GREENFIELD — The card was about more than furniture.

Yes, the writer was grateful for that, but most of the words were “saying thanks for how the team treated them and the time they spent,” said Jim Peters, executive director of Love INC of Greater Hancock County.

A variety of similar notes have reached the desks of the Love INC clearinghouse since it began in 2004 — expressions of thanks for wheelchair ramps built, rides to the doctor, or a useful appliance to place where before there had stood a broken one — or none at all.

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Love INC (In the Name of Christ) mobilizes Christians in local churches to help those in need. As the organization prepares to celebrate its first 10 years (a few months belatedly), it’s using recently gathered data from a survey and community meetings to sharpen its focus for the next 10 years and beyond.

The Love Thy Neighbor dinner and auction, set for March 7 at the Creative Arts and Event Center, will be a chance to do both.

Though the event has a fundraising component — an individual ticket is $40 — “from our perspective, it is a celebration,” said Phil Miller, a past Love INC board member who is helping organize the event. “We’re celebrating what the Lord’s done for us and for the community.”

At the dinner, Brenda Rodgers, the first executive director of the local Love INC, will present an overview of the first 10 years of its work.

Then Lois Tupyi, author of “Redemptive Compassion,” will speak about different types of need and “how should the church respond to both of those,” Miller said.

Finally, Peters will talk about the future direction of the ministry.

Tupyi is the executive director of Love INC of Treasure Valley in Nampa, Idaho. Through her experiences there, she began writing and speaking about what ingredients make help to someone have lasting impact — “helping people improve their lives, rather than just sustaining them in a lifestyle of need,” according to her website, redemptivecompassion.org. A donor is paying for her to come and speak at the banquet. She will also lead a free seminar at 8:30 a.m. March 7 at St. James Lutheran Church. Copies of her book will be available for purchase.

Tupyi advocates a relational style of helping people. Peters and Miller say that’s a big part of the classes Love INC helps organize. For example, the Hearts of Hope financial class matches class members with mentors who meet with them weekly during the weeks of the class to look over expenses and see if there are ways to reduce or eliminate some of them.

“We connect our neighbors,” Peters said, to someone who can help meet an immediate need “and also walk alongside them” to perhaps break a cycle.

Pastor Phil Edwards of Fortville Church of the Nazarene said that approach is one he respects. He said Love INC is designed not so much to solve a particular problem but to solve its cause and as a result improve someone’s life.

His church has been the site of one of the Hearts of Hope classes. That site choice was part of Love INC’s growing effort to offer classes in various parts of the county and better reflect the “of Greater Hancock County” in its name.

Edwards said Fortville Nazarene sees itself as a liaison among the community, the town of Fortville, and Love INC. “We can’t do everything, but we can do some things,” he said. “When we can accommodate them, we like to do that.”

Several other local pastors said they also appreciate how Love INC learns the specifics of the lives of those seeking help.

“Love INC does all of that homework for us; that’s probably the greatest blessing Love INC does for us in the local church,” said Pastor Adam Detamore, lead pastor at RealifeChurch. After that happens, “We know beyond the shadow of a doubt it’s a legitimate need,” Detamore said. “We can write a check and not have any hesitation.”

Brett Crump, senior pastor of New Palestine Bible Church, also appreciates the time Love INC spends sifting through the situations of those seeking help to determine the actual need. It’s time that could easily consume the hours of a smaller church’s staff, he said.

“You want to be compassionate, but you also want to be discerning,” Crump said. “I think it’s a positive thing for the body of Christ in general — that there’s willingness to come together … in terms of helping others.”

That coming together means that mentors for Hearts of Hope and Love INC’s classes in cooking and job skills tend to come from local churches. It’s part of the symbiotic relationship the ministry has with area congregations. Love INC helps churches “find out what the true need is here,” Miller said; churches help meet that need with resources and/or volunteers.

Peters describes three facets of Love INC: a clearinghouse on Green Meadows Drive that handles phone calls requesting help, the classes, and the “gap ministries” offered by particular churches. Examples of gap ministries would be the Give Back Clothing Boutique at Greenfield First Church of God, the furniture ministry at St. Michael Catholic Church, an H2O ministry at Realife that offers items such as shampoo or detergent that cannot be bought with food stamps, or a collection of walkers, crutches and other medical equipment made available at Mt. Lebanon United Methodist Church.

Making more people aware of those three facets is a hope Peters has for the organization after it used a grant from the Hancock County Community Foundation to work with a consultant on an online survey and several community meetings.

Survey respondents and those attending the meetings in McCordsville, New Palestine and Jackson Township helped Love INC gauge public awareness of the group and learn of needs not being met, such as caring for children whose parents work second shift, handling minor to moderate home repair or offering transportation for abrupt needs that arise.

Also part of the conversation is a new home for the clearinghouse — one that would offer the first-floor access important to some potential volunteers, room for a workshop for job training, and more storage for the furniture and appliance ministries.

Peters said Love INC is grateful for its current clearinghouse arrangement but would consider a larger, first-floor space if it became available — although it will not reach to make that happen. Meanwhile, a tech upgrade is meant to perhaps expand opportunities to volunteer remotely.

“We were not comfortable going into debt and jeopardizing the organization to have a building,” Peters said. “We have committed that to God’s will … in the meantime, we’re going to work with the resources we have.”

Though Love INC leaders hope the March 7 banquet adds to those resources, they hope even more that it makes a wider base of people aware of the ministry and its impact.

“Maybe all we did was refer them to a church group … or take them a refrigerator so they didn’t have to use a Styrofoam cooler,” Peters said, but “we have people come up to us and talk to us about what an impact” Love INC has had.

'Neighbor'ly event

What: Love INC’s Love Thy Neighbor banquet and auctions

Featuring: Guest speaker Lois Tupyi, dinner, silent auction and live auction, with two Coach purse baskets among the auction items

When: 6 p.m. March 7 (doors open at 5:30 p.m. for silent auction)

Where: Creative Arts and Event Center, 2 W. Main St., Greenfield

Tickets: $40/person, $75/couple, $300/eight-seat table; buy online at loveinc-ghc.org or by mail at P.O. Box 192, Greenfield, IN 46140, by Feb. 18

Author photo
Anne Smith is a reporter at the Greenfield Daily Reporter. She can be reached at asmith@greenfieldreporter.com