Volunteers are the heartbeat of every local Love INC. Every week, hundreds of gifted servants across the country give thousands of hours to help transform lives and communities In the Name of Christ.

Yet while there’s no way we could capture even a fraction of the great volunteer stories available to share, here’s one example of a beloved volunteer at the Love INC of Greater Lapeer in Michigan:

It’s been 13 years since Melody began gathering backpacks for students in need as the Outreach Director for the Lapeer Free Methodist Church. The initiative began in response to a simple request for help, but it wasn’t long before 100 backpacks became 300, then 500, then 600—God’s always up to immeasurably more than we can imagine. Local churches and community foundations couldn’t wait to take part. There’s nothing like meeting tangible needs and being a part of something bigger than yourself.

For Melody, what began as a normal outreach initiative has become an enormous part of her life. Constantly on the lookout for new partnerships and fundraising opportunities, she says, “Between March and September, I say the word ‘backpack’ a million times.”

And whether she’s connecting with local salons about starting up a donation competition or shopping for school supplies to stuff inside the backpacks, it’s not uncommon for her to hear, “Mom, look! It’s the Lapeer Backpack Lady!” That always makes her smile. Yet, she says it’s the excitement on the faces of young children as they pick up their new backpack for the first time that makes her “heart burst”.

Backpacks aren’t the only way Melody connects to a larger community, however. She follows the Love INC Movement on social media and is always garnering inspiration from the ideas of fellow affiliates. She’s also been a volunteer at the Greater Lapeer Love INC for eight years now, where she delights in answering the phones and helping out in any way she can to mobilize churches to serve those in need.

“You never know who you’re going to meet and who you’ll get to pray for that day.”

And while there are happy days and sad days, the days where God’s presence is so clear—like when a woman and her children came into their offices without shoes or coats, and somehow in their small space, they found the exact items in the sizes she needed—are what Melody finds to be the most beautiful.