Many of us know someone – a spouse, parent, grandparent or friend – who has been affected by early- to mid-stage memory loss. What if both caregivers and people with memory loss could join a new circle of friends that would enhance their quality of life?

LSI (Lutheran Services in Iowa), a shared ministry partner of the Iowa synods of the ELCA, is excited to announce LSI’s First Circle Friends, a creative opportunity for churches to support their neighbors who may be facing these issues.


Meeting twice a month at partner churches from 10 a.m. – 3 p.m., First Circle Friends volunteers provide a day of renewal, friendship and support for people with memory loss and their family caregivers. Trained volunteers are matched one-on-one with participants for a day of cognitively stimulating activities, such as music, games, light exercise, painting and discussion groups that reminisce on past events, sports or history. Meanwhile, family caregivers can enjoy a day off to rest and rejuvenate themselves for their caregiving role.


First Circle Friends is based on a successful Minnesota model, where the program began with one church partner and grew to over thirty participating congregations. Lutheran Services in America (LSA) is now promoting this model nationally, and LSI is one of the first agencies to implement it.


“This is a great outreach opportunity for congregations to get involved beyond the walls of their church,” said Kara Ullestad, LSI’s First Circle Friends coordinator. “It’s also an opportunity for church members to learn new skills. The volunteer training is in-depth and has continuing education available.”


Church partners are also helping fill a gap in traditional community services, Ullestad said.


“First Circle Friends provides a needed support that isn’t readily available,” she said. “Adult day programs may be offered in some places, but those are based more on a medical model. First Circle Friends is a social model, focused on making new friendships and providing cognitive stimulation.”


LSI is currently seeking First Circle Friends church host sites, beginning in the greater Des Moines area and with hopes to expand to other sites throughout Iowa. LSI provides ongoing support and training for churches and volunteers and also oversees the assessment process to determine whether an individual would be appropriate for the program.

For more information, please contact:


Kara Ullestad

LSI First Circle of Friends coordinator


[email protected]

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