Changing Lives with Dignity and Perseverance

Meet Lisa Sheltra, a social worker, mother, teacher, and a two-time cancer survivor. Now she is a hope to the needy and works to build community relationships. 

You can make an enormous difference in the lives of others by simply helping them understand how much they matter.” These are the words of Lisa Sheltra, a dedicated social worker who made it her life’s ambition to serve the needy.

Lisa is the Director of Community Engagement at Salt and Light Ministry, a non-profit organization with a “mission to alleviate poverty by building strong, whole individuals, and communities”. Lisa has been working tirelessly for the last six years for the greater good of humanity. She is a mother of two who has defeated cancer twice. 

Lisa was brought up in a small rural town in Illinois, very similar to where she lives now. Her parents were both teachers, and she wanted to follow the same path for a long time. After her youngest son started school, she went back to working as a part-time teacher. Then she took another job as a Community Outreach Director at a church. Here, she partnered with the Executive Director of the Salt and Light Ministry for various projects, and eventually, in 2014 she started working with him full time.    

Talking about the organization, she says, Salt and Light aims to help people have access to basic resources like food, clothing, and household items in ways that not only preserve dignity, but at the same time promote confidence, develop skills, build relational networks, and support overall well-being. We do this primarily through nonprofit, volunteer-run grocery and thrift stores”. This gives much-needed support to the individuals struggling to make ends meet without compromising on their self-respect. Community members and volunteers come together to help with the initiative and make it a success. The idea is not only to build deeper relationships with the people, but also with the community. 

Over the years, she has learned that any kind of work focused on human development is slow and difficult. It requires a great deal of emotional investment and desire to participate. It is a gradual process and doesn’t come without its challenges. Sometimes, she finds it difficult to make the community members understand what represents ‘success’. According to her, helping others include not only a broad range of outcomes, but a healthy internal process. 

The Salt and Light Ministry believes that “people struggling with poverty are not projects”. The organization has received an overwhelmingly positive response from the beneficiaries. It has helped improve their quality of life and helped them feel more confident and cared for. Local churches and organizations seek to partner with the Ministry to better connect with the community and cater to their needs. Lisa only wishes to grow the community and support as many people as possible. 

She firmly believes “everyone is equally beloved by God, loved and valued”. God doesn’t differentiate and we shouldn’t too. According to her, it makes every relationship and “community possible, because each person is just as worthy, just as valued, just as loved, like every other”. This is why she works to empower and encourage the less fortunate. She aspires to bring a change in their lives. Her life is all about seeking and creating a space where everyone is valued. For her, it was never a career but always a way of life.