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Lutheran Social Services CEO: Collaborating to combat financial distress in Jacksonville

Updated: Apr 15

This article was originally published in The Florida Times-Union on Saturday, April 6th 2024. You can view the originally printed article below the blog post.

There’s a quote I like, often attributed to Mother Teresa. “I can do things you cannot, you can do things I cannot; together we can do great things.” It resonates with me firstly because it’s true. But, I find it also grants me grace. I can take a deep breath and relax a little because I don’t have to be all things to all people. It’s true of us as individuals, and it’s true for organizations.

Lutheran Social Services CEO Bill Brim is and board chairwoman Kym Hammer as they cut a ribbon to celebrate the LSS Grand Re-Opening. Photo taken by Mark Krancer

Lutheran Social Services of Northeast Florida (LSS) has consistently addressed needs in our community for 45 years. As president and CEO, my vision for LSS achieved a major milestone on March 6 when we opened our doors to the public for the first time as a community services center featuring not only LSS, but onsite nonprofit partners CAN Community Health, JaxCareConnect and WeCareJax. Collectively, our services touched an incredible 90,000 lives last year.

Now more than ever, it’s critical we work together. When a recent study ranked Jacksonville 10th nationwide for “financial distress,” I was not surprised. I see the symptoms of this struggle in my work every day. Our food pantry, one of very few open five days a week, serves more than 100 households daily—often a direct result of exorbitant increases in housing and living costs. 

But our focus at LSS extends beyond immediate relief for basic needs. Our Steps 2 Success program provides individualized career and financial coaching, leading to life-changing results; last year, clients raised their credit scores an average of 75 points, and increased their net income by $1,203/month. S2S is a powerful resource for those seeking not only financial independence, but also wealth creation for the next generation.

Our HIV Services program, ACE (Advocacy, Care & Education), provides another shining example of what is possible when available services are truly comprehensive. The most robust HIV services provider in the region, ACE at LSS itself provides 11 different wraparound services. Additionally, our onsite partner CAN Community Health provides HIV-positive individuals with physician and dental care, plus a full-service laboratory and pharmacy. 

The impact? Over 91 percent of our ACE clients living with HIV are virally suppressed, meaning they are no longer able to spread HIV through sexual contact. The national average is only 66 percent. Our collaboration with CAN is truly moving the needle in our nation’s goal to “stop the spread.”

Our programs and those of the other onsite nonprofits cover a wide array of needs: food, healthcare access, employment assistance, case management, financial coaching, and much more. But, service gaps still exist.

As I explore opportunities for further expansion, I would love to one day have mental health services available onsite at LSS, along with housing assistance. I don’t want to start these programs myself; luckily, I don’t have to. Experts are already doing it in our community, and doing it well. I hope to one day join forces with them. I once heard some wise words to remind me that when we collaborate with others in the community, together we can do great things!

.2024 Lutheran Social Services CEO Collaborating to combat financial distress in Jack

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