Featured Stories, Lutherans in Minnesota

Financing a mission to change lives

Lutheran Social Service of Minnesota raises more than $550,000 at annual gala

The mission of Lutheran Social Service of Minnesota (LSS) reads “Lutheran Social Service of Minnesota expresses the love of Christ for all people through service that inspires hope, changes lives, and builds community.” In keeping with this mission, LSS holds an annual Changing Lives Celebration — a fundraiser that took in more than $550,000 in September.

At this highly popular event, guests and LSS board members come together for an evening that celebrates how the love of one’s neighbor makes a powerful impact in people’s lives throughout Minnesota each year.

“LSS donors are Minnesotans who understand that it is God’s intention for us to care for all of our neighbors, and so they respond to their neighbors with goodwill, grace, and generosity,” CEO Jodi Harpstead said.

Lutheran Social Service of Minnesota CEO Jodi Harpstead (left) celebrates with the 2012 LSS Changing Lives Award recipients, Ted and Karen Contag, and their children Charlie and Max. Photos provided by Lutheran Social Service

Through the work of 2,300 staff, LSS supports people of all ages in Minnesota’s 87 counties and more than 300 communities. The organization’s strategic goals focus on children, youth, and families; people with disabilities; and older adults. In total, LSS offers 23 lines of social services.

Each year, the Changing Lives gala brings a sense of community to those who support the LSS mission. “There seemed to be a strong sense of shared purpose in the room for caring for our neighbors the way everyone responded to the stories of the people we support and serve,” said Harpstead.

“You get a sense of being surrounded by a cloud of witnesses who are making a difference,” Kathy Hansen, LSS vice president of development, said of the evening.

Bidding on changed lives

In addition to inspiring stories from LSS members, the evening annually includes a live auction, during which supporters generously give to the LSS mission. “People really get caught up in the moment. I love the fact that it’s all about the mission,” said Hansen.

Leading the auction was Glen Fladeboe who, through his family’s business Fladeboe Auctions, has served as the auctioneer at the event four times.

Fladeboe’s company does auctions for more than 200 nonprofits a year. Through his role, Fladeboe has been more than an auctioneer. When working with his nonprofit clients, Fladeboe says he becomes a spokesperson for the organization’s mission.

“LSS holds an enormously successful event, one of the most successful galas in Minnesota,” Fladeboe said. “The night is focused on the heart and soul of how LSS is changing lives and strengthening communities.”

A lifelong Lutheran, Fladeboe notes that auctioneering the LSS Gala is especially meaningful because he is “committed personally to the success of LSS.”

A helping hand to homeless teens

Each year at the gala, LSS also announces the recipients of its Changing Lives Award, given to a person or people who exemplify the LSS mission of service. This year’s awardees were Karen and Ted Contag. For the Contags, supporting LSS means more than their own financial generosity. It is about encouraging others and answering their Christian calling. “If you have been blessed, your calling is to share those blessings with others who need a helping hand,” Karen said.

The live auction raises significant funds for LSS programs.

“You get a sense of being surrounded by a cloud of witnesses who are making a difference,” Kathy Hansen said of the evening.

Each month, they lend a helping hand to homeless teens. Along with their sons Charlie and Max, the Contags regularly deliver lunches to LSS Safe House, a shelter for metro-area homeless youth.

“The more we’ve given, the more we feel blessed in more than monetary ways,” Karen said of their service in a video shown at the event.

As a wealth advisor for Thrivent Financial, Ted works with others to think about what their legacy will be. Likewise, through volunteer leadership with LSS, he and Karen have worked to help others think about their own Christian impact.

In the gala video, Ted explained, “that leads us to ask the question ‘What’s the footprint you get to leave on this planet?’ When you’re walking through the pearly gates, I don’t think you’re going to want to say, look at at all the stuff I bought.”

On the LSS website, the Contags are described as an “extraordinary pair,” saying of them, “abundance is measured not by how much they have, but how much they give.”

Of their giving, the Contags say, “We feel blessed to have, at a relatively young age, found so much joy in being able to share some of our abundance with these kids and LSS. We pray that our story will inspire others to experience the joy that comes from sharing.”

To view videos of the event and learn more about supporting the mission of Lutheran Social Service of Minnesota, visit www.lssmn.org.

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