo, Lubbock, McAllen, Mesquite, Robstown, San Antonio, Tyler, and Victoria, Texas.
  • 445 formerly abused children, ages 6-17, were served at two residential treatment centers: Krause Children’s Center in Katy, and New Life Children’s Center in Canyon Lake, Texas.
  • 557 child refugees were served at Bokenkamp Emergency Shelter, Corpus Christi, Texas.
  • 228 child refugees were provided transitional foster care in El Paso, Texas.
  • 107 Texas children were adopted through LSS domestic adoption program.
  • 69 children from countries such as China, Korea, Ethiopia, Colombia, India, Russia, Uganda, Ukraine, The Philippines, Kazakhstan, Thailand, and Taiwan were adopted through the LSS international adoption program in partnership with other international adoption agencies.
  • 4,545 volunteers served at New Life, Krause, Bokenkamp, and fundraising events.
  • 145 New Orleans foster youth were served by BeREAL, a mentoring program for teens “aging out” of the Louisiana foster care system.
  • 1,084 students were served at Trinity Charter Schools.

Senior Services

  • More than 989 older adult residents of LSS senior living options, ranging from independent living to skilled nursing and memory care, in Houston, Brenham, Victoria, Round Rock, and Lubbock, Texas.
  • 19 individual patients (1,904 hrs) were served through Care-Connect care management at The Village in Spring, Texas.

Services for Families in Crisis

  • 10,294 individuals were provided emergency assistance with rent, utilities, prescriptions, and other basic needs at Neighborhood House in Lubbock, Texas. More than 127,000 lbs. of food and hygiene products were distributed.
  • 1,668 individual patients were served during 8,121 patient visits through Health For Friends Clinic in Lubbock, Texas.

Disaster Response

  • Approx. 150 families were helped with emergency disaster assistance in TX and LA (wildfires, floods, tornadoes, hurricanes).
  • Rebuild/unmet needs funding went to more than 30 families in Bastrop and Spicewood.
  • Aid was given to more than 300 farm families suffering drought/wildfires through Haylift to Texas efforts.
  • Repair/rebuild work was done on 60+ homes in Bastrop.
  • Coordinated approx. 1,900 volunteers for nearly 53,000 volunteer hours.
  • Total clients served by LSSDR = 540 families; 1,458 individuals

BeREAL Christmas Party – a New Orleans Food Feast With Tons of Fun, and Gifts for All!

January 7, 2013

[Story by Christie Kieschnick, BeREAL Director of Education & Career Development]

bereal xmas clausThe BeREAL* Christmas Party, in partnership with the Greater New Orleans Foster and Adoptive Parent Association and numerous churches and organizations, has become an annual event that all of our youth, children, and stakeholders look forward to with great anticipation.  This year, as usual, no one was disappointed!

Thanks to the incredibly generous donations of several giving individuals, a delicious feast was provided by some favorite New Orleans restaurants. Red beans and rice, turkey and andouille gumbo, and sausage and shrimp jambalaya from Deanie’s Seafood Restaurant, chicken drummettes and shrimp fried rice from Louisiana Pride Seafood, and sandwiches from Rouse’s Catering were enjoyed (and devoured) by all.  Comments about the yummy food were heard all evening.

As always, Mr. Patrick was the Christmas D.J. and the foster parents led games for the children. The gift-giving from Santa was the main event of the night with a new twist this year. Not only did we have Santa, but Mrs. Claus joined the party too!  The children loved having their picture taken with the Claus couple.  Mrs. Claus made it easy and very welcoming for the little ones who were scared of Santa.

The more than 100 gifts presented were donated by over 20 churches, organizations, and individuals.  We could not have this party without the commitment of those who give so generously every year.

The following remarks from party guests tell the story:

“I really love this. This is like one big, happy family. Like I’m at a family reunion. This is great.”

– 19-yr-old BeREAL Gap Team Volunteer

“Thank you for my bike, Santa!”

–6-yr-old boy

“I had the BEST time!  That was so much fun!”

–16-yr-old girl

“This is my favorite night ever!”

–10-yr-old girl

“We cannot tell you how much the kids and families look forward to this night. And they talk about it the rest of the year.”

–Foster parent and Board Member of the Foster Parent’s Association

This party was just a great way for everyone involved in BeREAL to celebrate Christmas, wind up 2012, and launch the new year!

bereal xmas bikes bereal xmas crowd

 

*BeREAL (Ready, Educated, Accomplished Leaders),  a project of Lutheran Social Services in collaboration with the Louisiana Dept. of Children & Family Servicesprovides transition services for youth ages 13-25 aging out of Louisiana’s foster care system, through training, support, and mentoring programs.

David’s Trip to New Orleans

October 2, 2012

David Kahle, LSS Senior Vice President for Agency Advancement, recently visited the BeREAL (Ready, Educated, Accomplished Leaders) program in New Orleans. He was touched and impressed by the young participants and stories of their resilience and drive as they work with the program’s leaders and mentors to improve their own lives.  Below is David’s recap of his visit.

BRsignsmallRecently I had the opportunity to meet with the leaders of LSS’s BeREAL program in New Orleans. BeREAL works with 20 foster children between the ages of 14 and 22, helps pair them with mentors, and provides them with opportunities and assistance to reach their true potential—to graduate high school, attend/graduate college and become successful business men and women.

Christie Kieschnick, BeREAL’s executive director, and her program manager Michael Patrick, proudly told me that two of the program’s young people are now in college and achieving high grades. They said that the other 18 girls and boys in the program are in middle and high school, learning interview/work skills through the program, and excitedly looking forward to their futures.

When I asked what “needs” the program had, Christie said that $25 gift cards are a constant need. Michael shared two stories about how they use them. Seventeen-year-old Sean [not his real name] was excited to get an interview at a nice New Orleans restaurant … but didn’t own the black slacks, sports shirt, and shoes he needed for the interview. Michael took Sean to a Target and used two gift cards to outfit him in the clothes he needed. SEAN GOT THE JOB! Michael added that this young man’s self-esteem has never been higher, his grades are up, and he’s looking forward to college next year. He’s a model for the other participants.

A 16-year-old in the program I’ll call “Sharie,” called Michael one evening, asking if there might be any food available at the office? “Anything would be nice,” she said, because “my younger brother and I haven’t eaten in two days.” Michael left his home, picked Sharie up, and used a $25 gift card to get ramen noodles, vegetables, and fruit that would last for a few days.

Christie and Michael have dozens and dozens of stories like this, as all of BeREAL’s youth are a part of the state’s under-funded foster care system. The exciting thing is that the BeREAL children will, with God’s grace and partners in ministry, grow up to be successful, productive citizens.

When I asked Christie, “What would be something really nice someone could do for the BeREAL children and the program?” she said they have started a reading program for 15 of the kids. Books and materials will cost $20 per child ($300 a semester, twice a year). They will spend one evening a week reading and discussing a book together after school. This will progress into a creative writing project, and Christie hopes to find someone to publish and sponsor these young student’s creations next year.

Christie and Patrick told me the BeREAL youth all enjoy roller skating, and that it would be wonderful to have a $750 sponsor step forward. This would allow them to reserve a skating rink, provide chicken and fried rice, so the BeREAL children, along with 50 other Louisiana foster children, could enjoy a fun Christmas party in December.

As I walked to my car, a BeREAL teenager smiled and said “Hi!” When I asked what he thought of the program, he said “Miss Christie, Mr. Patrick, and my mentor are my heroes! I’m now getting straight A’s!”

After experiencing BeREAL and the work being accomplished there, my wife Kim and I have decided to designate additional gifts to help make the lives of these Louisiana children better this fall. Would you be able to join us … and consider being a “hero” with your time, talents, and/or resources in the BeREAL children’s eyes? You can support this important program with an online donation, or by volunteering your time if you live in the New Orleans area.

Hurricanes & Back to School With BeREAL

September 10, 2012

BeREALBack-To-School Party August 2012[story by Christie Kieschnick, BeREAL Director of Education & Career Development, New Orleans]Thankfully, all of the BeREAL* youth are safe and doing well following the onslaught and aftermath of Hurricane Isaac. Of course, everyone was seriously inconvenienced and several schools did not reopen as soon as hoped.  The BeREAL Center fared just fine.

The recent hurricane was yet another example of the resilience of our youth – as they deal with the interruptions in their lives – whether it’s change of placements, schools, or even hurricanes, they continue to bounce back in the face of all kinds of “storms.” They’re incredible!

Back-to-School Party

Prior to Hurricane Isaac’s arrival, the BeREAL youth, staff, and mentors celebrated getting back to school in New Orleans with an afternoon of skating, pizza, and games.  Even Transition Coach Michael Patrick skated … and we had to admit that, to our surprise, he did better than several of the youth! 

It was great to get everyone together for fun and good conversation.  One of our youth’s biological parents came to the party, as they are in the process of reunification, and it was wonderful to welcome her to the BeREAL family.  It was another youth’s 14thbirthday, and we were so happy that she chose to spend the afternoon with us so we could celebrate with her.  And to top all that off, it was such a nice surprise to have one of our college students join us.  Guess you’re never too old to enjoy a good skating party!

All of our youth are so excited about the upcoming kick-off of our new weekly literacy program, “Think Outside the Book.”  We’re partnering with the New Orleans Public Library, and they are allowing us to use a “Teen Area” at one of their main libraries that is centrally located for our youth. This new voluntary program encourages creative arts exploration through reading, engaging discussions, and group activities, while increasing the academic and literacy focus of BeREAL.

Each semester we will select one or two books to read as a group. The first book we will be using is Bad Boy by Walter Dean Myers.  After a read-aloud time, we will split into small groups and focus on creative writing, illustration, and discussion.  One of our high school juniors is going to lead the creative writing team, as that is his passion. We can’t wait to get started!

It’s gonna be a great school year!

* BeREAL (Ready, Educated, Accomplished Leaders), a project of Lutheran Social Services in collaboration with the Louisiana Dept. of Children & Family Services, provides transition services for youth ages 13-25 aging out of Louisiana’s foster care system, through training, support, and mentoring programs.

LSS By the Numbers: 2011 Accomplishments

February 7, 2012

2011target By February of each year, award season is in full swing, and “Best of” and “Top 10” lists have been publicized in every magazine on the rack. In addition, organizations – both for-profit and non-profit – have compiled their year-in-review recaps and statistics. Lutheran Social Services is no exception, as we take stock annually of just who, and how many, we serve in a given year.

We recently posted the list of “2011 Accomplishments” on our website. The total scope of our services may surprise you! Categorized into four areas of service – Children’s Services/Senior Services/Families in Crisis/Disaster Response – the numbers tell quite a story. What they don’t tell is the sheer volume of hard work and loyal support of our volunteers, donors, and a statewide staff of more than 850 that makes all of it possible.

We invite you to take a look at our 2011 accomplishment list below. We’re pretty proud of it!

Children’s Services

· 1,871 children provided foster care in 16 communities across Texas—Amarillo, Austin, Bryan/College Station, Conroe/The Woodlands, Dallas, El Paso, Fort Worth, Harlingen, Laredo, Lubbock, McAllen, Mesquite, Robstown, San Antonio, Tyler, and Victoria, Texas.

· 500 formerly abused children, ages 6-17, served across three residential treatment centers: Krause Children’s Center in Katy, New Life Children’s Center in Canyon Lake, Texas, and Nelson Children’s Center in Denton (now closed).

· 444 child refugees served at Bokenkamp Emergency Shelter, Corpus Christi, Texas.

· 184 child refugees provided transitional foster care in El Paso, Texas.

· 148 Texas children adopted through LSS domestic adoption program.

· 52 children from countries such as China, Korea, Ethiopia, Colombia, India, Russia, Uganda, Ukraine, The Philippines, Kazakhstan, Thailand, and Taiwan adopted through LSS international adoption program in partnership with other international adoption agencies.

· 9,430 volunteers made life better for children at New Life, Nelson, Krause, and Bokenkamp.

Senior Services

· 84 older adults served through our Adult Day Care Center in El Paso, Texas.

· More than 850 older adult residents of LSS senior living options, ranging from independent living to skilled nursing and memory care, in Houston, Brenham, Victoria, Round Rock, and Lubbock, Texas.

· 297 individuals served through Care-Connect senior care management services, now serving clients in Austin and Spring, Texas.

Services for Families in Crisis 

· 13,968 individuals provided emergency assistance with rent, utilities, prescriptions, and other basic needs at Neighborhood House in Lubbock, Texas. More than 62 tons of food and hygiene products were distributed.

· 1,606 individual patients served during 7,280 patient visits through Health For Friends Clinic in Lubbock, Texas.

Disaster Response

· 8,102 Hurricane Ike-affected households were provided case management by LSS Disaster Response through the RISE program.

· 6,448 Hurricane Ike-affected households received more than $9.5 million in direct assistance for housing-related unmet needs, such as furniture and appliances.

· 22,213  individuals served by LSS Disaster Response in 2011.

· $13,993,064 total value of services provided by LSS Disaster Response in 2011.

A BeREAL Christmas

January 6, 2012

[SBereal Santa and Nathan 2011tory by Christie Kieschnick, BeREAL

Director of Education & Career Development]

 More than 100 people gathered in New Orleans for a special celebration on December 15th when BeREAL held its annual Christmas party.  Ten different organizations provided gifts for close to 100 children and youth.  The grateful recipients were either part of the Greater New Orleans Foster and Adoptive Parents Association (GNOFPA)or BeREAL*. 

GNOFPA brought lots of food (and it was delicious): chicken, shrimp fried rice, chips, and fruit boxes.  The BeREAL “family” provided music, sandwiches, drinks, and desserts.  Then it was time for games, and GNOFPA led everyone in a Christmas quiz and musical chairs. Why is it that musical chairs always seems to be even more fun for the adults than the kids? Next, a very jolly Santa stole the show when he gave out the presents.  Kevin Kieschnick from LINCNewOrleansserved as MC of the event, and commented that the BeREAL Christmas party just gets better and better every year! 

Five-year-old Morris (not his real name) attended his 2nd BeREAL Christmas party and certainly had a much better time this year. Last year he was so scared of Santa he was in tears – this year not only did he sit on Santa’s lap with a huge smile on his face, but he wouldn’t leave Santa’s side!!

BeREAL wishes everyone a very, very happy 2012!

Bereal Christmas gifts 1 2011

* BeREAL (Ready, Educated, Accomplished Leaders), a project of Lutheran Social Services in collaboration with the Louisiana Dept. of Children & Family Services, provides transition services for youth ages 13-25 aging out of Louisiana’s foster care system, through training, support, and mentoring programs.

Serve-A-Palooza in New Orleans: Event Draws Volunteers to BeREAL

November 11, 2011

Transition Coach Michael Patrick at Serve-A-Palooza

BeREAL* joined 40 local nonprofit and community organizations at the Delgado Community College (DCC) Serve-A-Palooza, an event coordinated by the Service Learning Department at DCC.  BeREAL hosted a booth in the Student Life Center on the Delgado City Park Campus, as hundreds of students came to mill about, enjoy music, food, and door prizes, and learn more about internships and volunteer opportunities. The Office of Service Learning promotes civic engagement and service learning across the College and the Greater New Orleans community.

BeREAL’s Transition Coach Michael Patrick and Director of Education & Career Development Christie Kieschnick were able to connect with many students, professors, and other community organizations about volunteer opportunities with BeREAL—over 20 students signed up for more information about mentoring!  College-aged mentors have proven to be very effective with high school youth, so this was a happy day for the BeREAL team.

“Delgado Community College is the main college that BeREAL youth attend, so the DCC campus was the perfect venue for us,” Christie Kieschnick said. “Serve-A-Palooza offered an ideal opportunity to get the word out about BeREAL and network to learn about other community connections that can benefit the BeREAL youth.  BeREAL hopes to be a part of more events like this at various universities in New Orleans.”

* BeREAL (Ready, Educated, Accomplished Leaders), a project of Lutheran Social Services in collaboration with the Louisiana Dept. of Children & Family Services, provides transition services for youth ages 13-25 aging out of Louisiana’s foster care system, through training, support, and mentoring programs.

BeREAL Celebrates Education New Orleans-Style

September 21, 2011

BeREAL Learning Wall BTS Party 2011 [Story by Christie Kieschnick, Director of Education & Career Development, BeREAL]

About 60 guests rallied at the BeREAL* site on September 15th for the second annual BeREAL/Foster Parent’s Association Back-to-School party.  Nothing says “New Orleans” like music and great food, and the crowd celebrated with shrimp fried rice and fried chicken (a favorite of BeREAL youth) from Louisiana Pride Seafood.  Our wonderful BeREAL mentors provided desserts for all.  The youth and children played basketball and air hockey, danced, and had many great conversations—with each other and the adults too.

At BeREAL, education is the top priority and main focal point for all of our youth’s future plans and goals.  That priority was celebrated with a “Learning Wall,” where every participant had the chance to write or draw what they like to learn about.  Everyone, young and old, got into the act. Comments on the Wall ranged from “I like to learn about ANTS,” to “I want to learn how to work with surgeons during an operation.”

As I was driving one of our BeREAL high school seniors home after the party, he said “That was a great party.  I loved the people there – the kids – and the adults were great too!”  Not often that you hear a high school senior appreciate having adults at a party! It was a good event for everyone involved and an excellent start to the new school year.

* BeREAL (Ready, Educated, Accomplished Leaders), a project of Lutheran Social Services in collaboration with the Louisiana Dept. of Children & Family Services, provides transition services for youth ages 13-25 aging out of Louisiana’s foster care system, through training, support, and mentoring programs.

Graduation, Recognition, and a Promising Future for Akieba

June 13, 2011

Bereal Akieba Sheer determination and support proved to be the pivotal components behind the academic and personal success of graduating senior Akieba Sims, a BeREAL* youth in New Orleans. In May, like multitudes of seniors everywhere, Akieba received her high school diploma. While this might not qualify as earth-shattering news, it is, in fact, quite remarkable.

Just one year ago, Akieba was told by school advisors that going back to high school wasn’t the best plan and was advised to get a GED.  She refused to take that route. It was her dream to attend classes again and get a regular high school diploma. 

A period of homelessness and the birth of her son in November 2010 made Akieba’s goal of graduating seem even less attainable. But she was not alone. Her friends, the Department of Children & Family Services (DCFS), and her team at BeREAL were all behind her. Akieba’s DCFS caseworker helped her find a high school willing to take her, and BeREAL provided a Transition Coach, volunteer mentor, and a Gap Team tutor, along with direct funding support for bus passes, clothing, groceries, fixing her laptop, and graduation fees. 

With a determined focus on beating the odds, Akieba proved the doubters wrong. Not only did she graduate with the class on May 19th, but she received three awards at Senior Awards Night! These included top honors in Sociology and Environmental Science, and a Leadership Scholarship from Delgado Community College. Akieba, now 20, is making plans to attend Delgado in the fall. Everyone at BeREAL is so proud of her!

* BeREAL (Ready, Educated, Accomplished Leaders), a project of Lutheran Social Services in collaboration with the Louisiana Dept. of Children & Family Services, provides transition services for youth ages 13-25 aging out of Louisiana’s foster care system, through training, support, and mentoring programs.

BeREAL Artist Shows His Stuff

May 17, 2011

Self Effigy BeREAL* youth Joseph Hensley had two paintings featured in the New Orleans Contemporary Arts Center (CAC) show “Yesterday, Today, and Tomorrow: Teen Artists’ Perceptions of Time.”  Joe’s medium is acrylic on paper, and his works were titled “Self Effigy” and “A Native in Green.” Joe is a junior and a talented visual arts student at John McDonogh Senior High School in New Orleans.  His BeREAL Transition Coach Michael Patrick, BeREAL Program Director Christie Kieschnick, Department of Child & Family Services (DCFS) caseworker, and friend Akieba Sims (who is also a BeREAL youth) accompanied Joe to view his art on display.

A Native in Green The art display ran from March 19 through May 1.  It showcased the teens’ interpretations of past, present, and future personal experiences, dreams, fears, and hopes.  The CAC Teen Board curated this eclectic collection of recent student artwork, representing 16 local area schools. The CAC provides support to artistic teenagers by giving them a place to display their work and develop their artistic passions. 

Congratulations, Joe!

* BeREAL (Ready, Educated, Accomplished Leaders), a project of Lutheran Social Services in collaboration with the Louisiana Dept. of Children & Family Services, provides transition services for youth ages 13-25 aging out of Louisiana’s foster care system, through training, support, and mentoring programs.


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