Giving Tuesday

July 14th

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7 Ways to Help Your Child Enjoy Reading

As a reader, I have traveled the world, met famous artists, explored space and solved mysteries – without ever leaving my living room. As an author, I have used stories to encourage and inspire women around the world. Books can take us on amazing adventures, teach us about new people and ways of life, and encourage us through some of life’s hardest moments.


Although I’ve always loved reading (and almost always had a book with me as a child), my daughter prefers math because it comes more easily to her. There is something about two plus two always equaling four that gives her confidence, and she spends as much time figuring out math facts as she does creating art projects.


So, we’ve been creating fun (and sometimes funny) math word problems for her to read and solve. As she draws silly pictures to figure out the equations, she’s learning how reading, math and art can all work together.


If you have a reluctant reader in your home, try these ideas to encourage him or her to become a lifelong lover of the written word.


Read aloud to your child every day. Whether you read together at bedtime or do story time in the morning, reading to your child, no matter their age, can help them enjoy reading.


When children listen to great stories, they’re exposed to new vocabulary and grammar principles. But even more importantly, they begin to see how words construct meaning in the world around us. Whether students arrive in the classroom unable to read the alphabet or already reading chapter books, reading aloud offers the opportunity to capture their imaginations and introduce them to quality fiction and nonfiction. – We Are Teachers


BONUS: Borrow audiobooks from the library to listen to in the car instead of watching shows on a mobile device. Escape from Mr. Limoncello’s Library is one the whole family can enjoy – and it’s about books!


Think outside the book. Pick a kid-friendly cookbook or find a recipe online and work with your child to make the dish. They can practice reading (and math!) as they give you instructions and enjoy the delicious results. Traveling somewhere new on vacation? Why not head to the library or your local travel agency and find some books about your destination. Consider allowing your child to plan a small part of your trip so they can see how reading and planning can result in an amazing adventure.


Show them their progress. Create a fun sticker chart that shows your child how many minutes they’ve spent reading. Consider adding an incentive, like seeing the movie version of the book they’re reading, going to the park or taking a special trip to the bookstore.


Play games to encourage reading. I learned how to read by doing word searches with my grandfather. He read the word to me, and I matched the letters. Play games like “Swat a Sight Word” or “Sight Word Bingo” with younger readers to make learning to read fun. For older readers, consider “Boggle,” “Scrabble” or “Googly Eyes” to challenge their spelling, reading and creative skills.


Visit your local library. Librarians are incredible resources for communities, and they’re great at recommending the perfect books for young readers. Tell your librarian about the activities, books and movies your child enjoys. From graphic novels to non-fiction books and everything in between, your librarian can help readers fall in love with books by connecting reading with things they already love.


BONUS: If your reader enjoys non-fiction books, try the “Who Was” series. Then, go to Netflix and watch the episodes that match each book in the series when they’re done! Amelia Earhart is a favorite in our house.


Make screen time work for you. With more access to technology than any generation before them, today’s children are easily able to navigate computers, tablets and smartphones. Using apps like Epic, Bob Books, Mad Libs and Word Bingo gives parents a chance to connect reading with a tool their kids already love. Check out this list of other reading apps for kids of all ages.


Start a kid-friendly book club. Adults know how fun it can be to read a book with friends and then meet to talk about it. Why not include the kids? Invite 3 or 4 families with children of similar ages to read a book together and meet twice a month for a “Book Brunch.” Kids can snack on donut holes and fruit while they chat about their favorite parts of the book and their favorite characters. If a parent in the group enjoys crafts, consider doing a themed art project together. At the end of each meeting, choose a new book and decide on the next day/time/place to meet.


Finally, don’t forget to offer encouragement! Whether your child reads one page or an entire book, make sure they know you see the effort they’ve made and that you’re proud of them. A teacher’s praise gave me the dream to become an author. Your words today might offer the hope of a bright, exciting future your child has only just started to dream about.


Our mission at work

Upbring’s research has identified education as one of five key markers of every child’s well-being, and it is woven into all our programs.

Whether they are preparing to start kindergarten, making up lost ground in the classroom or taking their first steps toward independence, we believe in every child, and we give them every opportunity to shine.



About the Author: Crystal Stine has lived almost her entire life in a small town in PA and is married to her high school sweetheart. Her passion is encouraging, equipping and inspiring women of all ages to embrace a work hard, rest well lifestyle that honors God – so they can work without shame and rest without guilt. An author and speaker, her first book, “Holy Hustle: Embracing a Work Hard, Rest Well Lifestyle” released June 5, and her message has reached more than 20,000 people through her 10 Day devotional on YouVersion and countless others through podcasts, radio interviews, and national and international magazines. Crystal and Matt have a 6-year-old daughter, Madison, and when she’s not working as the communications director at her church, Crystal enjoys being a soccer mom – who only occasionally gets shushed for her sideline enthusiasm.


10 Easy, Nutritious School Lunches for Busy Parents

Back-to-school means back to early morning alarms, scrambling to find missing shoes, making sure all the homework and important papers are back in their folders and hurrying to drink a cup of coffee while asking your kids for the eighth time if they’ve brushed their teeth.


That doesn’t leave much time for packing a nutritious lunch your kids will love. If you want to make mornings run more smoothly and prepare your kids to tackle the day with plenty of energy and focus, try these 10 easy, nutritious, kid-friendly lunches.


1. Tortilla roll-ups

Fill a wheat tortilla with peanut butter and jelly, ham and cheese or any filling your kids love. From there, roll the tortilla, slice it into pinwheels and secure it with toothpicks, and you have an easy lunch on-the-go. Grab some spinach or tomato wraps to add color – and to sneak a bit of veggie in there, too!


2. Pizza pieces

Instead of a foil-wrapped slice of leftover pizza, go the deconstructed route. Put turkey pepperoni, reduced-fat cheese slices and crackers into a container. Add a little sauce in a small, plastic to-go cup for dipping, and you have a fun, interactive lunch.


3. Simple sandwiches

Sometimes, simple is best, which means your child’s favorite sandwich might be exactly what they like best. Put a twist on it by cutting it into a fun shape like a star or butterfly for a surprise in your little one’s lunchbox. Add apple slices, a string cheese and a small bottle of water for a lunch that is sure to satisfy.


4. Turkey, apple and cheese roll-ups

Looking for an alternative to the simple sandwich? Take a piece of thick turkey and place a slice of apple and a slice of cheese in the middle. Fold it over like a burrito, and you’re ready to go!


5. Hummus & pita plate

Slice pita bread into triangles, add your child’s favorite veggies and some hummus (which comes in a huge variety of flavors) for a filling lunch that is packed full of protein, fiber, iron and B vitamins.


6. Chicken noodle soup

This classic, easy-to-make soup is a crowd favorite. Whether canned or homemade, it’s sure to be a hit with your little one. Pour it in a thermos so it’s served up warm at lunchtime. Include saltine crackers for extra flavor.


7. Apple & peanut butter sandwiches

Spread peanut butter on apple slices and stick them together for a yummy snack that’s high in protein and provides a serving of fruit.


8. Tortilla soup

A simple crock-pot recipe can provide lunch for the entire week. Add chicken, chicken broth, corn, black beans, salsa and seasoning, and you’ve got a tasty lunch alternative. Pour soup into a thermos to ensure it stays warm until lunchtime.


9. Veggie taco salad

Shred some lettuce, slice a tomato, add corn, black beans and avocado, and you’ve got a bold and delicious lunch that fits easily in a Tupperware container. Add corn chips and a cup of dressing for a touch of Southwestern flavor!


10. Don’t forget the snacks

A nutritious snack can be the best defense against the dreaded mid-afternoon slump. Stock up on pretzels, fruit, trail mix and small treats for kids’ lunchboxes.


Our mission at work

Upbring believes every child deserves the chance to shine through the power of education. We also know that children, like adults, have a difficult time concentrating when they’re not getting enough nourishment.

Through Upbring education programs, we ensure the children we serve receive nutritious meals every day. Without worrying about their growling stomachs, children can focus on learning English, math and science, as well as building important life skills.

Through our continuum of care, we surround children with services that meet their needs in five key areas.


How to Decorate on a Shoestring Budget

Leaving home and moving into their first apartment or house is an exciting time in a young adult’s life, but it also presents challenges. For example, how do you make your new place feel like home when your finances are stretched thin between rent, car insurance, groceries and other obligations that come with growing up?


Fortunately, you don’t have to spend a lot of money to transform your new digs. Ready to get started? Our staff put their heads together and came up with 8 creative ways to decorate on a shoestring budget that we think you’ll love!


1.  Shop Craigslist or Facebook Marketplace.

It might take time to find what you want, as well as a little planning to pick it up, but both websites are great places to find low-cost items that need a new home.


2.  Paint an accent wall.

Painting makes a huge impact, but it can also be expensive. Instead of painting your entire home, choose just one wall and get a paint that includes primer so you can finish the job in one coat. If you are renting, talk to the owner or property manager before you paint.


3.  Add rolling casters to an inexpensive bookshelf to create a rolling storage system.

You could even create a small, mobile kitchen island by adding a cutting board to the top and storing your cooking utensils on the shelves below in canisters from the dollar section.


4.  Stock up on frames when your local craft store has a big sale.

Then, fill them with artwork from last year’s wall calendar, your favorite magazines or the thrift store to create a gallery wall.


5.  Hang decorative blankets on a wooden ladder, or stack wooden crates for a creative bookshelf.

Both the ladder and crates serve as decor and storage in one.


6.  Get even more for your money with multi-purpose pieces.

For example, find an ottoman that doubles as a coffee table and storage space.


7.  Mirrors are an easy way to add light to a space and make it feel larger.

They’re also practical. Consider hanging an inexpensive, full-length mirror horizontally behind your sofa for an instantly stylish look.


8.  Create an easy place to hang coats, hats and bags with decorative Command hooks.

They’ll keep everything neat, and you won’t have to worry about fixing holes in your walls later.


Our mission at work

Many young adults who age out of foster care have no home, no family and nowhere to turn. Sadly, 20 percent will become instantly homeless, and only 50 percent will be gainfully employed by the age of 24.

Continuum of Care


Through our continuum of care, we surround children and young adults with services that meet their needs in five key areas.


The Upbring BeREAL program walks alongside these young men and women as they take their first steps toward independence.


From identifying their education and career goals to moving into that first place of their own – and decorating it on a shoestring budget – we give young adults the guidance and encouragement they need to succeed.


“I came to BeREAL with nothing but a trash bag that had my clothes in it. Two vans pulled up to help me move into my apartment, and they were full of furniture. I told my BeREAL caseworker this wasn’t my stuff, and with a big smile on her face, she said, ‘Yes, it is.’ I didn’t even know these people, but they wanted to help me. That was such a powerful moment for me.”  – JoAnna, BeREAL participant


Want to help?

If you want to support a young person like JoAnna on their journey to adulthood, consider making a donation (Select BeREAL in the “Designate Your Gift” drop-down menu) or volunteering your time and talent.


Hurricane Harvey: The Road to Rebuilding

Tomorrow, as the sun rises on a new day, one can’t help but think back to this time a year ago when windows were boarded up and grocery store shelves were empty as Hurricane Harvey made landfall in South Texas. It’s hard to believe 365 days have passed since the destructive storm terrorized our state – shattering records, leaving 68 people dead and making a significant impact on the lives of hundreds of thousands. Homes and streets were flooded. People spent days lofted on their roofs waiting for rescue teams to alleviate them from increasingly high waters. Food and water supplies diminished too quickly. Several regions of our state were in chaos.

But as always, we as Americans showed our resilience and banded together to help impacted families. With support from generous friends, not only in Texas but across the country, Upbring stood with the community, helping families find food, clothing, medical assistance and safe, clean shelter. We also had the resources to provide our Foster In Texas families with stipends that helped cover essentials like travel costs, temporary housing, clothing and diapers. For those affected by this horrific storm, the generous support and donations that poured in helped ease their minds and allowed them to focus on rebuilding without the fear of where their next meal would come from, if they would have a roof over their heads and if their children would be comforted after days of living in fear.

Together, we stood strong in the face of tragedy and made an immediate difference in the lives of families who needed our help. Still, thousands more are continuously working to rebuild their lives, and Upbring will stand with them. Our Disaster Response Team is preparing to mobilize and take over case management for families in need in South Texas. We ask that you keep our team and the families they will serve in your prayers.


ICYMI: We shared six tips to help you prepare for a hurricane. Check them out here.


Are You Prepared for a Hurricane?

132 mph winds, 27 trillion gallons of rain and, tragically, 88 lives lost – Hurricane Harvey carved a destructive path across the Gulf Coast last fall. Harvey went down as the first Category 4 hurricane to make landfall in Texas since 1961, and many families are still working to rebuild their lives.

Natural disasters can happen suddenly, with little to no warning. As Harvey’s 1-year anniversary approaches, the Upbring family encourages you to make a plan for protecting your family during hurricane season.


Here are 6 simple hurricane preparedness tips for the 2018 hurricane season:

1.  Stock an emergency preparedness kit with essentials such as food, water, medications, first aid supplies, flashlights, batteries and cash. Be sure to include your pets’ essentials.


2.  Keep important documents in a safe place, or create password-protected, digital copies as part of your hurricane preparedness plan.


3.  Protect your property by decluttering drains and gutters to prevent flooding, installing check valves in plumbing to prevent backups, and considering hurricane shutters. Remember that homeowners’ and renters’ insurance do not typically cover flood damages, but flood insurance does.


4.  Plan how to communicate with family members if you lose power. During disasters, sending text messages is usually faster and more reliable than making phone calls because phone lines are often overloaded. The American Red Cross Safe & Well website allows you to tell family and friends you are safe during a disaster.


5.  You might have to leave home quickly, so prepare an evacuation plan. Review your evacuation zone and route, and learn where emergency shelters are located. Keep your car in good working condition and your gas tank full. Stock your vehicle with emergency supplies and a change of clothes for each member of your family. Finally, and most importantly, never ignore an evacuation order.


6.  Sign up for disaster alerts to stay up-to-date during a disaster. You can also download apps by the American Red Cross, the Weather Channel and FEMA.


More resources

For more information about protecting your home and family during hurricane season, visit these websites:


LSS Disaster Response – Here for the short and long haul

In Harvey’s wake, Lutheran Social Services Disaster Response was there to meet families’ immediate needs by providing emergency hardship grants and helping them find food, clothing, medical assistance and safe, clean shelter. Because of your support, we are also there for the long haul, offering assistance for future preparedness, emotional and spiritual care, volunteer coordination and long-term recovery.


On behalf of the many families impacted by Hurricane Harvey, thank you for your prayers, your donations and the gift of your volunteer efforts. Together, we are supporting families during difficult circumstances and allowing them to focus on creating safe, loving homes for their children.


Your Summer Road Trip Survival Guide

The community pools are open, school is out until August, and the temperatures are high. For many of us, summer break means summer vacation season, whether it’s a small “staycation,” a quick day trip or a longer road trip with family. These are amazing ways to create fun memories and introduce our kids to new, exciting places…but we have to get there first!

Here are 5 simple road trip survival guide tips to help you enjoy the journey as much as the destination:

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9 Lessons I Learned About Results Based Leadership While at Upbring

More than 23,000 children will age out of the US foster care system every year. Many have no family, no home and nowhere to turn in the face of seemingly insurmountable odds:

  • After reaching the age of 18, 20% of the children who were in foster care will become instantly homeless.
  • Only 1 out of every 2 foster kids who age out of the system will have some form of gainful employment by the age of 24.
  • There is less than a 3% chance for children who have aged out of foster care to earn a college degree at any point in their life.

Statistics courtesy of the National Foster Youth Institute.

Read More

Journey to The New LSS

Journey to The New LSS: Part Four – Faith In Every Future

Journey to The New LSS

The New LSS – Faith in Every Future

Helping children, families and communities address the issue of child abuse has been at the heart of Lutheran Social Services’ mission – Help, Healing and Hope – and our goals. Our track record of providing loving, compassionate care for children at their time of greatest peril, guided by faith, is clear.

Over the last year, senior management and the LSS board have asked, “What more can – and should – we do?”

An examination of the magnitude of the problem, the social, economic and political environments in which we operate, and the strengths and weaknesses of our organization has led to a recognition that LSS must become more focused and strategic, and our programs need to work together as an integrated system, not a collection of independent operating units.

The driving force behind these changes is simply our new vision and mission:

Journey to The New LSS - Mission & Vision

We will accomplish this through a continuum of services and community partnerships, each tracking progress against markers of safety, life skills, education, health, and vocation, all of which are critical to breaking the cycle of child abuse. We recognize that children enter the system at different stages of their lives and due to varying life events. Because the types of abuse vary among children, we are committed to addressing the entire spectrum.

Journey to The New LSS - Dr. Kurt Senske

We have an opportunity to redefine who we are, how we live our new mission, and how we deliver our programs and services. By addressing our mission, our people, our programs and services, and most importantly the children of Texas and Louisiana, we can become a premier nonprofit leader in the fight to empower children, families and communities to break the cycle of child abuse.

Accomplishing our new, bold mission will require change. We must:


through the best programs and services in Texas, and increasing our total served to more than 10,000 children every year. The priority for LSS is to continue to provide the best programs and services to the children of Texas and Louisiana. The services are and will remain at the core of what we do. Having the boots on the ground will provide LSS the credibility it needs to advance the other sectors of the organization.


to become the premier thought leaders in Texas, the “to go” organization on children services in Texas, and developing new programs and services to increase total served by asking, “Do children have everything they need to break the cycle of child abuse?” Over the next four years, LSS will position itself as a statewide leader in the effort to break the cycle of child abuse by taking advantage of the credibility that comes with excellence in service delivery to advance the best thinking on how we empower children, families and communities to break this cycle. LSS will further these efforts through partnerships with universities, existing thought leaders, as well as key business, government, and community leaders.

The combination of excellence in service delivery and thought leadership creates the opportunity to be an effective advocate for the betterment of the children, families and communities we serve, thereby making child well-being and protection a much higher priority for Texas than is the case today.

Fulfilling this new mission and vision and achieve the ambitious goals in our new strategic plan will mean many changes for the organization.


by recruiting and developing the best team. To strengthen our people, LSS is investing in new and innovative ways. We will engage staff by shifting our paradigm to one that affords our people with opportunities to enjoy exceptional professional and personal fulfillment in coming to work and delivering the new mission.

We will address the key issues identified in the most recent employee engagement survey: pay, diversity, internal communication, climate/fairness, and climate/management, with a goal of lowering attrition rates to 15 percent agency-wide by 2017. We are developing a growth plan for high-potential employees and creating a plan to successfully transition underperforming employees into solid agency assets.


to ensure that LSS remains financially strong for another 100 years. To achieve our financial goals going forward, we are working with the operating units of the organization to align our efforts around the four-year strategic plan that includes performance, capital expenditures, investment strategies and the financial core. We will work contTinuously to help each operating unit achieve sustainable operating margins. Reducing or eliminating our debt will also allow us to establish reserves aimed at funding potential cyclical deficits in future operations and launch new initiatives that may require some up-front investment.

With a new mission and vision comes a new business model for the organization that will create a more anticipatory form of leadership and allow us be more nimble. We will also introduce a new comprehensive identity strategy that will honor our Lutheran heritage, help unify our services and open the door to others passionate about our cause.

Journey to The New LSS - New Business Model

In addition to our programmatic goals, LSS is committed to providing quality, innovative, faith-based services for the children we serve at levels above and beyond the minimum guidelines, enhancing their lives. We further commit to taking on work critical to our mission even when there are not traditional funding streams available. These efforts are made possible through the generosity of countless individuals, organizations, churches, and corporations who share our passion and commitment for breaking the cycle of child abuse, and whose gifts make up approximately 10 percent of our annual revenue.

To accomplish this, we plan to:

  • Implement a comprehensive identity strategy that honors our Lutheran heritage and opens the door to others passionate about the cause.
  • Expand opportunities for donors to make an impact on the lives of children with their gifts each year, increasing annual fund support by $1 million per year for the next four years, while maintaining our commitment to minimizing the costs associated with fundraising and insuring the highest industry standard of ethics.
  • Build, with the help of visionary individuals and management of current assets, a $100 million endowment to support our work in perpetuity.
  • Fund the capital expenditures necessary for accomplishing our mission.
  • Strengthen our focus in LSS Impact Areas, directly through our programs and indirectly through new key partnerships that impact the key markers and create safer communities for all children.



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