Love INC of Brevard Helps Struggling Neighbors Get Back on Their Feet, 20th Anniversary Celebration Set Tuesday Evening
By Maria Sonnenberg // October 10, 2023
CONNECTING NEEDY TO CRITICAL RESOURCES
BREVARD COUNTY, FLORIDA – Love can take many shapes. In the case of Love INC of Brevard, love is about helping struggling neighbors to get back on their feet.
“INC” stands for In the Name of Christ for this Christian organization that has partnered with 60 local churches and 20 area businesses to assemble a client transformation pipeline that addresses the spiritual, emotional, mental and physical needs of residents.
Launched two decades ago, Love INC of Brevard is part of a national network of 135 affiliates that encompasses more than 9,000 churches, 6,000 community agencies and more than 300,000 volunteers united to help more than one million people in need each year.
In 1977, Michigan social worker Dr. Virgil Gulker created the model that would encourage local congregations to work together and not separately to better help the community.
“We wanted to share Christ’s love with people in need,” Gulker noted.
Gulker’s goal was not to provide temporary solutions, but to assist the client on the journey towards self-sufficiency, to offer redemptive compassion that would support people in ways that lead to life transformation, not just a temporary fix.
Clearinghouse Call Center
At the core of the Space Coast affiliate’s two-part client transformation process is the Clearinghouse Call Center, where, after an extensive intake process, clients are matched with volunteer mentors.
“This is where the client mentorship program starts,” said operations director Jason Hermansdorfer.
Recruited primarily from the church community, mentors work with clients to learn about their spiritual, physical and financial condition in order to complete a comprehensive assessment of the obstacles facing them. Together with the client, they create a sequence of life goals for them.
“Client mentors get to know each client’s individual needs and partner them with resources that can help,” said Hermansdorfer.
There is no shortage of clients, for word of mouth brings individuals and families to Love INC.
“There is word on the street that Love INC helps,” Hermansdorfer.
CONNECTING NEEDY TO CRITICAL RESOURCES
Love INC connects clients a breadth of services that range from employment, housing opportunities, legal counseling and tax preparation to auto repairs, medical and dental services and mental health counseling.
“Our partners prioritize our clients because they know they are receiving wraparound care,” Hermansdorfer said.
Mentors, who work with clients in developing goals that will help them to eventually achieve holistic wellbeing, contact clients weekly to ascertain they are moving forward on the path to achieving goals. By coordinating services, Love INC ascertains needs are not overlooked or services are not duplicated, and clients are served in a holistic manner.
Once clients’ immediate needs are met, they enter Love INC’s Life Curricula, a series of life skills classes that discuss personal finance, employment readiness and retention, overcoming trauma and Christian formation. The sequence of classes, held over three to four mini-mesters each year at host churches, can be completed within a year to 18 months.
“Our Life Curricula provides life skills for life transformation,” said programs director James Fontenot. “Our goal is to provide them with a well-rounded, real-world education. Each course is designed to build participants emotionally, physically, spiritually and relationally.”
Life Curricula aims for graduates to have stable employment and housing, reliable transportation, budgeting abilities, mental health tools, a support network and an understanding of the Christian church and opportunities for church engagement.
With these things in place, clients are prepared to re-enter the community as contributors for the greater good. Client mentors are never far away and always ready to help.
“The client mentor is always walking alongside them through the journey,” Hermansdorfer said.
All clients are eligible to receive the full spectrum of services; child care is provided so parents can attend. After successfully completing the program, clients are invited to a graduation ceremony that celebrates their accomplishment, complete with caps, gowns and diplomas.
Although the organization is generously funded by individuals, churches, foundations and grants, Love INC also depends on sales from Village Thrift, the group’s resale store, housed in a former K-Mart at the corner of Sarno Rd. and Apollo Blvd. in Melbourne.
“About 60 percent of our income is generated by the thrift shop,” Hermansdorfer said. “The store also serves as a training ground and for entry-level job opportunities for clients.”
The building additionally houses Love INC’s staff, led by director Kristy Stuart, who began her association with the group as a volunteer.
Through its 20-year history, Love INC has faced and surmounted challenges. Covid-19, for example, was harsh to all charities, but more so to ministries like Love INC, because it affected not just the charity itself, but its clients, too.
“The pandemic hit our clients hard,” Hermansdorfer said.
Fortunately, the organization had plenty of friends eager to help.
“We had a lot of need to meet, and it was hard to meet that need, but the community was extremely generous in helping us,” Hermansdorfer said.
ABOVE VIDEO: Love INC of Brevard Operations Director Jason Hermansdorfer and Programs Director James Fontenot explain Work Life, a job-readiness program that equips Love INC clients with the skills, character, and relationships they need to find work and thrive in it. This course takes place over an 8-week period, meeting on Sunday nights at a local host church. Each session begins with a shared meal before moving on to our small group learning environment. Contact Programs@loveincbrevard.com to learn how you can get involved.
20TH ANNIVERSARY CELEBRATION SET OCT. 10
As Love INC approaches its 20th anniversary, the agency wants to salute its friends with a party from 6 to 8 p.m., Tuesday, Oct. 10, at the Hilton Melbourne, 200 Rialto Place. Hermansdorfer is quick to point out this is a community celebration, not a fundraiser, and as such, everyone is invited.
“It’s an opportunity to celebrate God helping us stay in business,” said Hermansdorfer.
Partners, volunteers and other friends of the ministry are invited, of course, but so is the general community.
“We’re trying to use it to raise awareness,” Hermansdorfer added. “There are so many in our community who want to help but don’t know how.”
While there is no cost to attend the event and attendees won’t be asked to provide a donation, reservations are required and requested by Sept. 29.
If you can’t make the party, but are interested in Love INC and how it helps neighbors, you can register for Love INC 101, a 30-minute one-on-one virtual opportunity to meet with a staff member and learn about its transformation program.
Love INC of Brevard is at 830 N. Apollo Blvd., Melbourne. For more information, visit LoveIncBrevard.com or call 321-253-9542. For more on Love INC’s 20th anniversary celebration, visit the organization’s Facebook page.