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Love INC

Kimberly exclaims, "I did it!" and dances after accepting her certificate for completing a class offered by Love INC of the Cedar Valley. The organization honored fall session attendees earlier this week.

Crystal, an area native, was living in California when her doctor delivered bad news.

“My kidneys were failing,” she recalls. “I got on a Trailblazer Bus with a few dollars in my pocket and my suitcase. … I came back to Iowa to die.”

However, coming home helped restore her health, in part thanks to Love INC of the Cedar Valley — “Love In the Name of Christ.”

The faith-based organization’s member churches offered her a support network and assistance like cleaning, food and kitchen essentials. Crystal gained a new outlook and joined a church.

“I found out that (Love INC) gave classes,” she says.

Called “Begin Now,” the educational ministry is essential to Love INC’s mission to network partner churches in meeting the tangible needs of the community, explains Erin Tink, executive director.

In two years, Crystal took four classes: Finding Freedom; Fresh Start; Faith and Finances; and most recently, Affirming Potential.

“With the help of God and Love INC, I was able to change and grow,” she says.

For those who complete three classes, Love INC hosts a graduation ceremony, says Tink. Crystal was among those who graduated earlier this week. Those completing their first and second Love INC classes also were honored. The ceremony took place at First Presbyterian Church in Waterloo.

The combined efforts of several churches allows Love INC to multiply the impact of individual outreach ministries, Tink explains. The organization makes appointments for people at churches to address specific needs. At these appointments, they receive targeted care — baby items, food boxes, medical supplies, transportation and much more.

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Begin Now is designed in part to be the second step for those served by Love INC, Tink says.

“What Love INC knows is that if we only focus on the tangible needs that someone has, we don’t get to the root cause,” she explains. “Begin Now offers a learning environment where our participants come to learn skills to lead them toward a greater stability in their lives.”

La Jae, a participant, just completed her second class — Faith and Finances.

“I’m using what we learned about getting out of debt, keeping a budget, preparing for emergencies, buying instead of renting or leasing,” she says.

Begin Now also offers a track for Love INC volunteers, who attend classes alongside participants. This format makes Begin Now a “uniquely different” program, Tink says.

“A lot of the folks that are attending our churches want to be helpful, but they don’t know how to be helpful in a way beyond giving their stuff away,” she explains. “In this learning environment, … we remove the giving and receiving from the interaction entirely. We further develop as relational, holistic servants in the community.”

Steve, another graduate, called Begin Now “life-changing.”

“The weight people carry, we just don’t realize it,” he says. “God will see us through, if you keep your hand in God’s hand.”

Begin Now includes three 10-week sessions at three different times throughout the year. The fall session included 45 participants and 25 volunteers from 13 churches, the largest group so far. The next session starts Jan. 29.

Karris Golden writes The Courier’s weekly faith and values column. Email her at onfaith@karrisgolden.com.

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