Human Trafficking Prevention and Awareness

woman, human trafficking victim, in clinic room with a concerned look in her face.

The month of January is recognized nationally for Human Trafficking Prevention and Awareness. Human Trafficking primarily involves exploitation but comes in many different forms. LSF has a dedicated program in Tampa Bay to help trafficking victims— Trafficking Victim Assistance Program (TVAP).

Helping trafficking victims may look different than you think as trafficking victims are often physically and emotionally abused, threatened, lied to, and tricked.  It involves more than linking victims to services, it’s about providing comprehensive, wrap-around services, and support so victims can recover safely and be set up for a successful future.

LSF’s TVAP program builds relationships with faith-based organizations, survivors, law enforcement, service providers, and members of federal, state, and local governments. Community partnerships are essential to raise awareness about human trafficking and reach the most vulnerable populations in our community.

LSF has a great relationship with Homeland Security and in 2019, LSF’s Anti-Trafficking Outreach Coordinator was invited to be a part of an operation in recovery of minor victims of sex trafficking. LSF was able to connect with a minor recovered victim after the operation and referred the victim to LSF’s TVAP program.

Additional collaborative efforts between Homeland Security, the Administration for Children and Families, and Victim Assistance Specialists ensured the survivor could recover safely.

woman, human trafficking victim, in clinic room with a concerned look in her face.

From there, LSF connected the victim to comprehensive case management to ensure that the victim was referred to Crisis Center of Tampa Bay, legal services, and assisted with paperwork so the victim could immediately start receiving financial assistance.

Once the COVID-19 pandemic hit, LSF was able to extend the victims case management services and financial assistance.

While receiving services the victim became pregnant and her newborn was born during an emergency delivery, transferred to the NICU, and had to undergo surgery. This additional stress caused for a greater need for assistance from LSF and the local community.

LSF’s Anti-Trafficking Outreach Coordinator had the victim make a list of her immediate needs. The number one thing the victim listed was food. Others listed were clothing, personal care items, diapers, assistance with transportation, and more.

LSF’s Anti-Trafficking Outreach Coordinator reached out to community partners, spoke with colleagues at LSF, and as a result was able to provide the victim with an abundance of food, diapers, multiple bags of clothing and personal care items, money for transportation, and additional financial assistance to help with housing.

The newborn is now released from the hospital and both the victim and infant are doing well.

For more information on LSF’s Trafficking Victim’s Assistance Program and Comprehensive Case Management Services, visit:

Elections 2020

This has been a trying year for America and our communities.  We have weathered storms, wildfires, a global pandemic, acts of injustice, peaceful protests, violence, and a contentious election.

Now, we find ourselves facing uncertain election results and threats of a contested outcome.   While voting has ended, the results of this election are now in the hands of state and local officials charged with counting and certifying the vote tally, as they have throughout our history.  As always, the integrity of our democracy is entrusted to their hands.

At this time, I ask you to join me in praying for those shouldering this responsibility.  Let’s also lift in prayer our divided nation that we may find healing and peace in the days and months ahead.

Sam Sipes, President & CEO

A Story of Resilience

Recovery Month 2020

September is recognized nationwide as Recovery Month to increase awareness and understanding of mental health and substance use disorders and celebrate the people who recover from these devastating diseases.

The stress we are all feeling from Covid-19, hurricane season and a possible economic recession is real and concerning.  Increasing anxiety and worry makes right now a critical time to take care of your mental health.

Sherry Warner, LSF’s Certified Recovery Peer Specialist Success Coach, went through her own mental health journey. She tells her story of hope and finding the strength to recover.

I grew up with an alcoholic father, an unstable emotionally abusive mother, and a stepfather who molested me for years. Their own traumas impacted their parenting, perpetuating a cycle of harsh shaming tactics and extreme physical discipline. I left it all behind after running away at 18 years old and married my husband at 21. We are on the tail end of raising 5 kids, with the youngest now 16 years old. It’s been no piece of cake.

At an early age our oldest displayed extremely aggressive, violent, even abusive traits that only got worse in time, severely injuring our family dynamic. He lived away from home for 3 years of his teens and I felt broken and as if I had failed as a mom. The trickledown effect of the trauma hurt us all. As a family of 7, we have survived debilitating mental health diagnoses of all the kids and two suicide attempts. We are no strangers to Baker Acts, lengthy behavioral health hospitalizations, and rides in police cars. Our determination was one of the only things that kept us pushing on.

After four decades of chronic stress and unprocessed trauma, both as a child and as a mother, my mind and body started breaking down. I realized I didn’t care if I died, but I wasn’t going to do it myself. I was exhausted, beaten down and hurt by the judgment of family and friends all around me. I experienced panic attacks, crying episodes, constant nausea. I was overweight, bloated, irritable, easily frightened, overwhelmed, and just plain miserable. I wanted, needed, and craved peace and joy but it felt so far away.

I had put the kids first and neglected myself. It was time to use the same advocacy and determination I used in raising my kids and apply it to myself. I saw (and still see) a doctor and therapist regularly. I allowed myself to feel “it” in order to heal “it.”  I started scheduling time for me.

In time, I adjusted who and what I allowed in my life, creating boundaries long overdue. I said no to things that no longer served me and no to all the extra things that were keeping me from taking care of myself.

I left a church that made me feel oppressed and not enough, especially because this church didn’t take kindly to my transgender son and my lesbian daughter. I lost family and friends in this process, but I started feeling better, eating better, and exercising. I started breathing. I was learning to inhale so I could exhale.  I stopped trying to solve everything, because I couldn’t. There just wasn’t enough of me to go around.

Today, I have developed a resiliency that was always waiting to be cultivated. I went to work in a field I was passionate about and realized I have something to offer. I have developed a wellness & recovery action plan for myself and put self-care as paramount in my life. I have helped my kids learn to do the same. We are all doing well now and have a healthy trajectory.

I continue to read, keep an open mind, and listen to my body. These days, I label my feelings for myself and I ask myself why I feel the way I do. I dig deep to understand myself so I can better myself. I can look in the mirror now, tell myself I’m awesome and I believe it. There is a bright future ahead. I know some of it will be rocky, but I also know I have the tools to navigate the terrain and I’m not scared of it.

Cheers to braving my own wilderness.

Recovery Month celebrates all the individuals living in recovery and recognizes the dedicated workers who make it possible. For more information, visit

Suicide Is Preventable

What I Didn’t Know Then, What I Do Know Now.

Donald Mingle (left) at 8 years old with Bryan Mingle (right) at 9 years old

By Bryan Mingle

CQI Specialist- LSF Health Systems, Jacksonville


I will never forget that evening in early April 1987, the week before Easter, when my dad called the newsroom where I was working in Orlando. When I walked over to the landline and picked up the receiver, I heard a halting voice fighting back tears. “We lost Donald.”

Almost immediately and for days, weeks and years after I heard those words, I thought back on conversations with my brother the previous months. One haunted me. Donald, the youngest boy in our family of 3 boys who was born on my 1st birthday, was lying on his bed in his old bedroom in our Jacksonville house. He was visiting from California where he was employed, at 27 years old, as a prison guard with a new baby boy in a marriage that wasn’t going well. He showed me the scars on his wrist and said he tried to kill himself after returning to the United States from Germany on a hardship discharge from the Army, where he had met his wife. My impulsive sports jock and jester clown of a brother began to cry. I was completely caught off guard. I felt helpless. Uncomfortable. I did not know how to respond. “Don’t be silly, brother. Don’t talk like that.” I quickly changed the subject.

For years after my brother’s suicide completion, my parents and other family members rarely spoke of the sudden loss. Risk factors were not in anyone’s vocabulary. People would say, “Donald was sick.”

Fast forward to 2015, after several years of my own moments of hopelessness fueled by escape, wonder and guilt, and I am working in a dream job as a Quality Improvement Specialist at LSF Health Systems (LSFHS). I had returned to Florida from California, where I moved to live six months after my brother’s death. After working as a co-occurring addictions counselor in Jacksonville, I landed a role at the first Northeast Florida Managing Entity. I embraced the LSF mission: to serve families and children and help to keep them safe. One day I found myself in a Question, Persuade, Refer (QPR) suicide gatekeeper training with my clinical staff colleagues. QPR is a staple of the aspirational Zero Suicide approach to suicide prevention, which was shaping up to be a priority in the under-funded and vulnerable Sunshine State. LSFHS was embarking on grant projects that continue to this day to make LSFHS stand out amongst its statewide peers.

My message today is about the life-changing information I learned in that QPR and subsequent QPRT (advanced) training. It is my calling to share it so that, 33 years after Donald’s suicide, you may feel encouraged to have a conversation with someone struggling in life. During these COVID-19 months of extreme anxiety and unknowingness, it is more important than ever. Once you’ve discovered you can overcome your own discomfort and fear about suicide, linking a person to hope is easy. I am grateful to say I’ve done it many, many times since I was taught how to do it.

Thanks to the elements of Zero Suicide, which addresses and increases the confidence level of anyone, licensed therapists included, Americans are starting to burst the many myths around suicidal thoughts. (You can’t cause someone to attempt suicide by talking about it; it is just the opposite, research shows.)

Donald Mingle, age 17.
Bryan Mingle, age 17.

Listen and observe

  • If the person has not confided in you but you sense there is something off in their behavior or demeanor, ask questions to start the conversation. Some examples:
  • “You haven’t seemed like yourself lately, is there anything going on?”
  • “I know you and something is going on. Let’s talk about it. I want to help.”
  • “I’m worried about you. Are you OK? It’s OK to not be OK.”

Ask if the person is thinking about suicide. Be direct and calm.

Some examples of questions:

  • “Have you had thoughts of suicide?”
  • “Do you ever feel so bad that you think about suicide?”
  • “Do you have a plan to kill yourself or take your life?”
  • “Have you thought about when you would do it (today, tomorrow, next week)?”
  • “Have you thought about what method you would use?

Listen without judgment.

  • Let the person talk without interruption and have them feel heard.

Avoid the following:

  • Minimizing their problems or shaming a person into changing their mind.
  • Sharing your opinion. Trying to convince a person suffering that it’s not that bad, or that they have everything to live for, may increase their feelings of guilt and hopelessness.
  • Avoid arguing or challenging the person.
  • Avoid preaching or prophesying
  • Avoid making promises (like keeping it a secret)

Respond and persuade with kindness and care.

  • Phrases that are helpful:
  • “You are not alone. I’m here for you.”
  • “I may not understand exactly how you feel, but I care about you and want to help.”
  • “We will get through this together.”

What to do:

  • Stay calm.
  • Acknowledge that they are in pain and that their pain is REAL.
  • Stay with the person.
  • Remove sharp objects or lethal means
  • Go with the person to the ER or mental health clinic


CALL 911 if someone has caused bodily harm to themselves or is actively threatening to hurt themselves or others

If they say they are NOT suicidal:

  • Reassure the person that you are not there to judge them or do anything that makes them uncomfortable. You only want to understand their thoughts and feelings so together you can make the best choice for their health. Remind them that if they ever have suicidal thoughts that you are there to listen and help.

Refer to Treatment

  • Call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline: 1-800-273-8255

Listen to the prompts: press 1 for Veterans. A veteran will answer. You can also text 838255.

  • The LSF Access to Care Line can provide referral and information for mental health counseling and to continue the instillation of hope: 1-877-229-9098.
  • The NAMI Collier WARM Line is answered by certified peer specialists who each have personal experience with mental health and/or suicide attempts. Call 1-800-945-1355 between 4 p.m. and 10 p.m weekdays and weekends EST to talk because it’s OK to not be OK.

If you or anyone you know has lost someone to the completion of suicide, please know there are support groups and help for you. The loss and grief surrounding suicide is a known risk factor for an individual’s own suicide.

Thank you so much for letting me share my experience. The QPR training was so helpful for me and I hope all the resources I shared above are helpful for you.

Career Opportunities That Make a Difference

Lutheran Services Florida (LSF) envisions a world where children are safe, families are strong, and communities are vibrant. We are hiring for several bilingual residential services positions.

Are you interested in making a difference in the lives of others and serving children at work? We are searching for a Lead Case Manager, Lead Teacher, Case Manager, Teacher, Youth Care Coordinator and Youth Care Specialist. and more!

Visit LSF’s career page to learn more and apply:

We offer an incredible benefits package including medical, dental, vision, 13 paid holidays plus 1 floating holiday, a generous PTO plan, 403(b) retirement plan with 3% discretionary employer match, employer paid life insurance, long term disability, teledoc, health and dependent care FSA, employee assistance plan (EAP), and tuition reimbursement.

Lutheran Services Florida embraces diversity, equity, and inclusion in all business practices. LSF is proud to be an equal opportunity employer.

Connecting in a Time of Isolation

“Socially distancing doesn’t mean we are emotionally distancing.”

Many, including Florida Governor Ron DeSantis, have raised concern about the long-term effects of isolation across all ages. Specifically, concerns have been raised about the potential for increased suicides. Suicide prevention experts say it’s reasonable to think the COVID-19 pandemic could lead to increased suicide risk for certain populations. CEO of LSF Health Systems and clinical psychologist, Dr. Christine Cauffield shares how important it is to find balance as a community in protecting the spread of the virus but also having an enhanced focus on mental health.

Dr. Cauffield explains that increased isolation can be a trigger for those already struggling with mental health problems, but she says there is hope in connection. And to remember that just because we are socially distancing doesn’t mean we are emotionally distancing.

While facing COVID-19, she reminds us that it’s important to get creative with how we communicate and show support to one another. Connection is key to combating isolation, and thankfully, we live in a day and age where there are more ways to connect than ever before. Dr. Cauffield believes people who receive support – even virtual support – from caring friends and family, and those who have access to mental health services are much less likely to act on their suicidal impulses.

The easiest way to check in on someone who you think may be struggling is to pick up the phone – whether it’s a traditional call or a video chat. Try setting up regular calls with your loved ones so that they have a time to look forward to connecting with you every day. This is also a key time to gauge their mindset and behavior and potentially ask some of those more difficult questions.

Another way to connect, is sending a meal to someone’s doorstep. While you may not be able to go out to a restaurant together, a surprise meal delivery may brighten someone’s day and it also expresses love and concern. The CDC says it does not believe the virus can spread through food but ensure the driver and your loved one take appropriate precautions and employ contactless delivery if possible.

Dr. Cauffield shares warning signs that a loved one may be thinking about suicide and adds that during this challenging time, it’s important to be in tune with any concerning behavioral changes.

Signs a loved one may be thinking about suicide:

  • Extreme or unusual agitation or calm
  • Withdrawal
  • Excessive drinking or drug use
  • Talking about wanting to end their lives
  • Saying goodbye to others
  • Giving away belongings

If you feel a loved one is suicidal, Dr. Cauffield says to start a conversation expressing concern and asking questions. It’s important to remember that talking about suicide does not cause someone to take their life. You can be sensitive, but also direct by asking:

  • How are you coping with what’s been happening in your life?
  • Do you ever feel like just giving up?
  • Are you thinking about dying?
  • Are you thinking about hurting yourself?
  • Are you thinking about suicide?
  • Do you have access to weapons or things that can be used as weapons to harm yourself?

If you find yourself struggling with suicidal thoughts, give yourself some distance between thoughts and actions.

  • Make a promise to yourself, “I will wait 24 hours, or one week, and I won’t do anything drastic during that time.”
  • Avoid drugs and alcohol. Suicidal thoughts can become even stronger when you take drugs or drink.
  • Make your home safe. Remove things you can use to hurt yourself such as pills, knives and firearms.
  • Share your feelings with someone you trust and let them know how bad things are. Don’t let fear or shame prevent you from seeking help. You can always call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK.







LSF Duval Head Start Announces Virtual Classrooms during Health Crisis 

65 Percent Parent Participation in Duval County, Providing Remote Support to Families in Need, ReadyRosie Platform Shift  

Jacksonville, Fla. – 3/24/2020 –As the country faces a health pandemic, social services organization like Lutheran Services Florida, is adapting its critical services to the most vulnerable Floridians. Following guidance from Federal and State officials to control the spread of coronavirus by practicing social distancing, LSF Duval Head Start yesterday launched a virtual learning program for our families. We are excited to report 65 percent participation among Head Start/Early Head Start Child Care Partnerships families in Duval County.

Leveraging ReadyRosie, a technology platform that enables educators to communicate with families and share early education content, LSF Duval Head Start is now providing remote learning to more than 1,400 children and families during this unprecedented time. Our Head Start programs were previously using ReadyRosie to help parents engage with their children and continue learning outside traditional classroom hours so with a few simple adjustments we were able to shift the focus to fit the new need.

“Although we have closed our center doors, we have not closed our hearts, knowledge, passion, and ability to continue educating our children and helping our families at LSF Duval Head Start. Our team shares a passion to work with families in crisis and launching a virtual program is our way to stay connected and provide quality education for our children and families,” LaTanya Wynn-Hall, Director LSF Head Start said.

The activities and parent videos are simple and offer parents ways to turn an everyday routine, like putting away groceries into vocabulary practice. One video shows a parent describing peanut butter, bread and canned tomatoes to their child and asks them to close their eyes and guess the food.

We are still working through challenges but are encouraged by the opportunity this provides. Below are some key components of the program:

  • iPads provided to LSF teachers
  • daily activities and parent videos uploaded to ReadyRosie
  • paper learning packets distributed to families
  • weekly newsletter sent including information about community resources and mindfulness/wellness

LSF Head Start serves more than 5,400 children and families each year in Duval, Hillsborough, Pinellas and Palm Beach counties through our Head Start and Early Head Start programs serving children from birth to 5 years-old by working to close the achievement gap and serve the family as a whole.

To partner with us or schedule a media interview contact Terri Durdaller via email at and visit LSF Duval Head Start on Facebook for updates and videos.  You can also check out for the latest information on LSF’s response to the pandemic.

# # #

Media Contact:

Terri Durdaller, LSF Vice President of Communications


LSF Palm Beach Head Start Parent Meets with Tallahassee Legislators

By Tamar Belizaire
Head Start Parent from LSF Palm Beach Head Start 

As a Head Start parent here in Palm Beach, Florida I was honored and excited to meet with local legislators while in Tallahassee, for Children’s Week. We had a great discussion about the need to support our Head Start programs.

Thanks to LSF Head Start, I am happy and proud to say that in a few months I will be graduating with my AA and I will have the opportunity to enter the Nursing program this year.

I spoke about the positive impact Head Start has on so many families across the country, including my own. Two years ago, my life took a difficult turn because of family issues. I had to make sacrifices to meet the obligations for my son and me like leaving him with babysitters who were nearly strangers, working two jobs and neglecting my studies. But since my connection with LSF, once again my life changed but in a positive direction.

Now my son goes to a place where I know that he is protected, educated and watched by good people. I finally have the peace of mind that I needed to work on my personal development. Thanks to LSF Head Start, I am happy and proud to say that in a few months I will be graduating with my AA and I will have the opportunity to enter the Nursing program this year.

My story helped me to emphasize the transformational impact Head Start has on Palm Beach County’s children, and how critically we need support.

Our leaders in Washington must continue to step up on behalf of our most vulnerable early learners. Every child deserves the Head Start advantage!

LSF Hosting Job Fair to Recruit for New Residential Program

Tampa, FL – Lutheran Services Florida (LSF), a statewide nonprofit dedicated to helping the most vulnerable Floridians, is looking for passionate people to join its team. The large and growing nonprofit is opening a new full-service residential program providing care to youth ages 12-17. LSF will have numerous full-time and competitive paying jobs to fill at their new location, including shift work for those who prefer nights and weekend work.

Candidates attending the LSF Job Fair 2020 will be able to speak with Human Resources representatives and interview onsite so please bring resumes. The goal of the event is to showcase our new program and provide an opportunity for candidates to apply in-person.

To view a list of all open positions at LSF and to apply online visit:


WHO: Lutheran Services Florida    

WHAT: Job Fair  

WHEN:  January 28-29, 2020 from 11:00 am to 3:00 pm

WHERE: 3627 West Waters Ave., Tampa FL


Media Contact:

Terri Durdaller, LSF VP of Communications


Cell: 813-802-8790


This Easter, Help Build Vibrant Communities.

Imagine never experiencing Christmas or Easter. No family gatherings, church services, or holiday traditions. No opportunity to experience the love and awe that surrounds the most significant days of the life of Christ. Instead, these holidays are exactly the same as every other day – filled with worries about the future and the challenge of meeting basic necessities.

Such was the case for Yarely Garcia, a loving mother looking to give her two children the life they deserve. In Cuba they experienced shortages of everything; food, drink, daily essentials – both physical and spiritual nourishment. The Cuban government ended religious activity after the 1959 revolution that put Fidel Castro in power, and although that ban ended in 1997, the impact of an entire generation growing up without ever having attended church cannot be understated.

Last year, Lutheran Services Florida met Yarely and her kids after they left Cuba as political asylees. We helped them adjust to life in Ft. Myers through our case-management, employment, and legal support services. We also helped them have a special Christmas this year – complete with presents under the tree. As Easter approaches, not only do they have hope for tomorrow, they have experienced the love of Jesus in a practical way through the impact of LSF and through you, our loyal supporters.

But the task of serving those in need is monumental, and we need your continued support!

LSF has been bringing God’s healing, hope and help to the clients we serve for decades. In fact more than 35 years ago, we began in a tiny room of a church. Back then, like we do now, LSF was responding to the tremendous needs within our community. We accompanied people through incredibly difficult situations and tumultuous periods of their lives. We were there when people had no other hope. This has always been the core of our mission and will always be the focus of our work.

To continue our work, we count on your prayers to help guide us and your donations to help ensure we have the funding needed to transform lives. As the Apostle Paul reminds us:

You must help the weak and remember the words of the Lord Jesus, that He Himself said, “It is more blessed to give than to receive.”
– Acts 20:35

There are millions of people across Florida just like Yarley, for whom every day is a struggle. Only together can we achieve our vision of a world where children are safe, families are strong, and communities are vibrant.

1 2 3
Call Now Button