Attendees at the LSS event

LifeHaven 20th Anniversary Celebration: A Landmark Moment For Community Care and Expertise

The Community Engagement and Education (CEEd) hub at the Masonic Institute for the Developing Brain (MIDB) is delighted to strengthen our partnership with Lutheran Social Services (LSS) by collaborating with many of their agencies. As a group that aligns with CEEd’s goals of including our local communities in every aspect of MIDB services, research, and policy, we were proud to sponsor the 20th anniversary celebrations that one of LSS’s agencies, LifeHaven, enjoyed in September 2023.

As one of the facilities in St. Paul for assisting young mothers and those dealing with transitional living, LifeHaven is a crucial part of our community. For two decades, they have assisted in helping 16- to 17-year-old mothers and their children overcome homelessness. Their facility provides space for up to six young families at a time, all receiving assistance for up to 18 months.

The CEEd hub at MIDB is committed to meeting the needs and interests of underserved communities by increasing their direct participation in the direction, design, and implementation of research. CEEd leaders say operating as a sponsor as part of the 20-year celebrations held for LifeHaven was both a pleasure and a privilege. They assisted first-hand in celebrating one of the most caring and selfless organizations in St. Paul. CEEd is immensely proud to collaborate with an agency that centers its commitment on bettering the lives of these young mothers and their children, and ensuring that their future looks bright.

LifeHaven is operated and managed by Senior Program Manager Monica Jones. As part of the anniversary celebrations, she spoke about the importance of the project in the last 20 years. As part of her speech, she noted why LifeHaven is such an essential service model. 

The President of Minnesota’s LSS, Patrick Thueson, also spoke at the event. His remarks helped shine a light on the massive difference that LifeHaven has made and highlighted the further collaborative role LifeHaven and other LSS agencies will engage in in the coming year. LifeHaven will be one of the first sites to advise researchers on the design, implementation, and overall cultural compatibility of CEEd’s new project, the Minnesota Youth Needs Assessment (MYNA).

Group at LSS event
Angie Mejia, PhD, Monica Jones, and Raj Sethraju, PhD, at the LifeHaven 20th anniversary celebration

Angie Mejia, PhD, CEEd’s assistant director, spoke at length about the MYNA project and the central role that LSS agencies such as LifeHaven have in CEEd’s community-led research initiatives on youth’s needs around psychosocial health. 

“The research we conduct at the CEEd hub aims to incorporate the lived experience of youth, young adults, their families, and those who they see as trusted service providers," said Mejia. "LifeHaven, as an agency that centers vulnerable youth’s needs as part of its organizational identity, will enhance the impact of our work. We are proud to have them as knowledge creators and community experts and excited to start working with other LSS agencies soon.” 

Mejia and Anita Randolph, PhD, along with Raj Sethraju, PhD, associate professor at Metro State University, are at the community readiness phase of a more comprehensive needs and strengths evaluation that will incorporate the voices of LSS agencies, professionals, and the communities of children and youth they serve.

As 20 years come and go for one of Minnesota’s successful youth programs, more will come. The future for LifeHaven looks exciting, with the backing of so many local groups to help ensure that this project can help provide the same care, support, and empathy it has so far. As LifeHaven moves into its third decade of operation, its expertise in improving the lives of teenage mothers across Minnesota will be a foundational aspect of CEEd’s work with MYNA.

This celebration marks the end of 20 years of essential support. We look forward to seeing what the next two decades can bring for LifeHaven.

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