May 28, 2014 - "If somebody is given some hope, there's a lot that they can do."
Sandy Weaver knows whereof she speaks because for the last seven years she's been in the business of giving people hope as the executive director of Love In the Name of Christ (Love INC) of North Oakland County.
"Everybody has value," she said. "We're not judgmental."
Weaver's helped countless people put food in their bellies, keep a roof over their heads and change their lives for the better.
But now she's ready to retire and Love INC is looking for someone to succeed her.
"I've been talking about retiring for probably four years," said Weaver, who served as treasurer for Oxford-Orion FISH, a local food pantry, for four-and-a-half years prior to Love INC. "It's a hard decision."
Love INC of North Oakland County is a nonprofit cooperative effort that links churches, volunteers and service agencies, and helps them organize their efforts to reach out to the poor and disadvantaged.
The organization functions as a clearinghouse for people in need. Through Love INC, folks get connected with local churches and agencies that provide assistance.
That assistance includes help with rent and utilities, food, car repairs, gasoline cards, minor home repairs, household goods, clothing, personal needs, counseling, laundry and community meals.
The clearinghouse averages over 500 calls per month and last year, received more than 5,000 calls for assistance.
To help clients meet their needs, Love INC utilizes the resources of the 26 area churches affiliated with it, plus 25 local and state government agencies and countless area nonprofit groups and businesses.
Unlike many other charitable groups, Love INC doesn't simply meet an individual or family's needs and move on. The group becomes a partner in trying to improve their lives.
"We always follow up," Weaver said. "Even when we think the need is met, we have people that follow up to see how they're doing.
"Sometimes they're doing fine and they're just grateful. Sometimes they're still in despair, so we try to keep working with them. We don't leave them hanging. We'll be there as long as they need us."
Weaver noted a lot of people get "kind of stuck in a rut" and "we're sensitive to that."
"We try to walk alongside of them and give them loving care," she said. "That's what we're there for."
For Weaver, the most rewarding part of her job has been "seeing people get their lives together and be prosperous."
For example, she noted that through Love INC's former Transitions program – an employment networking and career guidance program that met weekly at Oxford United Methodist Church – "over 100 people found jobs."
"It was all through networking," Weaver said.
Since opening its doors in March 2007, Love INC has helped more than 1,500 families.
"Some of them end up coming back and volunteering or giving back to the community in some other way," Weaver said. "I think that's the greatest part."
Weaver is very excited about Love INC's new Transformational Ministry through which mentors will identify the issues a person is having and work one-on-one with them to solve their problems and improve their lives.
"That's going to be huge," she said.
This mentoring could range from helping formulate a budget plan that stretches a person's limited income to having someone to talk to while knitting, according to Weaver.
"There's just no end to what we can do with it," she said.
Of course, Love INC will continue its other successful programs such as the Clothes Closet at St. Mary's in the Hills Episcopal Church in Orion Township and the Bed, Blessings & Beyond/Little Luxuries ministry at Christ the King Church in Oxford Township.
These programs, staffed entirely by volunteers, provide free clothing, household goods and personal products to folks in need.
Those looking to enjoy a free dinner and some good company are invited to attend any or all of the four community meals held every week at the following local churches – Lake Orion United Methodist (Monday), Immanuel Congregational United Church of Christ (Tuesday), Oxford UMC (Wednesday) and Christ the King (Thursday).
Weaver's last day is July 18 and she's hoping Love INC's board of directors will have her successor selected before then.
She said the new executive director should be someone who is a Christian, willing to work with various churches, personable and has a "real passion" for helping people.
Weaver noted that possessing a certain college degree is not necessary, but having life and work experience is a definite plus.
Being director is a part-time job that entails working at least 30 hours per week.
Weaver said she usually put in more than 30 hours, but it all "depends on how much you want to get involved."
Those interested in applying for the position are asked to e-mail a cover letter and resume to firstname.lastname@example.org or mail it to P.O. Box 104, Lake Orion, MI 48361.
For more information about Love INC, visit www.loveincofnoc.org
CJ Carnacchio is editor for The Oxford Leader. He lives in the Village of Oxford with his wife Connie and daughter Larissa. When he's not busy working on the newspaper, he enjoys cigars/pipes, Martinis/Scotch, hunting and fishing.