By Heather Lusk
More than a decade ago when Dean DeVries was a pastor at a Lebanon church, he began to wonder if the aid he was giving to those in need was really helping.
He read about an organization, Love In the Name of Christ, that helps churches collaborate to assist the community and ensure those who truly needed help were getting it versus those who might take advantage of churches.
“It just made sense to have a central office as a hub for the churches,” he said. “It touched a nerve. Everyone had faced the same problem.”
A task force of ministers gathered in 2005 with an interest in bringing Love INC to Boone County. They started with 17 church partners, and today 36 churches are involved as they celebrate the 10th anniversary of their first board meeting this year.
Churches refer those in need to Love INC to undergo an interview process, which helps verify individual needs and provide encouragement. Those in need are called “neighbors.”
“The Bible says first to love our neighbor as ourself,” said Barry Weaver, chairman of the board for Love INC of Boone County.
Needs can range from toothbrushes to washing machines. The goal is to make items available to help fill a gap so that those in need have the financial resources to pay bills and rent. Love INC does not provide monetary donations.
Love INC directs neighbors in Boone County to specific churches that can meet their needs through “GAP” ministries – God Always Provides – in the form of linen and clothing closets and food pantries.
“What’s great about it is the sky is the limit in terms of what people need,” said DeVries, who serves as vice chairman of the board.
Partner churches include Zionsville United Methodist’s Kids Kloset, which offers clothing for youth.
Several years ago the Love INC board added transformational ministry, a series of free community classes, for the neighbors. Classes are taught by volunteers and cover finances, boundaries and affirming potential.
“A lot of times people haven’t been told that they’re valued by God and that there is hope in this world,” Weaver said. “It all comes down to truly trying to help rather than just giving stuff away.”
“The win is to see the neighbors on their own and to be involved with a church,” DeVries said.
Love INC also benefits from Growing Hope, an annual harvest from land donated by farmers in the county. Three years ago a Lebanon farmer donated a portion of his land to plant soybeans, with the harvest’s proceeds dedicated to Love INC’s transformational ministry program. This summer, 31 acres will be planted in the Thorntown area. Seed, fertilizer and fuel are all donated.
In February, the Love INC board eliminated the position of finanical director because of financial concerns. Finances of the organization peaked in 2014 but dropped the last two years.
“We needed to get our budget down to where we wouldn’t have to cut programs,” Weaver said.
The board has assumed the executive director’s duties in conjunction with three full-time and one part-time staff member.
“We’re a working board, we’re not just a governing board,” Weaver said. “Most of our board members were already involved in ministry.”
“The nuts and bolts haven’t changed,” DeVries said. “Letting the director go, we didn’t lose a beat on the ministry.”
Both DeVries and Weaver are optimistic about the direction of Love INC and the partner churches.
Love INC has expanded from a small location inside a former school to an 8,000 square foot former pole barn with room for donations that include furniture, clothing, toiletries, kitchen wares and working appliances.
“We had a 20 by 20 building,” DeVries said. “That’s where it started. Even from the beginning, when I announced this as one pastor, the interest just grew. I know God’s got his hand on this ministry.”
Learn more at loveincbc.org.
Love INC by the numbers
- 400 people volunteered with Love INC related-programs, whether on boards, in the clearinghouse or through individual churches.
- Volunteers served more than 1,200 hours.
- Volunteers made and received 4,400 calls.
- 1,547 individuals in Boone County were helped, 716 of which were children through 36 partner churches.
Love INC will hold its annual gala at 5:30 p.m. Sept. 7 at Zionsville Fellowship Church, 9090 W. Oak St. The event will feature former Indianapolis Colts punter Hunter Smith, who will share his testimony and perform music. Individual tickets are $35. Limited seats at Smith’s table are available for $100. For more or to order tickets, visit loveincbc.org/banquet.