In the Ring Season 3 Episode 4: “The Return on Investment of Early Intervention” with Sam Sipes

WATCH NOW: Lutheran Services Florida President & CEO Sam Sipes is “In the Ring” with Héctor!

This week Héctor Colón is “In the Ring” with his good friend Sam Sipes, the President & CEO of Lutheran Services Florida. The two talk about the massive return on investment Sam’s state of Florida saw from investing in social services, the future of A.I. in the non-profit space, the value of taking calculated risks in new endeavors, and much more!

Sam joined LSF as CEO in September 2007.  At that time, LSF had several hundred employees and an annual budget of approximately $30 million.  During his tenure, Sam has led the agency’s tremendous growth to more than 2,500 employees and a budget of more than $400 million.

Prior to joining LSF, Sam served as President and Chief Operating Officer of Lutheran Social Services of the South (LSSS) in Austin, Texas.  Under his leadership LSSS became the largest provider of children’s residential services in Texas. Sam also was instrumental in expanding residential and non-residential services to senior citizens along with disaster response efforts across Texas, Louisiana, and Mississippi. In 2005, Sam was among the key leaders that helped organize and manage the regional and national response to Hurricane Katrina.

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 was a member of the Florida Faith-Based and Community-Based Advisory Council to identify ways to deliver services more effectively. Sam received both a Master of Science in Social Work and a Bachelor of Social Work from the University of Texas at Austin.

In the Ring Season 3, Episode 3: “Overcoming Legislative Pitfalls & Partisanship” with State Rep. Barb Dittrich

WATCH NOW: State Representative Barb Dittrich is “In the Ring” with Héctor!

State Representative Barbara Dittrich is a lifelong resident of Southeastern Wisconsin, currently residing in Oconomowoc with her husband Steve as she has for the past 30 years. She graduated from Hamilton High School – Sussex and attended the University of Wisconsin – Milwaukee.

After working in the investment industry for 13 years, Barbara founded a charitable non-profit serving the parents of children with disabilities and chronic illnesses. Barbara served as the organization’s Executive Director for 16 years until the non-profit merged with another faith-based organization where she served as Director of Advancement for one year. She currently serves on the board of directors of that ministry.

Representative Dittrich sits on several committees, including those that directly relate to Social Services:

Committee on Children & Families

Committee on Education (Vice-Chair)

Committee on Health, Aging and Long-Term Care

Committee on Mental Health and Substance Abuse (Vice-Chair)

She was the first legislator to sign the Education Freedom Pledge and was honored for this with the Inaugural Common Sense Award in 2021 and was named the National Foundation for Women Legislator’s Woman of Excellence in 2019.

In the Ring Season 3, Episode 2: “Flipping the Script” on Héctor

WATCH NOW: Héctor Colón gets “In the Ring” and answers YOUR questions!

You asked and we delivered. This time Héctor Colón is “In the Ring” as guest. LSS Director of Communications Sharon Hudy filled in as “guest host” and spoke with the champ about his experience so far, his goals for 2024, and much more. Here are some of your questions for Héctor:

“What does a workday in the life of Hector look like?  I would think people would be interested in knowing!  Also, perhaps future goals?  There are always the politics rumors…” – Patty 

My workday consists of a mix of strategy thought and development, meeting with direct reports and assisting with key decisions, coaching, setting company direction, relationship building and fundraising. 

 Future goals: Pay our staff at Market or better. I would like to become a leader in our industry for paying our colleagues better.  I would like to innovate new programs that address the true needs of the people we serve through new fundraising dollars. And I’d like to ensure the financial viability of our organization so that it is secured for the next century. 

Where do you see long term care going in the future and where does LSS fit in?” – Kevin

 I see our continued growth in our connections program serving individuals with long term care needs in their home as long as possible.  I envision this as a key program that is part of our growth strategy. 

“What strategies do you believe have been crucial to the success and growth of LSS, and how do you see them evolving in the future? ” – Tara

  1. The quality, diversity, and talent of our board. 
  2. The talent of our Leadership team
  3. The compassion and passion of our colleagues that make a difference in the lives of the people we serve.
  4. Our growth strategy
  5. Our divestment strategy

We need to continue to build on these strategies to ensure our future success.  We also need to stay on top of industry trends to ensure we capitalize on opportunities and are prepared for potential headwinds.

“How would Hector assess LSS progress of being a Workplace of Choice and what actions/items does he think have been the most impactful over the past few years?”  – Susan

 It’s been a wonderful journey to become a workplace of choice.  When I first started, I felt the organization and leadership team were mired in challenge that did not allow them to think past the deficits that existed.  It’s been wonderful to work with the board, leadership team and colleagues to make this a workplace of choice.  I think there are many key points that have been most impactful:

With the amount of homelessness in Wisconsin growing at an exponential rate, is LSS planning to expand our existing programs to areas in need this year? Our area in Wausau, WI Could benefit from current programs such as the Rapids Rehousing/TBRA, HUD, and help from our Support Brokers. This would greatly benefit our existing clients in the Forensic programs!” –  Rebecca 

It’s sad that we live in the richest country in the history of the world and yet we still have homelessness.  So yes, we want to play a role in addressing this through our programs.  Having said that, I’d like to focus more on upstream programs to prevent homelessness by focusing on the broader social determinants of health at birth. 

“LSS has such a large geographic footprint as well as a wide scope of essential services. How have you been able to keep leaders and colleagues aligned and motivated given this?” –  Keri

I believe it’s because our value of co-creation.  We are doing this together, it’s not a top-down approach.  We are also one of the best social service organizations in the country so doing more means we are having a greater impact on those that could benefit from our services. 

“What does Hector see as critical to focus on to continue to engage and retain our colleagues?” –  Susan

“Considering the rapid advancements in AI and technology, how do you see AI influencing or transforming key aspects of LSS operations and strategy in the coming years?” –  Tara

This is a must.  We must not be afraid of this technology.  We need to learn as much as possible and as quickly as possible on how AI would help us become more efficient and effective. 

In the Ring Season 3, Episode 1: Changing the “Terrible Truth” with Alesia Frerichs

Héctor Colón kicks off the third season of “In the Ring” with Lutheran Services in America President & CEO Alesia Frerichs

Alesia Frerichs
President & CEO, Lutheran Services in America

Alesia Frerichs is the President & CEO of Lutheran Services in America. Alesia previously served as the chief strategist for the network’s collaboration and innovation efforts. During her tenure, Alesia launched several groundbreaking initiatives, including the Results Innovation Lab, Rural Aging Action Network, Reimagining Diversity Collaborative and other programs that connect national partners with social sector leaders and empower older adults, children, families and others experiencing need.

Prior to joining Lutheran Services in America, Alesia was an entrepreneur who launched and led an independent consulting practice for 10 years, providing strategic management support to nonprofit executives. She also held senior leadership positions at MCI WorldCom and Sapere Consulting. She currently serves on the board of Thrivent Charitable Impact & Investing and the Lutheran Financial Managers Association and is a member of the Lutheran Church of the Reformation in Washington, DC.

Alesia earned an M.S. in statistics from The George Washington University and a B.S. in economics from St. Olaf College.

In the Ring Season 2 Episode 9: Moving from I/Me/Mine to We/Us/Ours with Mike Victorson

Héctor Colón concludes season two with M3 Insurance CEO Mike Victorson 

Mike Victorson
CEO, M3 Insurance

Mike Victorson is the chief executive officer (CEO) of M3 Insurance, responsible for the strategic direction and vision of the agency, identifying opportunities for growth and innovation, cultivating organizational culture, and serving the community. Victorson serves on the M3 Insurance Board of Directors and is a member of M3’s Executive Operating Committee.

Mike earned degree in political science and speech communication from Augustana College. He joined M3 in 1992 and learned business through a variety of roles in customer service, sales, and sales management. Mike served as vice president of M3’s employee benefits division from 1999-2003 when he advanced to president of M3. Mike was named CEO of M3 in 2005.


In the Ring Season 2 Episode 8: Fresh Perspectives on Mental Healthcare with Meg Kissinger

Héctor Colón speaks with journalist and author Meg Kissinger in episode eight of our second season


Meg Kissinger
Journalist, Author of “While You Were Out”

Meg Kissinger spent more than two decades traveling across the country writing about America’s mental health system for the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. Her work on the abysmal housing conditions of people with chronic mental illness led to the creation of more than 600 new housing units in Milwaukee. She has been honored with two George Polk awards, the Robert F. Kennedy Journalism Award, and the American Bar Association’s Silver Gavel.

In 2009, Kissinger and Susanne Rust were finalists for the Pulitzer Prize in investigative reporting for their work uncovering the government’s failure to protect the public from dangerous chemicals in everyday products. Those stories won the Oakes Award and the National Journalism Award for Public Service.

Before coming to Milwaukee, Kissinger covered criminal and civil courts for The Cincinnati Post and was a general assignment reporter at the Watertown (NY) Daily Times. She was named Wisconsin Watchdog of the Year in 2015. Meg has consulted on projects for Frontline, ProPublica, the New York Times, the Wall Street Journal, the Seattle Times and the Solutions Journalism Network, among others.

Kissinger teaches investigative reporting at Columbia University’s Graduate School of Journalism and was a visiting professor at DePauw University, her alma mater.

In the Ring Season 2, Episode 7: The Power of Peer Support with Brittany Nessel and Sara Kieffer

Héctor Colón speaks with both Brittany Nessel and Sara Kieffer of LSS in episode seven of our second season

Brittany Nessel
Licensed Professional Counselor, Clinical Substances Abuse Counselor, Independent Clinical Supervisor

Brittany Nessel has been with LSS for 11 years and has been working in social services since 2006 from Menomonie WI to Minneapolis/St.Paul MN, and even Oceanside CA, before heading back to Eau Claire, WI.

Brittany primarily works in adult treatment for trauma, mental health, and substance abuse. Birttany received her both Bachelors of Science Human Development and Family Studies (2007) and Master of Science Clinical Mental Health Counseling (2010) from University of Wisconsin-Stout in Menomonie, Wisconsin.




Sara Kieffer
Certified Peer Specialist

Sara Kieffer has been employed with LSS since January of 2022 as a Human Services Professional and Certified Peer Specialist in Gaining Ground and a Certified Peer Specialist in Renewed Strength.

Sara got her start by working at Eau Claire Sober Living, a woman’s sober home as the house manager/mentor in September 2020 and was there for two years.

Prior to social services, Sara was in the hospitality and tourism industry for more than a decade which is what she has a BS in from UW Stout. Sara received my Certified Peer Specialist training from WIPSEI (Wisconsin Peer Specialist Employment Initiative) and certification in April of 2021.

In the Ring Season 2, Episode 6: The Changing Landscape of Mental Health Treatment with Jill Chaffee

Héctor Colón speaks with Jill Chaffee in episode six of our second season

Jill Chaffee
Vice President Community Based Services, LSS

Since 2018 Jill Chaffee has led the LSS community-based services team as the Vice President of Community Based Services.  Community-based services include a variety of mental health and substance abuse services (therapy, skill-building, mentoring, etc.) as well as foster care, public adoption, and various service facilitation programs. With over 24 years of experience in human services, Jill is a servant-leader to approximately 400 employees and believes that our communities are at the core of the lives we touch and critical to a person’s recovery and access to services.

Early in her career, Jill provided direct county-based social work services as well as substance use services and mental health psychotherapy. With a foundational understanding of the provision of both public and private sector services, she has spent the last 17 years in human service administration.  Throughout her career, she has focused on developing accessible and high-quality systems of service delivery that result in impact for those in need. Through county work, and the development of county consortiums across several counties Jill has become an expert in program development and managing statewide services.

Jill received her Bachelor of Arts and Master of Social Work degrees from the University of Michigan – Ann Arbor.  Jill has a passion for meeting people where they are, with the right services, in the community.  She is energized by LSS’s diverse services available to people throughout Wisconsin and the collaborative approach to service delivery.

In the Ring Season 2, Episode 5: Evolving Milwaukee County Mental Health to Prevention-Centered Care

Héctor Colón speaks with Mike Lappen in episode five of our second season


Mike Lappen

lwaukee County Behavioral Health Services

Mike Lappen is the Administrator of Milwaukee County Behavioral Health Services. He leads a dedicated team in reform efforts to redesign Milwaukee County’s mental health system to a community-based system of care that is less reliant on psychiatric inpatient admissions and emergency room visits.

Mike oversees a vast community-based system of care that includes crisis services, care coordination/case management, outpatient care, prevention, treatment and recovery efforts across the lifespan.

Lappen serves on the Wisconsin County Human Service Association Behavioral Health Policy and Advisory Committee, the Wisconsin Council on Mental Health Legislative and Policy Committee and is the current Chairperson for the Mental Health Emergency Center Joint Venture Board.

Mike graduated from the University of Wisconsin – Milwaukee with a Bachelor of Arts in psychology and a Master of Science in educational rehabilitation counseling. Lappen previously worked as a clinical coordinator for the Wisconsin Correctional Service, and as a supervisor and eventually director with the Ozaukee County Department of Human Services.

In The Ring Season 2, Episode 4: Making Health Insurance an “Honest Business”

Héctor Colón speaks with Common Ground Healthcare CEO Cathy Mahaffey in episode four of our second season.


Cathy Mahaffey
CEO, Common Ground Healthcare

Cathy Mahaffey is a 25-year veteran of the health insurance industry, starting her career in insurance service and sales. Shortly into her career, Cathy found her passion working in the non-profit insurance sector for a health insurance cooperative. She went on to start her own insurance agency and consulting business, and helped found the Farmers’ Health Cooperative of Wisconsin, a nonprofit that was successful in helping thousands of Wisconsin farmers gain access to higher quality health insurance coverage.

Cathy was instrumental in getting CGHC off the ground in 2012, helping to pen the business plan and loan application that secured the funding to start the cooperative. She was appointed CEO in 2014 after serving as the cooperative’s first Chief Operating Officer during its start-up phase.