Lutheran Social Services
Lutheran Social Services’ (LSS) portfolio of services might surprise you. The organization serves people of all ages through a wide variety of programs, social enterprises, and housing options throughout central Ohio and beyond.
But the heart of the organization is its core services. For more than 100 years, LSS has been at the cornerstone of serving central Ohio’s basic needs. Today, as one of the community’s largest nonprofit organizations, LSS continues its mission of “creating a better world by serving people in need”—running five permanent food pantries, two homeless shelter programs, domestic violence services and a safe haven shelter, and three social enterprises.
While these rely heavily on donations and grants, LSS also has a group of billable services that help offset the costs, including independent and assisted living, memory care and skilled nursing facilities, affordable housing for seniors, and home healthcare services.
“We are unique in terms of other human services organizations in the community because we have purposely developed some pretty robust diversification strategies,” said Rev. Larry Crowell, President and CEO of LSS. “The economic engines align to our mission and also provide surplus funding to help subsidize and grow our core services.”
“By serving people in need, we are creating a better world.”
—Rev. Larry Crowell
LSS’s five food pantries in Columbus, Delaware, Lancaster, and Caldwell serve the needs of thousands of people yearround. Mobile pantries are also on the rise. LSS is able to meet people where they are, as many don’t have access to transportation to get to a pantry. “We are able to go to a church parking lot, set up, and do the same thing we can do in a physical pantry,” Rev. Crowell said.
LSS Faith Mission, a homeless shelter located in downtown Columbus, provides a safe environment for men and women on an emergency walk-in basis, offering those in need shelter, food, a health center, veteran’s services, and help with employment readiness and case management.
LSS CHOICES, Franklin County’s only domestic violence safe haven, will offer expanded capacity with a new 120-bed facility. The current CHOICES location has about 50 beds; however, some nights there are 70, 80, or 90 people seeking safe shelter.
LSS’s three social enterprise ventures, Freshbox Catering, Patriot Pride Painting Co., and Fairhaven Lawn Care, offer training and skills.
“Our social enterprise is a transitional job training model that teaches homeless and unemployed individuals. It’s a learning laboratory,” Rev. Crowell explained. “They come and get life skills and job skills training. We are trying to build their resumes so they can become employed.”
Rev. Crowell is excited about the future of the organization, as it continues to grow and offer hope to those across the 29-county area LSS serves.
“I think our future is really going deeper into relationships to focus on restoration of lives. It’s not so much a provision of service, but engaging the whole person for a longer period of time,” Rev. Crowell said. “What more can we be doing to expand our reach and have an extended connection? Restoration comes over time. It’s more than the number of meals served; it’s about people. When we touch them it’s an opportunity to not just serve the need they are presenting, but to learn more about what caused that need and how we can go beyond that and help impact a life.”