Project: Columbia – Love INC

Yesterday I interviewed Jane Williams of the Columbia branch of Love INC, to find out more about what is happening in Columbia to care for the needy in our community. I came away with a greater view of the scope of the problem but also a greater appreciation of what is being done. In a nutshell, Love INC is a middle-man between the needy in the community and the churches. People with needs call them and Love INC can connect them with Christians who can help.
Putting faith into action can be intimidating because the huge size of the need seems overwhelming and unfamiliar, but organizations like Love INC provide people with a way to get their foot in the door and serve real people in with their real needs.

Here are some excerpts from our interview:

Q: What is Love Inc?
A: Love Inc is a 30 year old organization started by a social worker in Holland Michigan who thought it would be a good idea for churches to work together in more strategic ways to address the needs in their community. The idea was to create “clearing house” where you actually gather information about what is available in churches and in the community so that when people in need call in you can actually give them referrals. Our goal is really trying to connect people with churches. Love Inc is not a church, we are just a little hub to try and point people to churches… and we are trying to help provide people with safe, manageable opportunities to move people out of the pews and into the community.

[From the Needy to Churches]
When people in need call in we try to help them. We engage them in about a 30 minute interview to try and find out their whole story. A lot of times they can’t pay their utility bill because they don’t have a job, and they can’t get a job because they have a felony conviction, or they don’t know how to make a resume, or they are just deer in the headlights depressed. They just need someone who will give them a chance. Or they grew up in foster care and no one really ever taught them how to live life. So we try to find out what are the underlying issues and we have started some life skills classes. A of people need help budgeting their money, finding a job, or the just need self-confidence. They just need to understand how to relate to people. Mainly though they just need friends. I have heard a few stories of people who have made it out of generational poverty, but never have I heard a story of a person whose done that without someone getting in their lives and helping them

[From Churches to the Needy]
A lady from a church came in yesterday and said that their youth group wants to put together Thanksgiving baskets but she don’t know any needy families, and she asked if we could give her a needy family to adopt for the holiday season. That church happens to be in an area where there is a lot of need. We get calls from there all the time, and we tried to connect them to a family close to their geographic area. Because we get all the calls in here and we can see that we can map out where the churches are and try to do that.

[Big Needs]
We also get situations where the need is so great we know we are going need to mobilize lots of people to help. We helped a family last month whose father has cancer, hasn’t been able to work for a year. The mother is from another country and couldn’t get a job because her papers had expired and they have 6 children. It’s taken a small army, but we have helped them find housing, get married, her get her ID. It turned out that they were never able to get married because she didn’t have proper ID. Its because we didn’t just say can we give you 50 bucks for your utility bill to ease our guilt. You plunge in. It takes plunging in and it is really messy and it always takes longer than you think.

Q: What can college students do to get involved?
A: A great thing for college students to do would be to come spend a few hours a week answering the phones over here. There is a real education in just hearing people in crisis and their story. The people who answer thephone don’t have to solve the problem. We triage and try to figure it out together. They wouldn’t be thrown in to the middle of solving the problem, but they would have the opportunity to hear some stories. We have a scripted interview. It’s pretty clear cut. Or they can help with the life skills program we are doing. We need childcare workers every week and would love to have people show up and hold some kids. They are mostly children of single moms who would not be able to attend the class unless you provided childcare.

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