People Focused Care

July 5, 2020

Lutheran Services in Iowa’s (LSI) roots run deep and wide in Iowa. The statewide human service organization has been providing compassionate care for over a century and a half. Today, its nearly 1,000 staff provide services spanning six core areas impacting children, families, people with disabilities, refugees, and more.

Talking to John Twardos, LSI president and CEO, it’s apparent the current landscape for providing these services is complex - balancing staffing challenges, funding shortfalls, and meeting service expectations. However, even more evident is that the focus on people continues to be at the forefront of decision-making for the nonprofit.  

“Some of the stories of our clients almost seem like miracles, but they’re commonplace across Iowa,” said John. “We’re doing that work every day, impacting thousands of families who probably, without our services, would not have the quality of life they are able to achieve without our staff walking alongside them, walking them through very dark moments in their lives - encouraging, nurturing, and supporting them.” 

Unfortunately, according to John, there is a widening gap between what it costs to provide those services and what the organization is getting paid. “Many of the contract rates with the Iowa Department of Human Services were set in 2014 based on 2012 data. We are getting paid in 2020 based on what it cost to run our organization eight years ago. We have to rely on philanthropy to close that gap.”

The Community Foundation of Northeast Iowa, seven of our affiliate foundations, and many caring fundholders are helping fill the gap, awarding over $330,000 in grants to LSI since 2005, including just over $42,000 in funding in 2019. LSI also holds a nonprofit endowment fund with CFNEIA.

“Community Foundation grants enable us to reach populations with unique needs with services not typically funded by DHS or Medicaid. They enable us to stretch that mission and reach out to vulnerable people,” said John.

What inspires John most is his staff’s commitment to making a difference. “We can’t pay people what they are worth, but they show up every day and enable us to advance this mission,” said John. “Our staff are dedicated, committed, and so inspirational. It’s powerful.”