Love INC’s Collaboration Fosters Success in People’s Lives

Written by Paul R. Kopenkoskey on . Posted in Local

Love INC1 235 Love INC of Allendale executive director Sonya Archer: “We take our denomination hat off at the door because we all serve the same God.”Sonya Archer issues a two-word reply of astonishment when asked what Love In The Name Of Christ (INC) of Allendale accomplishes for people.

"Oh, wow," said Archer, executive director of the nonprofit Christian ministry the last eight years.

"I don't know how to explain what we do. We just try to be really resourceful."

It's not that Archer doesn't understand Love INC of Allendale's mission, far from it. Rather, what the ministry accomplishes for people is so wide-ranging, describing what it all entails can't be tied up in a neat, little bow.

Essentially, Love INC of Allendale — as with all Love INC chapters that are dotted around the nation — assist people with spiritual, mental, emotional and physical needs. That's the short description.

Big on collaboration

They accomplish this task by partnering with area churches of various denominations — 32 church partners for Love INC of Allendale — as well as service organizations that include school districts, Women, Infants and Children (WIC), pregnancy resource centers and more.

LoveIncAllendaleLogo-2015"We take our denomination hat off at the door because we all serve the same God," Archer said of Love INC of Allendale's church partners. "By partnering with a huge pool of local churches, we can multiple our resources and make a greater impact.

"Our hope and our mission is to mobilize the church to transform lives in their communities in the name of Christ."

Love INC of Allendale operates an 11,000-square foot store it refers to as its Resale Ministry and a warehouse at 11620 60th Avenue in Allendale. It sells new and gently used merchandise, including clothes and furniture. Its office will soon relocate to 6655 Lake Michigan Drive.

5,000 helped in 2015

The Allendale chapter has six staff members and an average of 275 volunteers with an annual budget of around $275,000. Through their committed efforts, 5,000 people received help from Love INC of Allendale in 2015.

Its Gap Ministries helps fill the unmet needs of people in the community.

It's Jobs for Life provides interviewing and resume writing skills, dealing with the ups and downs of finding a job as well as career assessment. And for those who have been released from prison, Jobs for Life comes alongside former inmates and connects them with employers who hire convicts, such as Butterball Farms and Cascade Engineering.

"They're some of the most hardworking, dedicated people," Archer said of former inmates.

Take time to listen

Love INC also works to lovingly ferret the reason a person may feel depressed or anxious, or why they're missing work or don't have enough to eat.

So for example, when an individual or family may request help with food or clothing or help paying a utility bill, but Archer knows the problem can often go deeper than that.

"The need for a winter coat is the reason they called, or their stomach is growling because they're hungry," said Archer.

"We can take the time and really listen and find out what's really going on and ask how is it they got to this point? If they haven't been able to go to work the last two weeks, maybe it's because they're struggling with anxiety or depression so their income is down."

Founded in 1977

Good Samaritan Center director Dr. Virgil Gulker founded the first Love INC in Holland in 1977. Since then, it has grown nationwide to work with individuals to help them out of their present troubles through the partnerships and resources it establishes with church and other community organizations.

"The cool thing is we don't take any government funding so our hands are not tied on who we can serve or can't serve or how we can serve them," said Archer. "It's not about the need, it's about the person."

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Ultimately, Love INC endeavors people to become self-sufficient. Reaching that goal often takes patience and persistence, particularly if it means developing new and positive habits a person may not have had.

"Maybe nobody taught them how to manage their money or how to budget," said Archer. "Or maybe what they did for a job is not a job anymore and so they're 45 or 50 years old and wonder 'what can I do?'

"If we can teach people how to get to a point where they don't need us anymore, that's our greatest success," added Archer.


Author Information
Paul R. Kopenkoskey
Author: Paul R. KopenkoskeyWebsite:
Paul R. Kopenkoskey is a full-time freelance writer and editor for an assortment of publications including Grand Rapids Magazine, Grand Rapids Business Journal, and Faith Grand Rapids magazine. He has completed his first novel with the working title, Karl Beguiled. He and his wife, Barb, live in Wyoming, Michigan. They have three children and five grandchildren.

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