Buoyed by a belief that she could make a positive difference in the lives of the region's young, Janell Regimbal accepted a position with Lutheran Social Services in 1987.

Thirty-two years later, Regimbal's record of accomplishments with the agency is proof she has done just that. Regimbal, vice president of LSS Children's Services in Grand Forks, has created several programs to better the lives of children and teenagers.

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"I've been able to really manage a start-up of 10 lines of service," Regimbal said. "That's a really unique opportunity."

From an early age Regimbal has been interested in helping people better their lives, recalling that as a child, she was intrigued by the stories of missionaries at her church talking about helping people overseas. Then, while earning her undergraduate degree in psychology from NDSU and her master's degree in counseling from UND, Regimbal volunteered for a variety of youth programs.

"Those things had a big influence on me," she said.

One of the Lutheran Social Services programs of which Regimbal is the proudest is the Healthy Families program. Organized in 2000, the Healthy Families program was created on the premise that early, supportive relationships are the foundation for lifelong healthy development. Lutheran Social Services worked with several different agencies and organizations in the Grand Forks area to put together the program. The impetus for the program was to help families under stress from the flood of 1997 learn healthy ways to cope, Regimbal said.

"Following the flood of '97, we were pretty concerned about the impact on the community," Regimbal said, noting that during times of stress, there often is an increase in domestic violence and child abuse.

"We took the lead in meeting with folks saying, 'Can we work with families, provide support for parents before anything happens?'" Regimbal said.

The Healthy Families program, via its family support specialists, visits new parents and provides them with information on a variety of topics, including infant care and nutrition, positive parent-child interaction and stress-reduction techniques.

"I'm really proud that we are here 19 years later," she said. The program not only still is in existence, it is expanding to include several counties in western North Dakota," Regimbal said.

"We're more than doubling our influence."

Regimbal enjoys, and takes pride in, the innovative approach of Lutheran Social Services, which adapts to the changing needs of its clients.

"Part of me is an entrepreneurial spirit," Regimbal said. "I stayed here because the opportunities always were here, personally and professionally."

Another Lutheran Social Services program in which Regimbal takes pride is the Attendant Care program, which provides short-term care and supervision for youth ages 8 to 18 who have committed a minor offense. The program, based in Grand Forks and Minot, offers supervision for youth in a safe, non-secure setting. Lutheran Social Services is working to build up the attendant care network across North Dakota.

Regimbal's faith in the innate goodness of people and in a higher power keep her spirits up when the challenges of her job could bring them down.

"It's the overall belief in people and the goodness of the people," she said.

"It's the grace of understanding that everyone is doing, to the best of their ability, the best they can do."