Ministry takes steps to expand help for needy to Forest Grove

It was an organizational meeting with a group of relative strangers — not the kind of thing Roxanne Meeuwsen expected to bring her to tears.

But that was before she mentioned the costs of opening an office and those strangers began to open their wallets and set money on the table.

An emotional Meeuwsen collected it, taking the first concrete step toward her dream of starting a Love INC (In the Name of Christ) chapter in greater Forest Grove.

Love INC is an organization that creates a strategic alliance among local churches to fill gaps in the social fabric. Resources and ministries from many denominations combine to answer local needs for food, furniture, firewood and clothing. 

As a volunteer for the greater Hillsboro chapter of Love INC but a resident of Banks, Meeuwsen felt a new chapter needed to be established closer to home. After the News-Times ran a story about her interest, she began to get emails from potential volunteers — and from those in need. 

Meeuwsen held the first meeting in Forest Grove Dec. 17 and laid out her plans to launch the organization.

She asked churches represented to step up and handle crisis intervention until the new Love INC chapter can officially be chartered.  

Brian Schimmel, Community Service Director at Sonrise Church’s Forest Grove campus, said no one church can do it all. But through a community of churches, each one offering a niche ministry, he added, “We could tap into the assets we have available.”

Though pastors and parishioners at Sonrise in Forest Grove are excited about Love INC, they are a small church with limited facilities. Carol Shaffer, executive director of Love INC of Greater Hillsboro, said that’s not an issue. 

“We have mostly smaller churches in our network,” noted Shaffer. “They can partner with another church or do a service ministry. They can send volunteers to work at the clearinghouse. The small churches are really a backbone.”

Shaffer’s division, which has been running for about two years, recently received a $1,200 grant from the City of Hillsboro in recognition of their service to the community.

The need for an organization that combines the efforts of the religious community is clear, said John Schallberger, executive director of the Forest Grove Senior and Community Center. “The potential of local churches is very great,” he noted. “They need a network and mobilization.”

He points out that there are great organizations out there — such as Family Bridge transitional housing and Meals on Wheels — but they each provide only one piece of a large puzzle. 

“There are all kinds of needs with the disabled and elderly. Love INC will be like a SWAT team for specific situations, that can unify the effort of churches to come together and serve,” Schallberger said, noting he receives a dozen requests for short-term assistance each week.

“I know that this is the time. Our community has been walking through all this grief,” Meeuwsen said, referring to the recent deaths of two Forest Grove sisters. “Forest Grove is an amazing community, a strong community.”

Volunteers from the newly formed group will be going out to visit local churches shortly after the new year. In addition, a date will soon be set for an informational meeting for pastors and lead volunteers. 

“If your church already has a food pantry or a clothing closet and you are willing to make that public,” said Meeuwsen, “we would like to connect with you.” 

If churches do not currently have an outreach ministry, Love INC can provide ideas.

There are several advantages to working with Love INC as a clearinghouse, Meeuwsen said. The organization has a system to ensure applicants are not receiving duplicate services at several churches and that true need exists. In addition, during the interview process, volunteers can assess if other needs are present. For instance, a family in need of food may also need help with utilities or assistance with baby clothes.

Meeuwsen is required to have six churches on board before the Greater Forest Grove chapter of Love INC can be incorporated. Churches can be located anywhere within the proposed service area, which encompasses Banks, portions of Cornelius not served by the Hillsboro School District, portions of North Plains and Gaston.

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