Love thy neighbor: Nonprofit offers free admission to annual banquet


GREENFIELD – Last summer, a local nonprofit was afraid a dip in donations would force programs helping community members in need to be put aside.

But by Dec. 31, Love in the Name of Christ of Greater Hancock County had the healthiest end-of-year finances the organization had seen since its inception in 2003, thanks to expanded fundraising efforts and a matching campaign led by a local philanthropist, leaders said.

To show their thanks, Love INC leaders decided to reduce the admission cost to their annual Love Thy Neighbor banquet — to nothing. One of the organization’s largest fundraisers, the fourth-annual banquet, slated for 5:30 p.m. Feb. 8, is free to attend and will depart from the traditions of the previous three years, said executive director Karla Whisenand.

It’s still a fundraiser, but there’s no admission charge, no silent or live auction, no 50/50 raffles. Those who attend will be eligible to win door prizes donated to the organization, which include Disney World tickets, sports memorabilia, gift cards and more, and share the mission and vision of the organization with those who attend.

“We’re hoping people feel led to donate to the ministry once they see what we are doing through God and through the churches,” Whisenand said. “We honestly don’t have a goal… The community has been so generous; we’re so grateful, we don’t want to set any expectations.”

Love INC, a nonprofit organization, partners with more than half of Hancock County’s 104 churches to connect people in need to resources offered by church groups, social service agencies or other organizations through its clearinghouse. The nonprofit also works to fill in the gaps, aiming to fulfill the needs of the community not currently covered by other agencies or groups, and provides free community education through workshops on job skills, financial skills and more, including cooking classes.

Those classes were some of the efforts at risk last July when board members realized donations were down. New fundraising efforts in response to the dip, including a campaign to encourage philanthropists to sign on for monthly donations, aided the Christian clearinghouse’s bottom line.

A matching grant from benefactor Bob Wortman brought a total of $45,000 to the organization by Dec. 31, said Love INC treasurer Tom Ferguson. Wortman pledged to match $10,000 in donations to the organization in honor of his mother, but donors went above and beyond, Ferguson said.

“It’s a blessing, and the people we serve will be blessed by it,” Ferguson said.

While admission to the banquet is free, Whisenand said she hopes donors and those curious about the nonprofit will bring their checkbooks and give if they feel encouraged to do so.

The banquet, which will feature a taco and nacho bar catered by Don Rigo restaurant in Greenfield, welcomes keynote speaker Jayme Whitaker, a Kokomo minister and counselor who has an inspiring story of life transformation, Whisenand said.

Whitaker, an Indiana artist with a background in ministry and mental health, works with those who face struggles along with those who work to support, encourage and help them, according to a news release. Growing up as a “system kid,” Jayme lived in 14 different foster homes, institutions and correctional facilities, according to a news release.

Whitaker’s talk will appeal to counselors, educators and anyone who needs encouragement on getting out of difficult situations, Whisenand said.

“He talks about how to be encouraged to transform your life into something better,” she said.

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Fourth-annual “Love Thy Neighbor” Banquet

Doors open 5:30 p.m. Feb. 8, Trinity Park United Methodist Church, 207 W. Park Ave., Greenfield.

Taco and nacho bar provided by Don Rigo restaurant; door prizes include Disney World tickets, sports memorabilia and more.

This is a free event with limited seating. To register, visit