Eight honorees receive LSS President's Leadership Excellence Award

Tuesday, January 09, 2024

Lutheran Social Service of Minnesota is proud to recognize eight honorees statewide who received the 2023 President’s Leadership Excellence Award. The award recognizes exceptional employees who demonstrate outstanding leadership, inspire colleagues, drive innovation, and build community. 

            Alaina Ericksen is the senior director of PICS, Partners in Community Supports, that offers expanded choices and services for individuals with disabilities, older adults, and their families. Within two years as the PICS senior director, she led and helped achieve several initiatives, including implementing new outreach efforts to reach rural families and a new business system that offers enhanced solutions to serve more than 1,850 program participants and 3,000 caregivers supporting them. 

            Jared Griffin is the senior director at Camp Knutson, where his unwavering commitment to campers with identified needs shines through in his work daily. He seeks to provide the highest quality camp experience for all campers and partner staff through Camp Knutson’s first-class camp facilities and programming. His passion for the camp's mission is contagious, inspiring others to join the cause. Under his leadership, the camp continues to grow with generous donor support, dedicated camp staff, and retreat partnerships. Colleagues admire his ability to thrive in challenging situations, offer creative ideas, and lead with compassion and optimism. 

            Kathy Sauve is the program director for LSS Youth Services in Brainerd. For nearly eight years, she has championed the need for services to support individuals who have experienced sex trafficking. That includes developing culturally appropriate services and working with tribal officials to assure services meet the needs of tribal members. With her leadership, sex trafficking prevention services have grown from a single location in Brainerd, to multiple locations across the state. She has hired and trained committed team members who are skilled at providing these specialized services and helped to educate community leaders.

            Elizabeth Saevig is the senior director of Grants and has become a respected leader in advancing LSS’ data measurement and analytics initiatives. She provides thoughtful guidance in building a mission-driven foundation for data measurement and has helped to streamline the process of collecting and verifying data for the annual President's Report. This year, with tenacity and dedication, she directed efforts to secure 90 grants totaling $22.2 million that support the work and mission of the organization to inspire hope, change lives and build community.

            Shanon Kalbrener is a regional director for LSS Disability Services. Colleagues describe her as a creative thinker, outstanding coach and tireless go-getter who is continually seeking ways to help individuals supported by LSS to grow and lead fulfilling lives. She also leads her team with positivity and inspires others to strive toward their best work.  

            Kim Prinsen is the program director for LSS Housing Services, providing leadership in service development. This year, Kim presented at the Corporation for Supportive Housing Summit in Philadelphia, highlighting the collaborative pilot program between LSS and the Child Protection System that incorporates housing support services to reunite families and decrease the trauma of separation. Colleagues say they admire her ability to lead with compassion and empathy, while creating a positive, supportive and inclusive work environment.  

            Melody Raw is a designated coordinator for LSS Disability Services. Since 2017, Melody has played a key role in launching and growing the LSS Employment First Services Program for people with disabilities. She provides leadership and coaching that has resulted in many individuals finding not only finding jobs, but also improving their lives in other ways. On top of her daily job responsibilities, she served as a Healthy Hero during the pandemic and supported individuals in several homes affected by COVID.

           Erin Sutton is the senior director of Advocacy and works with senior level and service teams statewide to identify and support key public policy priorities to advance policy work. In her work, she fosters deeper engagement between those we serve, LSS team members and legislators by facilitating meetings with lawmakers and legislative staff. In the last session, Sutton and her team supported efforts to pass eight bills that will improve the lives of Minnesotans served by the organization.            

“I am grateful for the unique skills, knowledge and dedication each honoree brings to our organization,” said Patrick Thueson, president of Lutheran Social Service of Minnesota. “Their passion for excellence and innovative thinking helps LSS inspire hope, change lives and build community.”

Lutheran Social Service of Minnesota began in 1865 when a Lutheran pastor and his congregation opened an orphanage for children near Red Wing in southeastern Minnesota. Today, with 2,500 employees and 10,000 volunteers, Lutheran Social Service helps one in 65 Minnesotans through services that inspire hope, change lives, and build community. Some services, such as Adoption, Financial Counseling, Supported Decision-Making and Guardianship Options, Pooled Trust and Senior Companions support residents in other states as well. Through its mission, the organization seeks to foster safe and supportive homes for children, restore health and wellness in families, empower people with disabilities to live the lives they imagine, and promote health, independence and quality of life for older adults. For comprehensive information about the work of Lutheran Social Service, visit