The Hillsdale county affiliate of Love INC, which stands for Love In The Name Of Christ, had its first annual Festival of Love fundraising event at Johnny T’s Bistro on November 17th.
Love INC of Hillsdale County is a non-profit organization that organizes the ministerial efforts of 13 partner churches by operating a clearinghouse to direct aid to those in need. People call their churches and are referred to Love INC and its volunteers, who connect them with a church in the area who can help to meet whatever their need is. Love INC also helps churches pool their money if there is a larger need than any of them could not have met on their own.
“Love INC is very practical. A lot of the churches in town are pretty small and can’t do much to help folks. They might have a ministry for diapers or a ministry for paying utilities for people but its hard for them to get that knowledge out into the community,” Reverend Adam Rick, chaplain of Hillsdale College, said. “Anytime churches can combine resources in a small community like this, I think it serves the kingdom much better.”
The Festival of Love included a performance by Christian comedian Tim Chappell and a silent auction that featured items donated by partner churches and community members. The event raised more than $5,000, and the money raised from the Festival of Love will be used to offset the cost of operating the clearinghouse and renovating Love INC’s headquarters.
Executive Director of Love INC Jennifer Somsel said that the clearinghouse operated by Love INC has the potential to transform lives in a way that government aid never could because the volunteers give people what they need to prosper, and not just an impersonal handout.
“We had a person call, and they needed shoes because they were looking for a job,” Somsel said. “And from the volunteer talking to him, we found out he was living in a hotel and that he had a storage unit full of stuff that he lost because he couldn’t pay for it. He ended up getting a nice job but he didn’t have any gas money to get back an forth to get to that first check. We were able to make sure he had gas money to back and forth to work and we were able to get him some dishes and furniture so that when he got his apartment he could move right in. There’s a guy, he was just calling for shoes.”
Luke Miller ’01 is the pastor at Somerset Congregational Church, one of partner churches of Love INC Hillsdale. Miller also sits on Love INC’s board of directors. Miller said he believes there are good volunteer opportunities for Hillsdale students.
“There are two ways students and Love INC could partner,” Miller said. “One is that they could take calls and make verifications and the other is that when we have specific needs, groups of students can come out and help us meet needs. Not everybody who calls us just asks for money.”
Somsel said Love INC plans to expand so they can offer more to the community than just the clearinghouse. Somsel said Love INC may someday offer classes in wealth management and teach people life skills, like how to cook or prepare healthy meals for kids. One of the other programs Somsel hopes to start with the help of the partner churches is an after school program for the youth of Hillsdale County.
Miller said he wants to expand the reach of Love INC to include as many partner churches in the county as possible.
“It’d be great if everyone could see how Love INC could benefit them and become a part of it,” Miller said. “I think it could be really unifying thing for the Christian community.”
“I’d love to have an after-school program where we could take volunteers from the high schools and from the College who would volunteer their time to help kids with their homework and be a role model for kids,” Somsel said. “I think that is something we lack in this community.”