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Church leaders turn to Love INC

WORTHINGTON -- It may not offer an immediate solution to the homeless issue in the Worthington area, but the concept of Love INC (In the Name of Christ) was favorably received by members of the Worthington Area Christian Ministerial Association and representatives of area service organizations Thursday morning.

More than a dozen people gathered at American Lutheran Church to hear a presentation from Lora Petitt and Cherish Granstra regarding the Love INC program that formed in Sheldon, Iowa, more than five years ago. The program there is one of more than 135 operating in 30 states across the U.S. today. Formed in 1977, Love INC's national headquarters is in Minneapolis.

Petitt, who has served as director of Sheldon's Love INC program since it began, said the program requires a collaborative effort.

"We didn't want to duplicate what's already happening in the community," she said, adding that each Love INC looks different, offering varying services to best meet the needs of their citizens.

To form a local Love INC program, she said six churches of different denominations must agree to take part. Each church then relies on the skills and services of its members to help meet a need in the community, whether it be to collect used furniture, supplies for babies, food, personal items or something else that isn't already available through a local service organization.

Love INC serves as the go-to agency, where people in need seek assistance. Petitt said they verify all requests to ensure they are legitimate before pointing the people to the churches or agencies that can best serve them.

"Right now, a lot of your churches may be doing something (to help individuals in need)," Petitt said. By having one contact agency to coordinate the efforts, she said it eliminates a lot of requests from people just seeking hand-outs. Rather than a hand-out, Love INC seeks to offer a hand up -- to help people get on their feet and find success.

Rev. Mike Zaske of American Lutheran Church has already received the starter kit to begin the steps necessary to form a local Love INC program. Future meetings are planned to discuss the idea further.

Nichole Paladie, social action coordinator for the Worthington Deanery of Catholic Charities, said developing Love INC in Worthington will take time and, even though there's an immediate need, there are other things that can be done until the organization gets off the ground here.

"To have it be successful, you have to take certain steps," she said. "We need to build monies ... to build a solid financial base. That's all this is -- finding invested people with a passion to come together, network and make the necessary steps happen."

When it comes to serving people in need, Paladie has now made it her mission to raise money to purchase a local home to serve the transient and transitional population in Worthington. Just in the last week she has secured $3,000 in "seed money" from anonymous donors, with the hope of gathering nearly $150,000 to purchase a house. Paladie said the house would be called Agape Home, meaning home in the name of love.

"I think it just starts with one person," Paladie said. "We need to be doing it for the right reasons. I want to start taking up donations."

Money has been at the root of all of the housing discussion taking place in Worthington, and Paladie said that shouldn't be the case.

"Don't tell me money stands in the way -- it's about families' hearts that need to be opened," she said. "It is by faith we are going to open an Agape Home. Nobody deserves to be homeless."

Julie Buntjer

Julie Buntjer joined the Globe newsroom in December 2003, after working more than nine years for weekly newspapers. A native of Worthington, she has a bachelor's degree in agriculture journalism. Find more of her stories of farm life, family and various other tidbits at

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