Donna and Ellen met at church more than 30 years ago and learned they had both adopted children — a daughter for Donna and a son for Ellen.
That shared experience became a foundation for their friendship and the impetus for their shared ministry at Augustana Lutheran Church in West Saint Paul. There they aim to raise awareness about children and youth waiting to be adopted.
“There are more than 600 children in Minnesota waiting for permanent homes,” said Donna. “We wanted to educate people about what Children’s Home and Lutheran Social service (CH/LSS) are doing to change that.”
The two women encourage their fellow congregants to support the adoption and foster care programs of CH/LSS through in-kind and financial gifts.
Thanks to those efforts, the church’s monthly newsletter now includes a feature about a waiting child. Donna and Ellen organize events to collect clothing, toys, and cash to support foster children and families. This past year, they set up a table at the church Advent fair for congregation members to make donations — and church members responded generously.
Ellen sees the ministry as one way to give back to the organizations that helped her and her husband navigate being first-time parents after they adopted their son who was born in South Korea.
“Through LSS, we learned so much,” said Ellen, “most significantly expanding our knowledge of racism and how that would affect our family. The organization is uniquely positioned to address that and has proved invaluable to our family.”
Attending the Children’s Home Korean Culture Camp introduced them to “a community of families that looked like ours,” and helped them learn about the customs, history, and culture of their son’s birth country.
Donna’s commitment to supporting children also stems from personal experience. As a teenager, she and her mother fostered infants through LSS. Later, she and her husband, Eric, became foster parents, caring for dozens of children over 22 years. When their fifth foster child was placed in their home, they felt she was meant to be a part of their family and adopted her.
Donna knows the long-term impact she has made on the children she has fostered. “The love you’ve given that child will remain with them forever,” she said.
“Adoption and foster care are not for every family,” said Ellen. “Yet everyone can support children and families through prayer, becoming knowledgeable about the issues, and making contributions to organizations that support children. That’s why we’re so committed to CH/LSS.”