By Starrla Cray
DELANO, MN A woman leaving a battered women’s shelter only has her children and the clothes they are wearing.
Meanwhile, a man who needs to get a job doesn’t have the money to buy gas for his car to go to interviews, and a family unable to pay for water in their home is left without a place to wash up and do laundry.
All of these are actual situations that have come into the Love INC Heartland (Love In The Name of Christ) office.
“They all involve our neighbors,” the sheet that was sent to the affiliate churches stated.
Love INC Heartland in Delano is an affiliate of the national Love INC organization that began in Holland, MI, 30 years ago.
The organization is “neighbors helping neighbors” and is a partnership among 21 area churches representing nine denominations.
In order to raise funds for the organization, Love INC Heartland is having a sleep-out event the evening of Saturday, Oct. 30.
Youth groups, organizations, and families are planning to sleep in tents and cardboard boxes outside their churches, in an effort to raise awareness of people who are in need.
“This is one of our biggest fundraisers,” Love INC staff member Reeva Lodermeier said.
The first sleep-out was in 2005, from Nov. 4 through Dec. 23. A total of $34,000 was raised, which director Terri Harris said was “wonderful.”
“This year, Love, INC is trying something different,” Harris said.
Instead of having a multi-night sleep-out, area churches are making an effort to all have their sleep outs on one night.
“Each church does their own thing,” Lodermeier said, adding that Light of Christ Lutheran in Delano is having its sleep-out the following Saturday, Nov. 6, because of confirmation Sunday, Oct. 31.
People interested in donating or participating in the sleep-out should contact one of the 21 affiliate churches or go to www.LoveINCHeartland.org.
All of the donations to Love INC are greatly appreciated, according to Harris. The money helps people in Delano, as well as neighboring towns of Maple Plain, Independence, Loretto, Greenfield, Rockford, Montrose, Howard Lake, Waverly, Watertown, and Mayer.
“The number of people turning to relief agencies for assistance continues to increase,” Harris stated. “Love INC Heartland served 6,844 needs to date in 2010, compared to 3,836 needs during the same time period in 2009, about a 77 percent increase. We coordinate a variety of services sponsored by our member congregations, and we do so without duplicating other service agencies’ efforts.”
According to the US Census Bureau, the poverty rate in America climbed from 13.2 percent in 2008 to 14.3 percent in 2009.
“Largely, it’s loss of jobs,” Harris said.
The Love INC Heartland sleep-out is a tangible reminder of those who are in need.
Pastor Norm Olson of Trinity Lutheran in Watertown noted that when he participated in the sleep-out a few years ago, he didn’t sleep well, but it was a valuable experience.
“I thought about homeless persons who might be sleeping under bridges on old mattresses pulled out of dumpsters,” Olson wrote after the event. “They would be out not by choice as I was but by necessity. And, they would not even have the benefit of a tent! I thought of people who have had the experience of light and heat being turned off. I thought of people in very poor, rundown houses. . . .”
When people call Love INC for help, staff members pray with the caller, and investigate the request to make sure it is valid.
Then, the neighbor in need is connected with the many ministries local churches have created to help. Whether it’s furniture, clothing, bedding, school supplies, foster care kits, or holiday food and gifts, volunteers from local churches lend a hand.
Love INC does not seek to give “handouts,” and instead, the ministry aims to connect people to the love of Christ.
In 2011, Love INC Heartland plans to start a program to help people with budgeting, finances, resumé writing, and job applications.
“It’s teaching people how to gain responsibility,” Harris said. In other locations where the program has been implemented, it has helped families pay $10,000 down on debt each year, on average.
“We need cash flow to get this going,” Harris said. “As the need grows, we pray that folks in the community will meet the need. Whether it’s a pack of diapers or $10, it all helps.”
Love INC Heartland is located at PO Box 143, 318 Railroad Avenue in Delano. The office number is (763) 972-6547.
Love, INC churches
There are 21 area churches affiliated with Love, INC in Delano, including:
• Delano Assembly of God Church
• Delano Catholic Communities
• Delano Evangelical Free Church
• Delano United Methodist Church
• Faith Community Church, Independence
• Light of Christ Lutheran, Delano
• Lyndale Lutheran Church, Independence
• Immaculate Conception Church, Watertown
• Maple Plain Community Church
• Montrose United Methodist Church
• Our Father’s Lutheran, Rockford
• Riverwood Covenant Church, Rockford
• St. John’s Lutheran, Howard Lake
• St. Mary’s Catholic Church, Waverly
• St. Paul’s United Church of Christ, Delano
• Sts. Peter and Paul Catholic Church, Loretto
• Saving Grace Lutheran, Delano
• Seventh Day Adventist Church, Maple Plain
• Trinity Lutheran Church, Watertown
• Village Evangelical Free, Independence
• Watertown Evangelical Free