About Us

HISTORY

In 1975 when the Vietnam War ended, thousands of refugees sought safety in the United States arriving with nothing more than the clothes they wore. The needs of the refugees were tremendous and Lutheran churches responded quickly providing them with immediate aid in the form of food, clothing and temporary homes. This assistance was vital; however, it soon became apparent that a larger, ongoing and more organized effort was necessary to help the newcomers adjust to life in a new country.

As a result, Lutheran churches sponsored employment programs to help refugees find jobs so they could truly begin building new lives in America. In 1980, when thousands of Cubans came to the United States during the Mariel Boatlift, Lutheran churches responded once again helping refugees with resettlement needs and employment assistance.

When Lutheran Services Florida (formerly Lutheran Ministries of Florida) was established in 1982, the agency assumed responsibility for the employment programs started by Lutheran churches in Miami and Tampa. Whereas initially the greatest demand for assistance came from Vietnamese and Cuban refugees, soon counselors from Lutheran Services Florida (LSF) were helping refugees from Central America, Haiti and other parts of the Caribbean, Bosnia, Sudan and many other countries. As the number of refugees increased dramatically throughout the years, LSF responded to the growing demand for services by expanding its programs. Today LSF has Refugee and Immigration programs throughout Southeast and Central Florida.

Other programs located throughout the state include: Guardianship Services, Youth Shelters, Head Start and Early Head Start, the Child Care Food Program, Counseling Services, Disaster Response, Sexual Abuse Treatment Program, Teen Court, Ryan White Program, Case Management for Child Welfare, Foster Care and Adoptions, Charter Schools, and Substance Abuse and Mental Health.

Continuing its mission, LSF continues to expand each division of services to meet existing needs and to bring healing, hope, and help to people in need throughout Florida. Today LSF has offices and programs in Belle Glade, Crestview, Fort Myers, Fort Walton Beach, Jacksonville, Largo, Lauderdale Lakes, Miami, Milton, New Port Richey, Oakland Park, Orlando, Pensacola, Port Charlotte, Sarasota, St. Petersburg and Tampa.

OUR MISSION

Lutheran Services Florida serves to bring God’s healing, hope and help to people in need in the name of Jesus Christ.

Leadership Team

A social worker at heart, Sam Sipes is a strong person of faith, a compassionate leader, and a strategic organizational thinker. Sam believes in inspiring and empowering his team to transform lives.  He enjoys helping people realize their God-given potential.

“Great vision without great people is irrelevant.” –James C. Collins

sam-sipesDescribed as “a visionary leader with a compassionate heart,” Sam joined LSF in September 2007. As CEO, he manages more than 1,300 employees and oversees more than 60 programs with an annual statewide budget of more than $200 million.

Sam has a background in leadership roles in nonprofit organizations, as well as experience in child welfare, social services and programs for senior citizens. Prior to joining LSF, Sam served as President and Chief Operating Officer of Lutheran Social Services of the South in Austin, Texas, now UpBring. In 2005, Sam was among the key leaders who helped organize and manage the regional and national response to Hurricane Katrina.

Sam has a passion for helping and serving children, families, and communities that are underserved and vulnerable. During his tenure at LSF, Sam has overseen the agency’s tremendous growth around the state as LSF has more than tripled in size and impact since 2013.

Sam has served on numerous boards including the Council on Accreditation of Child and Family Services, the Florida Coalition for Children, and Lutheran Services in America. He is a former member of the Florida Faith-Based and Community-Based Advisory Council. Sam received both a Master of Science in Social Work and a Bachelor of Social Work from the University of Texas at Austin. He is a Licensed Clinical Social Worker, Licensed Child Placing Agency Administrator, Licensed Child Care Administrator, and a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist. He is a Board Certified Diplomat of the American Board of Examiners of Clinical Social Work and a Diplomat in Clinical Social Work of the National Association of Social Workers.

A dedicated child advocate, Chris Card is a results oriented change maker. As an advocate, Chris has successfully led the child welfare system through fundamental changes and reforms that better serve children in need.

“It always seems impossible until it is done.” –Nelson Mandela

chris-cardKnown as a strong leader in the child welfare and child advocacy arena, Chris came to LSF in December 2012 after serving as the South Region Vice President for Providence Services Corporation responsible for a wide range of social service programs throughout Florida, Texas and Louisiana.

Chris has extensive experience in many arenas of social services including five years as a child welfare case manager and supervisor in Houston, five years managing an inpatient treatment center for children and adolescents, five years as a statewide advocate and association director for the Florida Network of Youth and Family Services, and nearly a decade as a Community Based Care lead agency executive director.

Chris was a founder of Florida’s child welfare reform called Community Based Care and has been appointed by Governors Lawton Chiles and Jeb Bush to a variety of positions of state leadership for children and families. He was the primary architect and advocate for the system of care that has reformed Florida’s child welfare system. Chris was the first executive of the pilot project in Sarasota County Florida that has been duplicated throughout the entire state of Florida. This reform included systemic redesign, data system development and implementation, transition from a state service delivery system to a community service delivery system, and significant policy and procedure reform. This reform has resulted in dramatic improvement in performance for all child welfare services including tripling the number of adoptions each year, a 40 percent reduction in the children in out of home care placements, over 25 percent reduction in caseloads, along with many other accomplishments.

Chris holds a Bachelor’s Degree in Economics from Oakland University. He received his Master’s in Social Work from Wayne State University and his Doctorate of Social Work at the University of South Florida.

Stacy Martin believes in the power of story-telling to change the world. As an advocate and executive, Stacy has dedicated her career to ensuring that people are not only heard, but valued.

“Service is the rent that you pay for room on this earth.” – Shirley Chisholm

stacy-martinKnown as a passionate communicator and story teller, Stacy Martin has held leadership positions in various national and international nonprofits, where she’s built development and communications functions of organizations from the ground up,. Stacy is responsible for overseeing all development, media relations, PR, marketing & communications, and external relations for LSF.

Prior to joining LSF in 2015, Stacy served as the director of policy and advocacy for the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ECLA) in Washington, DC. In this position, she led state and federal domestic, international and environmental policy and advocacy for the more than four million member organization.

Stacy knows that the primary experts in any problem-solving scenario are the people whose lives are most affected, and she has been able to successfully turn human service programs around, improve development and communications capacities of large organizations, and propose practical policy solutions to local, state, and federal government officials. Over the years, Stacy has successfully helped nonprofit organizations increase revenue, build brand equity, and enlarge the donor investor base by telling the stories of impact rather than of need.

She has an MBA from Eastern University, a Master of Divinity from Princeton and she received her B.A. in English and secondary education from Sterling College. Stacy has served on a number of local and national boards, is a national speaker and presenter on a wide range of non-profit sector and social justice issues, and is a published writer. She has spent time working, living, and traveling all over the world.

Building on her experiences driving business results across multiple industries, Amelia Fox is a strategic, entrepreneurial, and analytical executive with a track record of executing comprehensive and actionable growth plans for organizations. Amelia enjoys the challenge of steering strategic initiatives that ultimately create more effective services for people in need.

“For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” –Jeremiah 29:11

amelia-foxAmelia brings deep knowledge in developing and executing strategies for growth across multiple industries, and has significant experience in building people-focused organizations and designing and implementing programs to improve outcomes and overall business processes. She has led several organizational transformations to include building a strategic planning team and developing global strategies for growth at a multi-billion dollar payments company. A few examples of her experiences in the nonprofit and education industries include leading the reorganization of a $90m division of the NYC Public Schools to facilitate the devolution of funds to the school level, and an comprehensive assessment of the decision making process in Indiana public school districts as preparation for their Race to the Top application.

Amelia was also a member of the executive team at a high profile, non-profit in the education technology space, where she ran financial and strategic planning, privacy and security, along with all back-office operations including finance, accounting, human resources, legal affairs, and the project management office. With deep project management skills, she is well versed in business process design, analytics and reporting, quality assessment, change management, training, and facilitation.

Most recently, Amelia co-founded Spotlight Performance, a technology and performance improvement firm that uses a web-based application and coaching tool to help teams improve their customer relationships, sales productivity and employee communications. She holds a BA in psychology from Davidson College and an MBA from Yale University, School of Management.

Cost savings for Bob Wydra ultimately boil down to effectively serving people in need. As a proven financial and accounting leader who has a track record for improving financial and administrative systems, Bob believes it is crucial that organizations be good stewards of public funds.

“A truly rich man is one whose children run into his arms when his hands are empty.” –Unknown

bob-wydraKnown as a nonprofit executive with an extensive financial and accounting background, Bob joined LSF in 2016. He comes to LSF after spending 15 years as Controller and CFO at the Children’s Home Society of Florida. With over 25 years in the not for profit sector, Bob is well versed in nonprofit accounting, fiscal policy compliance, budgeting, forecasting, and strategic planning.

During his time at Children’s Home Society of Florida, Bob oversaw their statewide business and financial management operations, and administered budgeting, accounting, financial reporting, internal auditing, risk management, and pension processes.

Bob brings a long record of helping nonprofits find cost savings, re-engineering and centralizing key accounting and finance functions, and implementing administrative processes that save time, reduce errors and improve operations within large complex organizations.

Bob holds a BS/BA in Accounting from University of Central Florida and an MBA from Strayer University. He is a member of the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants.

Passionate about public policy and advocacy, Louis Finney is a well-versed leader on issues related to early care and education, and local, state and federal policy for programs impacting communities.  As a former Head Start child, Louis knows firsthand the impact these programs have on children and families in need.

“Success is to be measured not so much by the position that one has reached in life as by the obstacles which he has overcome while trying to succeed.” –Booker T. Washington

louis-finneyRecognized as a national expert on federal childcare, head start and early learning programs, Louis Finney is passionate about issues that affect families in poverty. Louis came to LSF in 2013, and oversees LSF’s Children and Head Start Programs, with more than 1,550 full-time and contracted employees and an overall budget of $75 million. Louis has helped lead the agency’s tremendous growth in the early childhood education arena over the past few years. Since 2013, Louis has managed programs that grew from serving approximately 300 children in Belle Glade and Hillsborough County to more than 6,000 children currently in Hillsborough, Pinellas, Palm Beach, Duval counties. These early learning programs provide education, health and social services in more than 120 locations throughout the state of Florida. Previously, Louis was the Director of Hillsborough County’s Board of County Commissioners Head Start/Early Head Start Department.

In 2015, he was elected Vice President for the National Family Childcare Association, a membership and accreditation organization representing over 1 million licensed Family Childcare Providers. In August 2016 He was elected to serve as the President of the Florida Head Start Association were he represents 45,000 families, 10,000 staff and over 35 Head Start Grantees.  He is also currently the founding President of the Greater Tampa Bay Area Chapter of the National Black Child Development Institute (NBCDI). He served on the Boards of the Hillsborough, Pinellas, and Duval County Early Learning Coalitions (ELCs) and was appointed to serve on the Governors State of Florida Early Advisory Council.

Louis earned his Master’s in Public Administration and completed course work toward a Ph.D. in Nonprofit Management.  He is also an Army Veteran and served in Operation Iraqi Freedom.

A true believer in the talents of all students and their ability to learn and succeed regardless of their situation, Dr. Angela Combs is a strong optimist and longtime leader in the education field. Angela believes that each student should be seen as an individual.

“Change the way you look at things and the things you look at will change.” –William Dyer

angela-combsAcknowledged as a leader focused on turning around and improving the academic performance of schools, Angela joined LSF in 2015, and brings more than 21 years of experience in the education field. She oversees educational services and programs within LSF, including four public charter schools located throughout the state.

Angela’s goals include individualizing each student, focusing on their strengths while working on their areas of improvement to create the best possible education plan. She believes that all students can be successful if given the opportunity. She wants to create an environment that reflects one of safety, belonging, acceptance and respect. An environment not just where students feel at home, but one where the student leaves every day with a feeling of accomplishment from the knowledge they have gained.

Angela received her Doctorate in Education Leadership and Masters in Administration and Supervision from Trevecca Nazarene University in Nashville, Tennessee. Her doctoral research focused on student transition, motivation, and drop-out prevention. Her dissertation focused on the difficulties of freshman transition and solutions to ease high school stress. She is an experienced educator who has taught at all levels to various types of learners. She has taught and attended differential instruction conferences that helped her create a toolbox of talents to assist students and parents.

A “people person” at heart, Matt Rosen deeply values and cares for each and every member of the LSF team. With an inquisitive personality along with his legal and HR professional training, Matt has always found it important to get to know people at a personal level.

“You can easily judge the character of a man by how he treats those who can do nothing for him.” –Malcolm Forbes

matt-rosenRecognized as a trusted advisor and counsel, Matt joined LSF in 2010, at a time when the organization began to rapidly grow. As a human resources professional, attorney and trainer, Matt brings more than 25 years of experience in human resources leadership to the VP of Human Resources position. Matt is a Certified Specialist in Labor and Employment Law and a Certified Senior Professional of Human Resources with the Society for Human Resource Management. Matt specializes in labor and employment law relations, negotiation of benefit plans, EEOC and regulatory compliance, and international human resources.

He holds a Juris Doctor from Chase College of Law. In 2015, he received the Tampa Bay Business Journal’s Award for Top Corporate Counsel in the Governmental and Not-for-Profit arenas. Matt stood out as a Corporate Counsel due to his versatility, judgement, and “can-do” attitude.

Dr. Christine Cauffield is determined to improve the quality and level of mental health and substance abuse care in the state of Florida. This compels her to be a vocal advocate for children and families in need. When it comes to behavioral healthcare and mental health, Christine is widely known as a knowledgeable and thoughtful leader.

“You may not control all the events that happen to you, but you can decide not to be reduced by them.” –Maya Angelou

christine-caufieldDedicating her life’s work to serving those who suffer from mental health disorders and substance abuse, Dr. Christine Cauffield oversees LSF’s Substance Abuse and Mental Health Managing Entity. Prior to joining LSF in 2014, Christine was President of Cauffield & Associates Consulting, providing integrated behavioral health and leadership to hospitals, nonprofit behavioral health organizations, Federally Qualified Health Centers and Assisted Living and Nursing Home organizations.

Christine has a long track record of serving in leadership positions of organizations that help individuals who have mental health and/or co-occurring disorders. She is passionate about connecting the dots and linking people to community resources and programs that ensure stability and assists in their continued success with recovery. Christine’s role leading the Managing Entity that covers a 23-county region is a perfect fit for someone who believes in high quality and consistent results in mental and behavioral healthcare.

Christine holds a Doctor of Psychology in Clinical Psychology and she completed her Internship and Post-Doctoral Residency at Harvard Medical School. She serves on numerous local and state boards and is a frequent keynote speaker at both national and international conferences on a variety of behavioral healthcare topics.

A social worker by trade, Patricia Leonard is especially passionate and knowledgeable about at-risk children and families, quality assurance, accreditation, and grant writing. Her expertise extends to nonprofit program development and management. As one of the longest serving members at LSF, her leadership touches many legacy programs at LSF.

“Your work is to discover your work and then with all your heart to give yourself to it.” –The Buddha

patty-leonardKnowledgeable about nonprofit program development and management, Patty Leonard oversees many of LSF’s programs, including child welfare case management, youth shelters, refugee and immigration services, children and family counseling, sexual abuse treatment, and guardianship. Patty joined LSF permanently in 2002, having worked with the agency since 1996.

She previously served in numerous roles at LSF, including the Associate Vice President of Quality Management, Southwest Regional Director, Clinical Director for CINS/FINS and Program Manager for the Family Preservation Program. She is a Licensed Clinical Social Worker.

Patty has been a dedicated and committed leader at LSF and has helped shepherd the organization through tremendous growth and change over the past few years. As a Licensed Clinical Social Worker, she understands the difficult nature of case work in the social services field, and she knows what it takes to be successful at building programs and systems that protect children, improve families, and strengthen communities.

Get Involved

Lutheran Services Florida (LSF) believes in working together with government agencies, private organizations and businesses, volunteers, and community organizations to effectively deliver important human services to people in need. Learn more about our current partners!