Operation Love started as the work of one woman, Jeannie Shaw, giving things to those in need out of her garage. As her labor of love grew and her health declined, Jeannie approached the biggest church in the area to see if they might take over the project. Instead, that church used Jeannie’s work as the inspiration to form an alliance of ten area churches to meet the needs of the community.
That alliance has since grown, and now numbers twenty nine churches from all across Madison County, Indiana. Each church agrees to provide financial support to Operation Love, to pray for the agency, and to supply volunteers for their many programs. In return, they have the right to nominate two members to Operation Love’s Board of Directors.
Churches join the alliance because it frees them from having to run their own social service ministries, allowing them to concentrate on serving the spiritual needs of their congregation. And when people come through their doors suffering from financial distress, hunger, or other similar problems, the pastors are able to direct them to Operation Love. Executive Director, Andrea Baker, likes to think of Operation Love not as the Good Samaritan, but as the Innkeeper, providing the resources and support that can enable all the member churches and their congregants to be the Good Samaritan.
Operation Love runs a food pantry and clothing closet, as well as seasonal programs like back-to-school supplies and Christmas wishes. Many of these have, of course, been modified by the COVID-19 pandemic. In their food pantry, they now box up two week supplies of food for shut-ins, who can designate a friend or family member to pick it up for them.
But one of Operation Love’s most interesting programs is their balanced budgeting and financial assistance. When people come to them for help paying an overdue bill, instead of just writing a check the agency has them sit down with a financial coach. The coaches can provide money-saving tips and help them access government resources while focusing on long-term financial sustainability. The check only comes once a family has committed to making real changes in how they handle their money.
Operation Love’s mission is to reach out as the hands and feet of Christ in Madison County to provide tangible goods and services to those in need. They are not a proselytizing agency, but most of their volunteers come from member churches. And while they have guidelines in place to make sure no one pushes their faith on clients, they also believe that faith and prayer is part of what they do, and that faith can play a critical role in helping people to overcome the many crises in their lives.