By Starrla Cray
DELANO, WATERTOWN, HOWARD LAKE, MN A cardboard box and blanket might not be very comfortable, but local church and youth group members had a compelling reason to sleep under the stars Oct. 8.
More than 100 people from Delano Evangelical Free Church, Light of Christ Lutheran in Delano, Delano United Methodist, Christ Lutheran in Maple Plain, Watertown Evangelical Free Church, First Presbyterian Church of Howard Lake, and Our Father’s Lutheran in Rockford participated in the event, in order to raise money for the Love In The Name of Christ (Love INC) Heartland.
Some slept on the properties of their home churches, while others joined with neighboring ones.
“It’s a sleep out for poverty,” said Terri Harris, director of Love INC Heartland.
Many Love INC donations were made directly to the groups sleeping outside, but anyone who’d still like to give can go to www.loveincheartland.org or call (763) 972 6547.
“Our goal is to raise $15,000 in October,” Harris said.
Love INC Heartland, a network of churches that work together to support neighbors in need, serves residents of Independence, Loretto, Greenfield, Rockford, Mayer, Montrose, Howard Lake, Waverly, Delano, Watertown, and Maple Plain.
“Love INC helps churches help people,” Harris said. “It’s 25 churches 14 denominations working together.”
Last year, Love INC Heartland served 15,536 needs.
“We’re on schedule to be 25 percent higher this year, and we haven’t gotten into our busy season yet,” Harris said.
With winter approaching, many families are in need of hats, mittens, coats, blankets, and other cold-weather supplies.
Love INC accepts a wide variety of contributions, including household goods, books, furniture, infant items, school supplies, toys, and much more. Current needs include personal hygiene items, laundry soap, toilet paper, and beds (queen and smaller).
“There’s only a small list of items we don’t accept,” Harris said. “We accept mostly everything.”
The organization also partners with local food shelves, and is having a food giveaway at Maple Plain Community Church this weekend. People who are truly in need will be invited to partake.
“We’re looking for volunteers and donations,” Harris said.
Another service opportunity is a Thanksgiving basket project, which will be starting soon. Love INC screens needy families and coordinates food baskets for them. The name and size of the family are supplied, along with suggestions for food items that they need.
A church coordinator makes contact with the family, and a group either delivers the basket to their home, or arranges for the family to pick the basket up at church.
According to Love INC’s website, the organization’s purpose is not to give handouts. Instead, it is designed to connect people to the love of Christ, and serve them with practical love.
“The thing that makes Love INC work is the volunteers,” Harris said, adding that there are about 1,400 of them.
In addition to monetary and material gifts, Love INC appreciates prayers and participation.
At the sleep out, each group held a time of prayer for the poverty-stricken in the area.
“Poverty is very real,” Harris said. “We have families living in their cars with their children.”
Another way to support Love INC is through its thrift store (318 Railroad Ave. in Delano), which is open to the public Monday through Thursday from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m., and Saturdays from 9 a.m. to noon. Wednesdays, it is also open from 6 to 8 p.m.
To volunteer with Love INC, call Lisa, the volunteer coordinator, at (763) 972-6547.
“No one has ever seen God; but if we love one another, God lives in us and his love is made complete in us.” 1 John 4:12