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Retired women in volunteer network with Love INC

Karen Caraway (left) and Joyce Klosterbuer have chosen to spend their retirement by helping others in the community. The two are volunteers with Love In the Name of Christ (Love INC) in Worthington. (Julie Buntjer / The Globe)

WORTHINGTON — When Karen Caraway retired from Newport Laboratories in July 2012, it didn’t take her long to fill up her suddenly open calendar.

Love In the Name of Christ (Love INC) was relatively new in town then, having opened in 2010, and was always in need of volunteers. That hasn’t changed.

A nationally known non-profit, the affiliate in Worthington was created by 19 local churches who realized the scope of unmet needs in the community. From their planning grew a clearinghouse that now has 12 gap ministries providing everything from rides and prayers to household supplies, furniture and a widows’ ministry.

Caraway’s belief in the work of Love INC led her to convince a friend, Joyce Klosterbuer, to join Love INC’s volunteer crew four and a half years ago. Klosterbuer, a former bookkeeper for Prairie Holdings Group, also retired in 2012.

“When I retired, I really didn’t know what I was going to do,” said Caraway, who was invited to join the Love INC board by a member. “It was a leap of faith. I felt it was God’s mission for me to help women and their children.”

During the past six years, many of Caraway’s volunteer hours with Love INC have been spent caring for children — first for a single mother and then for a young family. Though she decided to stop providing daycare in October, she will continue to volunteer with Love INC, and is hoping to use her marketing skills to increase volunteerism, both among current volunteers as well as new recruits.

Klosterbuer, meanwhile, works in the clearinghouse, interviewing individuals who come to Love INC for assistance to determine how best to meet their needs.

For about two and a half hours a week, Klosterbuer gets to know the stories of Nobles County residents who are most in need. They range from people who arrived in the community with little more than the clothes on their back, or people who are down on their luck — perhaps they lost their job or have mounting medical bills.

“Sometimes they just need to talk,” Klosterbuer said. “There’s no age limit — we help everybody.”

Love INC’s ride ministry may be called upon to take elderly residents to medical appointments out of town, while it’s infant and toddler ministry may provide clothing or other necessities for a new baby.

Both Caraway and Klosterbuer say being able to help others is why they’ve continued to volunteer with Love INC.

“I feel we’re so blessed that if I can help someone else who is down and out, I’ll do it,” said Klosterbuer, who also leads the local Operation Christmas Child program. “Some of these people have absolutely nothing when they come with a suitcase or come on the bus. They have so many needs.”

Klosterbuer spoke of one family in particular that arrived in Worthington with just suitcases.

“In Africa they had really good jobs and were well to do,” she said. “When they got here, they had nothing. They appreciated everything we did for them.”

The husband found work, his wife learned about local English as a Second Language classes and the family got involved in a local church with a little guidance from Love INC volunteers.

“The ones that stand out in my mind are the ones that come only with a suitcase,” Klosterbuer added. “They have nothing, and they appreciate what we do for them.”

“I think it’s just a real passion in one’s heart to help the people in need,” added Caraway. “When we all have so much, we don’t realize how little some people have.”

One of the cases that she won’t soon forget involved a couple who had been living with children and the situation didn’t work out.

“He lost his job and they were living in their truck, not really having anything warm (such as) adequate coats,” Caraway said. “They came to Love INC and we got them blankets and coats.

“Those people were apologetic for asking for help from us — they said … ‘We never thought we’d be here,’” she added. “We assured them that we were there to help them. People can get down on their luck — even if they’ve had things their whole life; things can take a turn.”

Greg Wede, executive director of Love INC Worthington, said approximately 250 to 300 cases are helped by the affiliate each year, on average. Each case could be a single individual or an entire family, so the number of people assisted in a year is considerably higher.

As for the number of volunteers, Wede said he’s never sat down to figure it out.

“We have about 25 people come in on a regular basis; and we have furniture teams that go out from the churches,” he said. “We have gap ministry groups and prayer groups. I’m pretty sure if you start adding all those groups up, you’re over 100 (volunteers).”

“This organization would not exist without the volunteers, simply put,” Wede added. “We would be unable to accomplish anything that we set out to do without the volunteers.”

Love INC is always looking for volunteers to help in varying capacities, from people to serve on the board of directors to those who can help in the clearinghouse or volunteer as a driver.

“To be a volunteer, you have to agree with the mission statement and the Apostle’s Creed,” Wede said.

Caraway, who volunteered in the Love INC office for three years, said it could use office helpers to direct calls and assist with paperwork, as well as people to volunteer in the clearinghouse.

“It’s usually two and a half to three hours a week — daytime hours, either morning or afternoon,” Caraway said.

“When we do work with people, we like to put them in contact with a church,” she added. “When they call in, we always pray with them on the phone, and we also pray with them after our initial phone intake process.”

“We try to get them connected to a church, somehow, if we can,” Klosterbuer added.

Funding

Love INC’s primary fundraiser is the annual Christmas Tree Forest, an event each year in early December that features a display of decorated Christmas trees at Worthington’s First United Methodist Church. Last month’s event netted approximately $3,300 for Love INC.

The agency also relies heavily on donations. As a 501(c)3 non-profit, Love INC accepts any and all contributions from individuals, businesses and from the 19 support churches in Worthington. Wede said the agency also receive some grant support.

“You can also be a Love Sponsor, where you can make a monthly donation to Love INC,” Caraway noted.

The gap ministries

Local churches and volunteers from within them carry out the mission of Love INC through a dozen different gap ministries. The ministries and the churches who oversee them are:

Bunk beds: Lakeside Church

Cleaning supplies: St. Matthews Lutheran

Detergent (dish and laundry): Living Waters Covenant Church (formerly First Covenant)

Infant and toddler ministry: Indian Lake Baptist

Kitchen supplies: Westminster Presbyterian

Linens (bed and bath): American Reformed

Personal care, Widows ministry: American Lutheran

Winter coats: First Lutheran

Furniture, ride and prayer ministries are led by several churches and the Love INC office.

In addition to the gap ministries, Love INC offers a Faith and Finance class at various times during the year. The curriculum, used by Love INC affiliates across the country, teaches individuals how to follow a budget, balance a checkbook and manage finances.

To volunteer with Love INC, visit loveincw.org or call 727-7291.

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 The Farm Bleat

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