Former LSS employees step up to help families affected by its closure


When Lutheran Social Services shut down operations in January, there was a huge gap to fill. One of them being the Healthy Families Program.

Minutes after Lutheran Social Services announced their closure, previous employees stepped up to make sure the families LSS were helping wouldn’t fall through the cracks.

Missi Baranko, executive director of USpire ND says, “Very quickly we made the decision to create our own nonprofit so that we can continue our services seamlessly for families across the state.”

So Baranko and her team created USpire ND, a nonprofit that would house the Healthy Families of North Dakota Program.

Emily Gran, the program coordinator for Healthy Families of Southwest North Dakota says, “When LSS closed we sat, we cried for a few minutes then we came into battle and was ready to go.”

With a team of 10 ranging from social workers to nurses, they’re able to meet the needs for 163 families.

Baranko says, “Primarily we work with families from the time they’re pregnant for usually about three years. So between that three and four-year-old range.”

They help families with early childhood development, budgeting finances, sleep education, lactation coaching, car seat checks, and so much more.

Gran says, “Like Missi said, we have a passion for what we do and there’s a need for what we do in our area especially out here in southwest North Dakota there was no time to wallow in the loss with LSS. We had to move forward. and we had to do it quickly.”

They both said their hope is to better serve families across the whole state and into rural areas within the next year.

Everyone has a unique parenting journey and the women at USpire ND say they want to meet the families where they’re at.

For more information on the new organization go here.

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