An experienced social worker, Erica Petrie felt something was lacking in her work with the community she served. A Christian, yet unable to share her faith at work, Erica was frustrated and felt she had a solution she wasn’t allowed to offer. It seemed there was no lasting change in her clients’ lives because the solutions provided were one-dimensional rather than holistic.
Then she was introduced to the concept of churches working together through the “coordination and support” of a local Love INC office. Erica was intrigued. She wondered what might happen through a ministry like this in her own community.
In January 2018, Erica attended an Executive Director training at Love INC of Treasure Valley (Idaho). This introduced Erica to the tools she needed to take “everything from conceptual to practical,” by giving her the opportunity to see a working Love INC call center.
On March 1, 2018, Love INC of Van Wert County (Ohio) opened their call center under Erica’s leadership. Although she came to the job an experienced social worker, she was surprised by some of the requests coming in. “The big thing that struck me as we opened the call center was the issue of homelessness in our community… the third highest request we get is that our people have nowhere to stay…They’re living in their cars. They’re living in a tent in someone’s backyard.”
Through the efforts of the new Love INC office, partner church volunteers started a furniture ministry that focuses on those in the homeless community who are transitioning into new homes. Erica reports, “Rapid Rehousing called us. They found a gentleman living in a house that hadn’t had running water or electricity for eight months…They were able to get him an apartment…but he had nothing in that apartment other than a recliner, a microwave, and a small TV. There was literally nothing else there.”
As a result, Love INC church volunteers delivered furniture to the man. But perhaps more importantly, the volunteers connected him with the most significant resource of all: an offer to join him in prayer. “I think that’s something Love INC can bring to a community that’s missing (in other social services). When people reach out to us for help, they can have their spiritual needs addressed, not just their physical needs. We are really looking at the whole person.”