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Forest of opportunity: Love INC welcomes holiday season with tree event

WORTHINGTON -- For the past year, Love In the Name of Christ has been identifying and evaluating needs in the local community and finding resources through its partner churches and existing agencies to meet them.

Now, to further highlight its role in the community, Love INC is planning a Christmas Tree Forest event to usher in the holiday season.

"We wanted to have something that was a fundraiser, but also was a service to the community," explained Love INC Executive Director Brian Frodermann.

The Christmas Tree Forest will be from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m. Tuesday, Wednesday and Nov. 17 at the First United Methodist Church, 408 11th St. It will feature an assortment of themed Christmas trees decorated by local businesses and organizations. Admission is free, but attendees can vote for their favorite tree through a free-will donation. All proceeds will help local families in need through the ministry of Love INC.

Businesses and organizations that will decorate a tree for display are: Nobles County Library staff, Family Video, Fulda Area Credit Union, New Dawn Inc., MOPS, JBS, Helping Hand Pregnancy Center, Crossroads Care Center, Avera Medical Group, South Shore Care Center, First State Bank Southwest, Ecumen-The Meadows, Worthington Federal Savings Bank, Lit'l Wizards, Worthington Middle School, Sanford Worthington, St. Mary's School, Worthington Christian School, IDEAS, Johnson Jewelry and Bank of the West.

The Love INC board hopes to make it an annual event.

"We hope it will grow," Frodermann said. "There will be a trophy for the tree getting the most votes and bragging rights for the year."

While it will take place more than a week before Thanksgiving, the Christmas Tree Forest was intentionally timed to coincide with the Holiday Parade -- Worthington's official kickoff to the holiday season. Love INC will also have a lighted float in the parade, which gets under way at 6:30 p.m. Tuesday on 10th Street, and Frodermann encourages people to stop at First United Methodist on their way to or from the parade route.

"We want to encourage people to bring their families, invite their neighbors," he said. "We think it's a nice non-commercial way to start the season and a way to get ideas for maybe decorating your own tree for the year."

The idea of reaching out to neighbors is at the core of the ministry's philosophy. The concept of Love INC -- an international ministry model that is implemented on a local basis -- was first introduced to the Worthington community two years ago. One year ago, a Love INC office was opened in downtown Worthington, Frodermann was hired on a full-time basis, and the Love INC helpline began taking calls.

Love INC networks local churches, volunteers and community organizations to help people in need. Churches and individuals work together, across denominational lines, to provide coordinated help with basic needs such as housing, food and clothing. The process can be taken a step further through initiatives that seek to help people on a long-term basis through mentoring, goal-setting, skills training and spiritual and emotional support.

"My favorite aspect of it is neighbors helping neighbors," Frodermann said. "So far this year, we've logged 130 volunteer acts of service and 165 hours of volunteers helping neighbors in need. That's really our focus. It's really exciting and encouraging to see needs being met and getting the feedback from volunteers, how it opens their eyes to the needs in the community, how it makes them want to reach out even more."

Seventeen area churches have pledged ongoing financial support to the ministry and are also a main source for volunteers, although Frodermann noted that someone who has been helped by Love INC often becomes a volunteer once their own need has been met.

Clients can often be referred to existing services and organizations, while other needs are listed regularly in the participating churches' bulletins.

"We also create gap ministries," when an unmet need becomes evident, Frodermann said. "Furniture has been a big one, so we started a furniture ministry. There's also a linen ministry that American Reformed Church has started up. We've actually identified another six or seven needs or gaps and have shared them with our partner churches. We foresee quite a few new ministries starting up soon."

The helpline is currently operational from 1 to 4 p.m. Tuesdays and Thursdays and 10 a.m. to noon Fridays; a voice mail can be left at other times.

"We're always looking for more phone volunteers, particularly bilingual phone volunteers," Frodermann said. "If people are interested in volunteering, we can do an orientation with them to find a ministry that meets their gifts and talents."

For more information about Love INC, phone 727-7290 or go to the website:

Beth Rickers

Beth Rickers is the veteran in the newspaper staff with 25 years as the Daily Globe's Features Editor. Interests include cooking, traveling and beer tasting and making with her home-brewing husband, Bryan. She writes an Area Voices blog called Lagniappe, which is a Creole term that means "a little something extra." It can be found at  

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