• San Diego’s Surfing Bishop
• A Powerful Kingdom in Pasadena
• Aging Without Isolation
• COVID’s Effect on SoCal Poverty
• San Diego’s Surfing Bishop
• A Powerful Kingdom in Pasadena
• Aging Without Isolation
• COVID’s Effect on SoCal Poverty
It is an absolute pleasure to welcome you to ENGAGE Magazine as we start our first year of publication. This publication has been conceived and designed by my department’s team of passionate professionals who wanted to create a vehicle to Engage others living in the Southern California area in the heartwarming stories of hope we are privileged to hear and see each day.
We hope you will become loyal readers and are so thankful you are here reading now. Our desire is to educate, inform and inspire you to get involved. Perhaps you will do that in your own way, or perhaps you’ll choose to partner with one of many great organizations like Lutheran Social Services of Southern California, who are on the frontlines of compassionately meeting the basic needs of others.
We are inspired by the voices and stories of our clients, our staff, and more specifically, the multitude of voices like your’s – one of our valued LSSSC supporters. The origin and intentionality behind our name, ENGAGE is simple: “engage” means involve (someone’s interest or attention). We are further grounded in sharing the views, perspectives, and stories of those touched by LSSSC’s social service efforts.
Our mission is to bring thoughtful and engaging commentary on social issues and the people working to solve them, while also displaying the mission of LSSSC’s goal to Embrace, Equip and Empower the vulnerable of Southern California. Anyone is welcome to submit a story, photo, or story idea that reflects our vision of sharing the love of Christ while forming a community where the vulnerable are safer and stronger, the dependent are self-sustaining, the isolated dwell in community, and the weary are given hope.
As a publication, we will not advocate for any specific ideology, but as a Christ-centered organization. We have set standards regarding the posting of harmful and denigrating pieces as it relates to minority’s or any group. We see our platform as a sacred space of community voices, and thus, view that it is our responsibility to highlight the diversity of our organization and to use our platform as a space of learning.
As a new publication, we would like to be as transparent as possible. For this reason, we gladly welcome any comments and critiques you may have as a reader. Letters to the editor are also highly encouraged and will be considered for publication on our website or in print.
I am elated to be furthering the mission of sharing the love of Christ and look forward to hearing your stories. I’d be remiss in my duties of gathering funds to equip this great mission without reminding you of the opportunity to also donate online or through the envelope enclosed in the printed version of the magazine --
Blessings,LORI BUTLER, & THE ENGAGE STAFF CFRE
To many people in the Southern California, Western Arizona, and Hawaiian regions, he’s known as The Reverend Dave Nagler, Bishop of the ELCA Pacifica Synod. In his spare time, the busy father, pastor, CEO, and servant trades his collar for a pair of shades and unwinds with his favorite pastime: surfing.
The common California activity captivated Dave when he was just 13, while visiting a popular surfing spot in Ventura called C-Street. Standing by the shore, he watched as surfers weaved their way through the cold Pacific waters and he couldn’t wait to experience the grace, power, and flow of surfing himself. The first thing he did when he got home was trade his bike for a 7’6” Rick surfboard that his neighbor had. Though the board and aspiring surfer were mismatched, the young Dave Nagler began a tradition of frequent surfing, which he still loves doing with his friends and family. From such humble beginnings, he has had the thrill of meeting famous surfers like Gerry Lopez and Tom Curren, and even got to experience a 14-foot wave north of Santa Cruz.
Now, the once inexperienced 13-year-old has more wave-catching experience under his belt, and several more surfboards to choose from. These include a few custom shaped displacement hulls from Steven Mast, Bishop Dave can be found at Pacific Beach when the waters’ face is clear smooth. It figures into his weekly schedule perfectly at sundown or sunup, 3-4 times a week. Most of the people he meets in the water are his friends from the many years of
oceanic adventure. These friends have shared the coolest surfer encounters. Moments like watching a big shark breach the water 200 yards from their spot or catching that unexpected, but amazingly tubular “in and out” wave on a first day back in the water after quarantine.
Out on the water, the Simi Valley native spends time reflecting on many things. “Being in the beautiful ocean forces me to consider what we as a species are doing to our planet. Over the years I have seen changes in the ocean. We have some species showing up that have never been this far north. Others are becoming rare or no longer show up. When I read about ocean acidification or the plastics that have created a giant island in the center of the Pacific, I feel compelled to do what I can to protect this source of life for all beings,” he says. He also thinks about Matthew 14 when Jesus walks on the water. “I think that proves Jesus was a surfer and Peter gave it a try.” Though he has deep conversations with his fellow surfers about many topics close to his heart like faith, racism, environmental issues and more, on the water, he is simply Dave, not Pastor Dave or Bishop Dave.
These days, Bishop Nagler has even more to reflect on. After being installed as the Bishop of the Pacifica Synod in May, his mission to lead his flock has only grown stronger. Every week, he hosts an anti-racism webinar to better equip the attendees to navigate the oft unseen discrimination within themselves.
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can receive a small stipend/mileage reimbursement to volunteer to help their peers. The program is currently in urgent need of more able-bodied senior volunteers ages 55 plus in San Diego County. www.lsssc.org/location/san-diego-county/ or call 858-483-4005.
TRIO UPWARD BOUND - The TRIO Upward Bound program, helps to generate skills and motivation necessary for success in education beyond high school among low-income and potential firstgeneration college students. The LSSSC run programs are available to students at two high schools in the Sweetwater Unified High School District. As an expansion of their current program, 60 students will be added to a special math and science concentration program in the Fall semester 2023. www.lsssc.org/location/san-diego-county/ or 619-941-2080 Ext 1103
in a ministry with a similar grace, power, and flow. While his ministry picks up, he also promises to not give up his favorite pastime. No wipeout, no shark, no tubular wave gone wrong will convince him to give it up. Why should he? He says, “I see old timers at the Tourmaline lot who paddle out and take belly rides and then come back to talk about it over coffee for hours. That sounds like a good retirement plan to me!” He recommends surfing only to those who are looking for something that will put them in touch with nature, humbles them regularly, and are ready to be forced to be fully present in the moment. “It makes you face your primal fears (you are in the food chain after all). It is one of the hardest sports to learn. However, the first time you glide down the face of a wave you will know if you are hooked or not. If you are, then it will be something that you pursue for the rest of your life. That has been my experience.”
Popular band Casting Crown’s front man Mark Hall knew all too well the emotional and mental toll of not being allowed to visit loved ones during the COVID-19 epidemic. Both his grandparents passed away within a year of each other. Thus, was born the song “Scars in Heaven” with its haunting lyrics reminding us all of the importance of visiting our aging loved ones not only for our own mental health but for how it improves the overall health of that friend or relative.
His song released in 2021 begins:
If I had only known the last time would be the last time, I would’ve put off all the things I had to do. I would’ve stayed a little longer, held on a little tighter.
Now what I’d give for one more day with you.
Don’t let guilt and grief get to you later, as you use the “shoulda, woulda, couldas” to cope with over losing someone you love without spending quality time with them. You have plenty of your own health reasons to put that visit on your Outlook calendar today.
“Maintaining frequent communication and visiting with the senior loved ones in your life can help them ward off detrimental cognitive and physical problems as they age,” concluded a February 2022 research study in the Journal of Health and Social Behavior.
Keeping in touch with seniors through active communication and visits can help remind them of how loved they truly are. It’s even more important for those who are “shut-
in” and can’t get out. Any amount of quality contact can help to ward off social isolation, which is a known key factor in the decline of health and cognitive thinking for older folks. Lacking social time with family and friends can also lead to depression, not only for the aging person in your life, but for you too.
Although National Shut-in Visitation Day has been going on for many years, no one seems to know who founded this simply remarkable day. This year it’s even easier to find time to celebrate as the day falls on a Saturday.
Here are a few ideas of things you can do at your visit:
1. Watch a favorite movie of theirs. In most cases, your taste in films will differ from theirs. Keep in mind that this day is to honor them. Sit down and watch their favorite movie. You might just discover you like it while you are providing them needed connection.
2. Play a board game. This can include old school games like chess, carrom, checkers, and backgammon. If there are people with or around you, consider making it a fun group activity.
3. Try out some new recipes. If you’re visiting someone who loves to cook but, out of loneliness, doesn’t cook as often as they used to, try out some unusual new dishes with them. This will lighten their hearts and they will thoroughly enjoy it.
Please send us your photos and stories of how you celebrated National Shut-In Day or a visit to a shut-in on any day to firstname.lastname@example.org with the subject line: For ENGAGE Magazine.
Around the time of 600-400 B.C., the name Avanti was a powerful Indian kingdom run by Euro-Indians who thrived on diverse commerce and busy trade routes. In today’s Collin’s dictionary, Avanti is defined as “forward! let’s go!”. Both definitions are emblematic of Lutheran Social Services’ long-standing program – Avanti.
Located in the heart of Pasadena, amid all the downtown traffic, Avanti carries a similar vibrancy that captures the heart of anyone who visits.
For over 40 years, the program has provided long-term supportive care for adults and seniors living with intellectual and developmental disabilities by offering Life Enhancement, Community Integration, and Creative Expression activities to best enhance their individual growth and overall quality of life.
This safety haven offers daily access to the music room, art room, computer room, and a quiet room all through a personcentered approach, empowering each participant to identify their need and learn to communicate their choice.
For some, the highlight of the day is being able to use the music classroom and sing into the karaoke machine while others join the symphony through the keyboard and percussion instruments.
From playing the ukulele and the djembe to paper mâché and tie-dye, these all-time favorite activities are aimed at strengthening self-esteem, stimulating learning, calming anxiety, and improving the health and wellness of each of our participants. The completed artworks are displayed around Avanti’s campus and presented to families to highlight their accomplishments.
Many of the families have been participants in the programs for years. They often credit AVANTI with adding long-term stability for their family's ability to caregive.
“MY DAUGHTER, NIKKI IS NOW 47 YEARS OLD, SO SHE AND I BOTH HAVE SPENT ALMOST HALF OF HER LIFE AS A PART OF THE AVANTI FAMILY.”
“Among the five programs I visited in the San Gabriel Valley, I chose Avanti because it is warm and right for Nikki”, a participant's mother shares. “Having ongoing communication with Nikki’s teacher, allowed us to be part of her growth and her wonderful experience at Avanti.”
Avanti takes priority in involving family members in our participants’ growth and process. Participants learn life skills that improve their ability to conduct daily tasks such as grocery shopping, personal accounting, gardening, and daily exercises. Additionally, a key focus of Avanti engages program participants through community service opportunities along with seniors and youth in the community. This intergenerational companionship provides Avanti participants day-to-day interactions that are essential to one’s mental health.
When asking Armine Kim, Avanti’s Program Director, what is most needed in the community, she shares. “We are in need of an updated computer room, as many of our computers are over 10 years old.”
“With new computers, this will increase opportunities for expansion of various career pathways for individuals served and offset the learning gap we currently are experiencing, especially considering the program adapting during the pandemic.”
Serving as one of the only programs in the Pasadena region offering American Sign Language, Avanti not only offers ASL classes to teach participants to communicate with their peers through a second language, it's offered fully remote to accommodate those who are in quarantine or have not returned to our classrooms.
During COVID, Avanti not only improved its service capacity by offering all program activities through Zoom/ distanced learning but also mobilized a fourth program component- Community Education and Advocacy.
Expanding the support circle for each participant, workshops were created for families, local churches, and other community-based stakeholders. The program, still in operation, also offers direct services and emergency COVID-19 safety protocols for each Avanti family. Training topics are tailored to the unique needs of our participants on topics of nuances of care, caretaking fatigue, communication tools, and more.
“I hope one day soon that our amazing participants can safely go back out into the public places they so loved and thrive doing community service projects and having practical job training experiences," says Kim.
“I’m the lucky one who gets to spend each day with these incredibly capable people who have become my family too.”
Community members wishing to learn more about Avanti or how they can help can contact Armine Kim, Avanti Area Director at sgvinfo@LSSSC.org
The Avanti program launched in this building 4 years before the first National Developmental Disabilities Awareness Month was observed in 1987. The March event was officially created by Congress when it passed Public Law 99 – 483, and authorized the President to issue a proclamation in observance of this event. When President Ronald Reagan signed the Presidential proclamation declaring Developmental Disabilities Awareness Month”, he wrote:
“I urge all Americans to join me in according to our fellow citizens with such disabilities both encouragement and the opportunities they need to lead productive lives and to achieve their full potential.”
If you feel anxious about your finances, you’re not alone. Here are some tips to help ease your mind.
Many families are struggling financially, and the current economy isn’t helping. The pandemic negatively impacted many wallets, and now inflation and the threat of a recession are adding new worries.
Indeed, according to Thrivent’s 2022 Consumer Financial Outlook Survey, 63% of Americans said inflation is pushing them off track financially, and 60% said it’s getting in the way of saving. One-third of Americans reported their current employment situation is causing them to feel financially off track. Additionally, 29% of people said their personal financial habits, family circumstances, and physical, mental, and emotional well-being, each respectively, contributed to them feeling financially off track.
“We’re seeing financial stress across the board right now,” says Mary Jane Fortin, President, and Chief Commercial officer at Thrivent. “Due to inflation, many Americans don’t feel like they’re in a position to follow financial steps, like saving and budgeting.”
The good news is that there are ways you can manage your financial stressors and prepare for any uncertainties ahead.
1. Go back to basics – Don’t spend more than you have, and write down a simple plan to lower spending and increase income and savings.
2. Break it down into small manageable pieces – Set a goal to just do one thing at a time. For example, create an emergency fund, start a small retirement, and more.
3. Look beyond the numbers – Address the fear you are feeling. Everyone is worried about the economy, right? Most of us have been embarrassed at one time or another that we aren’t handling our finances as good as we can.
Step one: Accept your feelings and fears about finances as normal. Step two: Praise yourself for any small step you take to improve. And, no matter how much wealth you have or don’t have, consider reaching out to a financial advisor. They have ideas and information that can help you take back control.
“NOBODY CAN CONTROL INFLATION AND HOW THE MARKETS ARE DOING, BUT THERE ARE THINGS THEY CAN DO TO MITIGATE THE RISK AND GIVE THEMSELVES MORE CONTROL.”
SHERITH SQUIRES THRIVENT WEALTH ADVISOR
COVID-19 has been a tragedy for California. More than 4 million Californians have contracted the disease, and over 64,000 have died from it. And beyond the cost of illness and death, the pandemic and the state’s actions to contain it have devastated California’s economy. Low- income and minority Californians in particular have felt the brunt of both the virus and the economic impact.
Yet if COVID-19 exacerbated and exposed the state’s poverty problems, it was not the cause of them. Even before the pandemic, far too many Californians struggled to get by.
This in a state that (even with the pandemic) has relatively strong economic growth, pockets of vast wealth, and an extensive social welfare system. California has the largest economy of any state. In fact, with a gross domestic product of nearly $3 trillion, if California were a country, its economy would be the world’s fifth largest, behind only the United States as a whole, China, Japan, and Germany. The state’s real gross domestic product grew 3.4 percent in 2019, and while its unemployment rate was slightly above the national average, it still was only around 4.1 percent. And the state is home to more than one million millionaires, including 189 of the United States’ 724 billionaires. Clearly there is a mismatch between the state’s growth and wealth and the struggles of many of its citizens.
Before COVID-19 In 2019, before the pandemic, almost 7 million Californians lived below the poverty level, according to the U.S. Census Bureau’s Supplemental Poverty Measure. That is roughly 17.2 percent of the state’s population. This gave California the highest poverty rate in the nation, considerably higher than states such as Louisiana and Mississippi that are typically associated with high levels of poverty. To download this report in PDF format, visit https://www.cato.org/study/overviewpoverty-inequality-california
50% OF THOSE WITH COVID IN LA COUNTY WERE FROM HIGH POVERTY AREAS.
ONLY 22% OF THOSE WITH COVID IN LA COUNTY CAME FROM LOW POVERTY AREAS.
CA STATE AVG. FOR THOSE WITH COVID IN HIGH POVERTY AREAS LESS THAN LA AT 43 %.
CA STATE AVG. FOR THOSE WITH COVID IN LOW POVERTY AREAS WAS JUST 16%.
*Indicates that county of residence may be factor over low vs. high poverty level
In May 2022, Governor Newsom announced plans to distribute $108.6 million to create a pipeline for K-12 students to enter the workforce directly to much needed technical jobs rather than the traditional path – a four year college. Mark Edwards of Opportunity Nation couldn’t agree more. “We’ve done a disservice to this country suggesting that there is only one pathway to success, which is to get a bachelor’s degree,“ he says.
According to the CA State Board of Education, 66 public technical high schools were in operation in 2023. With faith-based high schools seeing growth in enrollment post COVID, some now also see an opportunity to enter the world of high-tech highs.
Some in SoCal, like Don Bosco Tech, a fully integrated Catholic high-tech high school in Rosemead, CA for boys only, entered this field of service more than 65 years ago. Now other faith-based schools are answering the call. The latest faith based high-tech high entering the ranks is co-ed LuTEC High in Norwalk, CA.
In February of 2021, twenty-two enthusiastic leaders from all over the Pacific Southwest District (PSWD) of a church organization known as the Lutheran Church Missouri Synod gathered to plan. PSWD encompasses a large area including 8 of California’s southernmost counties, Arizona and parts of Nevada. They comprise of 291 church congregations, 72 preschools, 65 elementary schools and 9 high schools.
As PSWD’s 10th and non-traditional high school, LuTEC has been a dream come true, for founder and principal Todd Moritz. His unlikely background makes him the perfect leader for the school’s teen students who come from all religious, ethnic and socioeconomic backgrounds.
“I grew up in the Chicago area and was a thirdgeneration agnostic. Through many miracles, I came to faith in Christ during my college years. After spending 20 years in corporate America, I followed my passion for the last 25 years serving in fulltime church ministry,” he says. Moritz is also a CPA, MBA and Minister of Religion in his denomination. He’s spent the last 11 years leading large SoCal high schools -- his most recent being Orange Lutheran High School.
In August of 2022, LuTEC High School opened its doors and began placing students in a practical Career Technical Education model. They’ve already seen success with students like Tony Chavez as pictured on the left. Chavez, who will graduate in 2026, is excelling in his classes taught by actual professionals in the fields he may eventually enter. To learn more about LuTEC High School, visit their website at www.luTEC.org
According to USC’s Dornslife Center for Religion and Culture, “One of the unique elements of American society is the dense network of faithbased organizations that exist in every community. These organizations utilize the resources of church and congregational buildings, leadership within the faith community and the financial generosity of people seeking to live out their convictions. Moreover, they draw on the moral traditions of their communities to inspire people to engage in acts of service."
Some like Episcopal Family Services, Catholic Charities and Lutheran Social Services of Southern California (LSSSC) have operated social service agencies in SoCal for decades. For LSSSC, it all began with a food distribution project called Project Hand which still operates in the SoCal City of Chula Vista.
All of Southern California seemed in turmoil during the time, this now 14 million dollar agency came to be.
PICTURED ABOVE - Original Lutheran Welfare League Members
PICTURED LEFT - Original “PROJECT HAND” Sign
Reports to conventions of Lutheran congregations back during that time said so. Before Pearl Harbor was bombed, thousands began to move west to work in wartime industries. Plenty of jobs, but little housing, even few beds. Childhood and teen delinquency and divorce on the rise. Alcoholism, increasing. Overall, the constant fear of enemy attack. Many pleaded to Lutheran pastors for help. Several Lutheran churches were near U.S. Route 80, the only boulevard in and out of San Diego and points east. “Our Savior’s was close; Good Shepherd was closer. Downtown, Bethesda lay at the center of need. Those in desperation could walk from the boulevard to pastors’ offices. Needs were great but resources were few," recalls the founder’s grandson Ray F. Kibler, Jr.
The Lutheran pastors in San Diego prayed and discussed. They called two meetings with LA area churches at which representatives of congregations formed a Lutheran Welfare Commission. Several meetings later and those efforts had resulted in combining the Los Angeles and San Diego programs into one LSSSC, creating more resources to meet the needs of more people.
A historian had the right name for Lutheran social service programs during this time of turmoil in American society: “Love’s Response.”
Pastors Towe, Friedlund, Kibler, Sr., and their six colleagues are pictured in the photo above from San Diego. "Lutheran pastors would insist that LSSSC was a team effort and not an individual’s achievement,” Ray Kibler, Jr. fondly states. “They would proclaim that LSSSC is still God’s work: “Love’s Response.”
CIVICALLY ENGAGED SOCAL FAITH-BASED ORGS
Nestled in a cozy San Gabriel Valley art studio in the city of Monrovia, is a unique woman of faith and flair whose passion for the art of mosaics has been known to truly transcend the phrase “art imitates life.” While most people best know that this phrase asserts the idea that life imitates art, few are aware that it derives from classical notions that can be traced as far back as the writings of Aristophanes of Byzantium who lived more than 100 years before the time of Christ.
A true 21st century classical women herself, Sharon Ruff-Richter creates works of mosaic art using a vast variety of materials, including the traditional broken glass and pottery tiles. They tell stories so real and so heartfelt that in some cases they might be considered “forensic artwork.” This was never more true than in the 2015 creation of an elaborate 3-foot cross, called “Rogelio’s Memory,” which is partnered with a poem.
Together, they tell the true-life story of the massacre of 123 unarmed peasants assembled in the green hills above Lake Suchitlan at Copapayo, El Salvador by government troops on November 3, 1983.
This cross was made with stained glass, glass gems, and bullet casings. The bullets form the shape of an inverted fish, representing Christ. “I have done many mosaics that are based in my Lutheran faith, including many mosaic crosses,” shares Ruff-Richter.
Until 2013, Ruff-Richter, led what some may call the typical American life. She was born in Casper, Wyoming, and lived in multiple states and countries growing up. She refers to her childhood in Southern California as “my formative years in the Los Angeles area, where both my parents were born.” She attended South Gate, CA schools and graduated from Cal State Long Beach. After graduation, she spent a year as a VISTA volunteer, working on business development on Native American reservations in San Diego County. This time was perhaps her first “deep dive” into the world of all things cultural.
Following her service with Native American populations, she boldly set off as a single woman, moving to New York City to enroll in graduate school at
the acclaimed Columbia University. There she earned both M.S. and M.Phil. degrees in anthropology. It was there at Columbia she met her husband, Dan, who was also a graduate student. In 1981, she further received a certificate from Stanford’s Institute for Advanced Chinese Language Study and developed a successful career as a writer, including the translation of documents from Chinese to English. She also has some mastery in other languages including Biblical Greek, Spanish, and Hebrew.
Sharon and Dan raised their kids for 20 years in Cumberland County, PA, known for its agriculture, in the town of Carlisle just 24 miles from Harrisburg. It was there that Dan taught history as a profession at Dickinson College. Sharon, who also worked outside of the home, began exploring and taking various
I was nine when the helicopters came to Copapayo. We ran, metal kisses seeking us. Some swam and the blue foamed red. Some ran and the brown pooled red. Some hid and the green dripped red. I hid among the dying, sucking tiny breaths of white smoke, and souls.
Until they yanked me from under his body.
“Come,” the soldier said, marching us away, “You’ll go to the city.”
“You’ll go to school. But I knew, and he knew, and God knew.
I found my sister Maria, only six, and Pablo, bigger and older. We trembled together.
They took the older girls and young women away. I heard them screaming. I didn’t know. But Pablo knew, and God knew.
When the final order came, the soldiers made three small groups of us. They didn’t mind that we knew.
Pablo, Maria, and I were together. I hid again among the dying, sucking tiny breaths of white smoke, and souls.By Sharon Richter
Maria’s soul was tiny. I saw it go. Pablo’s soul stayed for awhile. We trembled together. Pablo whispered, “We’ll go to the city.” “We’ll go to school.” But I knew, and he knew, and God knew.
I brought Pablo water in a rubber boot. But he was older and bigger. I couldn’t carry him.
I only knew one place to go. I went home to Copapayo and hid among the dead.
On the road, I found the girls and the young women. The dogs found them, too.
I thank God still, that Maria was only six.
Now I tell my story. And I know, and you know, and God knows.
community classes like acrylic painting, drawing and more. It was there in Carlisle, a town of around 20,000 people and described as having a “true suburban feel,” that she took her first mosaic class on “a whim.” It was there in classes that she met and studied under the late renowned mosaic artist Gina Hubler.
Hubler was more than a craftsman, having studied art and design in places like Ravena, Italy. With galleries in Miami and Pennsylvania, Hubler was known for her unique mosaic art installations in and around Allentown, Philadelphia, and the Miami area. Well known in the world of the arts, she had exhibits at the world famous Corning Glass Museum in upstate New York. Before her death at 58, Hubler had moved to Palm Desert, CA here in Southern California where she and Ruff-Richter remained friends and peers.
Later in life, in 2013, Ruff-Richter acted on her spiritual calling to enter full-time ministry and attended Lutheran Theological Seminary in Philadelphia, garnering an M.Div. degree in 2016. She was then called to pastor at Trinity Lutheran Church in Pasadena, CA where she has served since 2018. Already a much beloved community leaser, also actively serves the Avanti program for developmentally disabled adults that has served Pasadena area families caring for a loved one for 40 years. The students attend a Thursday chapel that Ruff-Richter offers at Trinity for adults experiencing developmental or cognitive disabilities. They find her to be a bubbly and fun pastor, leading participants playing percussion instruments, in exuberant hymn singing, and ministering to the staff and others in the tight knit disability community.
“I’ve always liked jigsaw puzzles, and I still do them, mostly now in an iPad app. In fact, when you think about it, a mosaic is just like a big jigsaw puzzle that you put together from a design you create yourself. The difference from a jigsaw puzzle is that, if none of the pieces in front of you fit a particular spot, you can make a piece to fit using cutting and grinding tools.“
Richter shares that it is necessary as a mosaic artist, to understand the properties of the materials one uses in a mosaic: thickness, cutting and grinding properties, and color, mostly. Her materials are varied and often non-traditional. They can be marble, stone, tile, glass, porcelain, broken crockery, eggshell pieces, or even wood and pebbles. The grout and grout color are also very important. Choosing the wrong grout color, or the wrong range of mosaic colors for the grout options, you can end up making a very fractured, ununified mosaic piece. “Sometimes that’s desirable, but you have to make that decision before you start,” shares Ruff-Richter.
“The creative and tactile aspects of mosaic are the most fulfilling. I often find, when I’m working on a mosaic, that my brain goes to an entirely different place, devoid of words. It’s meditative and prayerful for me.
Continued on Page 29
Have you ever had a conversation with someone who doesn’t know your history and it’s left you feeling worse than before? Have you ever gone to receive services and come out of the experience feeling heightened emotions that you don’t usually have? Emotions such as extreme anger, overwhelming sadness or unusually frightened? The person you interacted with may have even been nice and you just can’t put your finger on why you are feeling the way you do. It may be because of past traumas lying beneath the surface.
More and more, social services agencies and those who deal with the public are acknowledging “that feeling” or reaction you are having.
They are learning and using a transformative model of care called Trauma-Informed Care (TIC).
This model of service care considers the pervasive nature of trauma and promotes environments of healing and recovery, rather than practices and communication that may inadvertently re-traumatize you. The model assumes that the odds are most people have experienced trauma at one point or another in their lives rather than having had no trauma. It acknowledges the deeply personal truth that your past influences how you experience things.
TIC requires others to make a paradigm shift from asking, “What is wrong with you? to “What has happened to you?”.
“At LSSSC It’s important to take the time to learn details about those being served so we can avoid retraumatizing them. It’s not just about being sensitive; it is about being appropriate and treating others with respect for their person and past,” says, Lori J. Butler, past Executive Director of the International Bipolar Foundation and current volunteer instructor for the National Alliance of Mental Illness in Orange County.
The intention of Trauma-Informed Care is not to treat symptoms or issues related to things like sexual, physical or emotional abuse or any other form of trauma but rather to provide support services in a way that is accessible and appropriate to those who may have experienced trauma.
The Five Guiding Principles of providing care that is Trauma Informed are:
1) safety 2) choice 3) collaboration
4) trustworthiness and 5) empowerment.
Individual trauma results from an event, series of events, or set of circumstances that is experienced by an individual as physically or emotionally harmful or threatening and that can have lasting adverse effects on the individual’s functioning and physical, social, emotional well-being.
There are three main types of trauma:
1. Acute Trauma – This can be the result of a single incident such as a car accident, robbery, natural disaster, a shooting, etc.
Staff learn what safety means to each client and as much as possible create that environment for them. They never tell program participants what to do. Participants receive ideas of what options are out there for them to choose from. It’s never chosen for them. Participants are asked to collaborate in coming up with solutions to their own challenges and situations. Staff must pledge to always act trustworthy.
Not surprisingly, the final principal, Empower, has already been part of the LSSSC motto to Embrace, Equip and Empower for more than a decade. “It all starts with letting clients know that we believe in them and that their trauma is real”, concludes Butler. “We’ve been trauma informed in-part and we’re now more than ever committed to practicing in even better ways.”
2. Chronic Trauma – This is repeated and prolonged such as domestic violence or abuse, neglect, community violence or event things like homelessness.
3. Complex Trauma – This is exposure to varied and multiple traumatic events, often of an invasive, interpersonal nature. These can include things like torture, sex trafficking, or slavery, war, etc.
"IT ALL STARTS WITH LETTING THEM KNOW THAT WE BELIEVE IN THEM AND THAT THEIR TRAUMA IS REAL”
LORI J. BUTLER
Forty-nine years ago, in the legendary pits of Riverside Raceway, a mechanic, known for his perfection, dreamed of one day owning his own automobile dealership. He dreamed of a dealership that would sell and service the finest luxury automobiles in America. That perfectionist was Walter Kienle, who has realized his dream in the Inland Empire.
Born in Germany to Swiss parents, Walter Kienle started his career training as a tool and die maker until he immigrated to the U.S. from Switzerland in 1948. Here, he worked as an auto mechanic in Redding, PA until he felt compelled to join the U.S. Army to serve his new country. Stationed at Fort Irwin in Barstow, his love of California was fostered.
He has never forgotten his early roots. Together with his wife Cathy Kienle, Walter’s Auto Group gives back to so many charities in the IE that it is hard to keep track. From $7 million for the local children’s hospital, to having each one of their dealerships collect Christmas toy donations for Lutheran Social Services of California’s Riverside programs for families – they truly are a business that has been doing Corporate Social Responsibility long before it became a regular practice of major businesses.
Other auto dealer associations like SoCal Honda Dealers, have formalized the process into fun campaigns. Last summer, the Helpful Honda Group sent their ice cream truck in the sweltering August heat to LSSSC’s Thousand Oaks, CA office. The line of program participants wrapped around the building as they and staff received free cool ice cream treats. It’s all part of their employees “Random Acts of Helpfulness” campaign.
Just south of Thousand Oaks, in Westlake Village, you’ll find the Sherwood Country Club, one of the finest golf courses in the U.S. Members of the club have created the Sherwood Cares Foundation to share both their love of golf and their community. Over the years, in fact, the foundation has become a significant force. Thus far, they’ve provided more than $3,900,000 in grants to local charitable organizations including LSSSC where their grants go to provide emergency services such as food, utilities, housing referrals, case management and more.
Back in the Inland Empire, Latino grocery chain Cardenas Markets gives back to charity through their Cardenas Cares Foundation. Although they naturally and regularly contribute to feeding programs like the one’s at LSSSC, they are serious about supporting other important initiatives – education and the health and wellness of children. Sharing the same value as LSSSC’s Upward Bound & Trio program to get kids to college, they will give out 64 $3,000 scholarships in 2023.
To discuss how your company can be involved in social responsibility, contact Ruby Ma at email@example.com.
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Walter’s Automotive Group – Over $7 million raised through a Charity Golf Tournament they started to benefit children in the Inland Empire. www.waltersccc.org
SoCal Honda Dealers - For more than 10 years they have banded together in a campaign to commit random Acts of Helpfulness. www.socalhondadealers. com/blog/
Sherwood Cares Foundation supports more than 55 SoCal charities each year www.sherwoodcares.org/grants/grantsawarded/
Cardenas CARES Community Giving Program – Gives out $250K+ in food each year as well as $150K in college scholarships that can be applied for at cardenasmarkets.com/scholarships
-Harvard Business School, 2021
93% OF EMPLOYEES BELIEVE COMPANIES MUST LEAD WITH PURPOSE
Rex Evans is a former helicopter pilot living in the San Bernardino City area. When he lost his housing during the COVID crisis, he turned to many agencies for help and found that he seemed to be “going in circles”. That’s when he heard about and turned to one of the area’s only shelters for men.
Rex is typical of a great deal of men seeking temporary shelter services – he just wanted help finding a job and safe shelter of his own. Despite a lot of work experience and a more than positive attitude, he found himself in need of additional resources while he looked for work.
“The case managers at Lutheran Social Services encouraged me and provided simple things I needed to stabilize my situation like transportation, food and temporary housing,“ he remembers.
“After just 3 months I found a job working for Amazon at the San Bernardino Airport.” The impact was immediate.
“For the first time in a while I had hope for the future because somebody looked above my circumstances,” he added. “They lifted me up, reminded me who I was, embraced me and said you are worthy. You can do this.”
Rex felt equipped and empowered to make a difference for the other men in the shelter by serving as a Resident Volunteer. “The common misconception is that all men entering the shelter are chronically homeless,” share Claire Siefekes, LSSSC Volunteer Coordinator.
To find out about how the Central City Lutheran Mission is being transformed and how you can help contact: firstname.lastname@example.org or see: communitywellnesscampus.org
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When someone speaks to me, I have to consciously pull myself out of that place to even form the words to answer. The mosaic space in my soul is a place of colors, shapes, touch, and Spirit. It is God I find there.“
Her ordered process for creating a piece is generally the same: 1) choose the colors you want 2) choose the size of the art work 3) choose the substrate (what to attach the mosaic to) 4) determine if the finished piece will live indoors or outdoors. “I choose my materials and prepare them with those considerations in mind. I mostly work in stained glass and tile, separately rather than together because they are different thicknesses,” says Ruff-Richter.
Ruff-Richter began doing mosaic mostly for her own creative outlet. She then began giving several pieces away, and auctioned others. In 2004, she launched the professional business Paraclete Mosaic studios but still insists, like most professional artists, that she is mostly creating for herself.
Not surprisingly, the name of her studio, Paraclete Mosaics, refers to an ancient Greek word that means advocate or counselor and is literally translated “someone who comes alongside someone else.” A fitting description of this bold women who has chosen later in life to unselfishly minister to others, following God in her life’s path.
When she does work with art clients, she insists on creative control. She believes she understands the materials best and what kind of representations can best be made with them, guided by her own understanding of her level of skill. For example, she doesn’t do micro-mosaics or mosaics that are so intricately fitted that no grout lines are used or visible. She shares that on some occasions a client has many ideas that won’t easily work together because of the colors, their intricacy, or other factors. Like a good counselor she takes suggestions, but as an expressive artist she always makes the final decisions about what will be included or excluded.
“I love to mosaic on found or donated tables, recycling them and making them beautiful again. My most intricate one is one that represents Noah’s Ark, done in stained glass, glass gems, and pebbles. That one took almost a year to do, though, as usual, I was only working on it on weekends and some evenings.”
She recently completed a mosaic table that displays her Lutheran roots -- a Martin Luther Rose, framed by the three pillars of the Reformation: Sola Gratia, Sola Fide, Sola Scriptura. The table materials included wall tile, brushed metal letters, and square glass tesserae.
“Mosaic is a fascinating hobby, and I do recommend it for anyone seeking a creative outlet. The materials are often free or cheap” Ruff-Richter says. However, she cautions that it is important to have realistic
expectations when starting out, because stained glass itself is not going to be cheap. She recommends checking the web for people giving away free tile, which she says happens “all the time.”
She encourages those who find her same passion for mosaic art to expand their thinking. “You can make money selling your work, do custom installations, or teach mosaic art to others. I don’t do so as much as I could, just for time reasons. And, because it becomes something else when I have a deadline and I’m not doing it for myself. Then it becomes an obligation rather than an enjoyable hobby. But it is the same with all art.”
Upon meeting Sharon Ruff-Richter in her role serving as an involved community leader in Pasadena, you immediately see that same philosophy in her spiritual work. It is clear that she serves in this capacity from a place of joy rather than obligation. As she helps those in the San Gabriel valley whose lives are often broken and in pieces – she is creating a human mosaic that speaks validation over the stories of the hurting and yet offers beautiful insight into the world of transformative hope found in faith that she has known for a lifetime.
For more info. on Richter’s designs and custom mosaic art, including company logos; murals, crosses, and baptismal fonts for churches; and tables, wall art, and garden art for collectors, visit: www. paracletemosaics.com. For more information on the Avanti Program for developmentally disabled adults in Pasadena: https://www.lsssc.org/location/sangabriel-valley-pasadena/ For more information on Trinity Lutheran Church of Pasadena visit: https://www. trinitypasadena.org/
As a psychologist, professional speaker, columnist and author I’ve developed a list of Twenty Tips to Claim Your Optimism Advantage. Here’s three of my favorites for you can use to start the New Year.
You Can’t Win if You Don’t Get in the Game. It’s better to be doing something than doing nothing. If you start doing something, you are changing the rules of the game in your favor. To have a great idea, have a lot of ideas. You miss 100% of the shots you never take. In short, optimists are the first to get in the game!
Keep Perspective. Reframe adversity with a simple question—“In five years, will this matter?” Then get busy turning your setback into a stepping stone for better results. After all, if ruminating about adversity doesn’t lead to an action you can add to your to-do-list, set it aside and get busy doing something that does.
Serve and Be Served. You can’t sincerely help another without helping yourself. Whether you’re offering a smile with an encouraging word, taking the time to complete a random act of kindness, or serving a customer, you transform your own optimistic attitude when you make a difference for others. Where and how can you serve others today?
I hope you’ll join us here at LSSSC and find your “service tribe”. With causes from teen college readiness, senior companionship, feeding and food pantries, domestic violence prevention, mental health services for families and more – there’s room for all to ENGAGE.
Iwas out running one morning recently, and as my feet pounded the pavement in the early morning hours, I noticed the sky was a beautiful red and blue color. I didn’t stop; I kept running, trying to get my workout done. However, I felt as though the red was getting redder and the blues bluer as I ran. I still would not stop (I needed to get done). At some point, though, I felt God had been trying to get my attention gently, but because I didn’t listen, it felt as though He yelled, “Stop and look!” So, I did. I stopped and looked at the sky with amazement. I then took out my iPhone and began taking pictures. I posted those pictures to social media, and apparently, more than 100 people felt the same about how beautiful they were. As I viewed those pictures, I was able to reflect on God’s goodness. What a wonderful life I have lived. I thank God every day for blessing my life as He has done, and I want to be and do all that God has called me to be and do.
What about you? Have you reflected lately? Have you thought about how each day you make a ripple effect into the lives of others? I have. Recently a person told me that I made a significant difference in her life years ago. She said that although college was accessible to her, it was just not something she had thought of pursuing until she met me. Today, she holds advanced degrees. As such, I began to think about several people I had encouraged to go to school so that they would have opportunities that may have evaded them otherwise. They did, and those doors opened. They don’t have to give me any credit; that’s not what I am looking for at all. But I will say it makes me feel good that this one person didn’t wait until it was time for my eulogy to let me see that I made a difference.
RickDavis Treasurer, Board of Directors
Secretary, Board of Directors
Rev. Nader Hanna
Chaplain (COL-Ret.) Scottie R. Lloyd
Rev. Sharon M. Ruff Richter
Victoria Villa, MSW
Bishop Brenda Bos, Southwest CA Synod, ELCA
Rev. Dr. Michael Gibson, Pacific Southwest Region, LCMS
Bishop David C. Nagler, Pacifica Synod, ELCA
Ignited by faith, we live out God’s love by embracing, equipping and empowering vulnerable people in Southern California.
Sharing the love of Christ, we seek to form a community where…
• the vulnerable are safer and stronger
• the dependent are self-sustaining
• the isolated dwell in community
• the weary are given hope.
Lutheran Social Services of Southern California
999 Town & Country Rd. #100
Orange, CA 92686
4 min read