I gave this speech on June 2, 016 at Lutheran Social Service’s Community Appeals Rally. LSS is in the middle of a fund drive to buy a building that will allow them to consolidate their services and make their offerings more accessible and convenient for their clients.

Jamie asked me to talk about why I’m a campaigner for this effort and why my husband and I are supporting this effort. We have a great deal of respect for the Chamber of Commerce’s Community Appeals process, but this campaign goes far beyond the Community Appeals “endorsement” because of my family’s ties to the kind of work LSS does.

Before WW II, my grandpa set out halfway across the world to work as a Lutheran missionary in Papua New Guinea. He had to leave when the Nazis began taking over the large island, but returned after the war with my Grandma in tow. They stayed for almost 40 years and raised 7 children there. The kids went to boarding school when they were very young and the costs were high. However, my grandparents focused on helping the many tribes there in practical ways: agricultural, schooling, building a hospital, sanitation, infant care, etc. While their work was motivated by their faith, the deeds were tied to the real world, much in the way LSS’s efforts are today in Sioux Falls. The people my grandparents helped had little outwardly in common with two Scandinavian Midwesterners, but this didn’t matter. They were committed to helping others, just like LSS is today.

As a child growing up in Sioux Falls, I saw LSS at work first hand. My mom served as a mentor for a Laotian family from Cambodia that relocated in Sioux Falls around 1980. They had been through unspeakably horrible experiences and had lost many family members. They were sick, malnourished and didn’t know English. But LSS helped them with their first apartment and English classes. My mom gave them rides and was a friend to them for the rest of her life. Over the years, they have become successful and own a small business. Both of their children have gone to college and pursued graduate school.

My familial experiences with helping others brings us to today’s campaign. My family has unique ties to LSS that motivate me to be a part of this effort. However, even without these ties I believe we all have reason to support the campaign. I think about what it would be like if I had to leave my home country and go somewhere far away where the people look unlike me, speak a different language and have a challenging climate. I can only imagine how difficult this would be. I hope an organization like LSS would be there to help me. I didn’t choose to be born in Minneapolis, MN. I could have just as easily been born in Sudan or Russia or Syria. If I had been born there, I may have been a refugee too.

I think we are put on this earth to help each other and especially help those that need it, regardless of how different they may seem from us – because they aren’t different. They are us and we are them.

LSS embodies this belief in helping others in very practical ways. They have programs and services that are needed in Sioux Falls. We don’t need to go halfway around the world like my grandparents did to help those that need it. Those that need it are part of our community right now. LSS has put together a fantastic opportunity to offer their services in a more convenient, cost-effective manner in this beautiful building in a gorgeous location.

I’m grateful that my husband and I can support this capital campaign, both as a campaigner and as a donor. Thanks to Tom and Fred for chairing this effort. Thanks to LSS and all of you volunteers campaigners for making this happen. We have the opportunity to help LSS change peoples’ lives for the good.

Until wars end and political instability ceases to exist, we will have refugees. And those of us that have so much, have a moral imperative to help them. I hope you will join us as donors for this campaign.