Category Archives: Outreach

It’s Time to Vote

It’s time to vote! Early voting has begun in Indiana.

Do you have a plan for voting? Do you have a back up plan for voting?

Vote as early as you are able. 

Here are some helpful links for VOTING in 2020:
  • Early Voting Schedule for Tippecanoe County, click HERE
  • For everything you need to know to VOTE in INDIANA, click HERE
  • For everything you need to know to VOTE in USA, click HERE

SoV – Adjusting to COVID-19

Streams of Hope – Adjust to COVID

Kurtis Kaechele took the reins at Streams of Hope on February 17, just weeks before Michigan’s shelter-in-place order took effect.  At that time, the agency had to switch their food pantry to a drive-through model and shutter most of their other programs.  But now, seven months into COVID, how is Streams of Hope adjusting to the pandemic?

The Streams of Hope food pantry is still offering drive-through pick-up, but in July they also added a new appointment option.  Clients can make an appointment online and come into the pantry to shop for themselves.  They allow one appointment every five minutes.  Clients have to wear a mask while they’re in the pantry, and Streams of Hope takes their temperature and asks all of the standard health checklist questions.  After that, each client has fifteen minutes to shop.  They get a personal shopper who goes around the pantry with them, helping them to select items while also talking to them about their family and connecting them to other programs.

Before adopting this model, Streams of Hope surveyed their food pantry clients to see how people felt about coming into the pantry, and if they had internet access to book appointments.  Based on the results of that survey, they decided to keep drive-through pick-up, and about 60% of their clients continue to use that option.

Prior to COVID, Streams of Hope also offered a wide range of programs for children – from tutoring to helping kids find jobs, have fun, and engage in meaningful conversation with their peers.  While a lot of their programs for middle and high school youth have remained on hold, Streams of Hope has been able to bring back their evening tutoring program for elementary school students.  Over the summer they offered an online tutoring program, which worked but didn’t bring in the numbers they would have liked.  They have since switched tacks and opened up their gym.  They installed plexiglass dividers, and are now able to accommodate up to 80 children at a time with masks and sanitizing. Tutoring takes place twice a week on Monday and Wednesday evenings, and while some kids still connect with them online they have about 50 children a night showing up on site.

They also got a grant to improve their internet connection and make additional safety upgrades to their gym so that if schools have to shut down, they can provide a safe place for parents to bring their children for online education.  As a bonus, those same changes will allow them to use the gym to start a GED program for adults.

In addition, their Circles GR program – which provides training and weekly meetings to help clients build a support network and climb out of poverty – has continued virtually without a break.  And Streams of Hope also recently re-opened their weekly medical clinic and started seeing patients on site.

So, despite all the obstacles COVID has thrown in their path, Streams of Hope continues to find new and innovative ways to serve their community.

SoV – Meet an Executive Director

Wes Tillett – Lafayette Urban Ministry

Wes Tillett grew up in Indiana.  He first worked at Lafayette Urban Ministry (LUM) as a teacher in the After School Program before going on to spend seven years as a youth minister and eight years as a lead pastor.  He founded a church called Voyage Church in Kalamazoo, Michigan. There he also created a small network of churches to serve the needs of the local neighborhood through tutoring, mentoring, food distribution, and providing school supplies to those in need.  

In April 2020 he returned to LUM to serve as the new executive director.  He stepped into the role right in the midst of Indiana’s stay-at-home order, at a time when almost all of the agency’s staff were working from home and every program was being restructured to help keep the staff, volunteers, and clients safe.  This would have been difficult enough in itself, but he was also following in the wake of LUM’s previous executive director, Joe Micon, who held the post for thirty-two years.

Of course, COVID also meant that it took more than two months for Wes to meet many of his staff face-to-face. And during that time, the entire staff- including Wes – were carrying an extra emotional strain, trying to grieve the losses of life and of normalcy.  They were facing a situation with no easy answers or quick solutions, and working from home inhibited the sense of community and healthy office culture that is usually LUM’s norm.

In short, it was a challenging time to step into his new role, and one that required even more energy and discernment than usual.  But oddly enough, one of the blessings of COVID was that it caused everything to be so strange, so off-kilter, that it helped to soften the culture shock that might otherwise have accompanied the transition to a new executive director. 

As a pastor, faith plays a central role in Wes’s life.  He believes deeply that God calls us to both justice and mercy.  Part of what drew him to LUM was his conviction that by working there he could help offer mercy and compassion to those in need while fighting for justice against the systems that oppress and injure people.  Another major draw was the collaborative nature of the organization – many churches working together towards a common goal, in cooperation with nonprofits, businesses, and local government. Wes sees that ability to cooperate as an encouraging sign that people can and will put aside their political and theological differences to serve those in need.

Outside of work, Wes enjoys being a dad.  He and his wife Rita have four kids.  Wes tries to give almost all of his extra time and energy to them.  He especially enjoys engaging with his kids in some of the things he is already most passionate about: hiking, kayaking, swimming, music, and art.

SoV – Neighbors Empowered

Program – Neighbors Empowered

Valley Interfaith Community Resource Center’s Neighbors Empowered program is designed to help single mothers work towards self-sufficiency and build a better life for themselves and their children. 

The program is a 10 week class structured around the workbook Getting Ahead in a Just-Getting–By World.  The first hour of each class is actually a family dinner for the women and their children.  After that, the children go to supervised childcare for two hours, while the women meet as a group with a trained facilitator.  Each week they cover a different topic, from big ideas like understanding the causes of poverty, to the nitty gritty of setting goals and making a budget.

Each time the women come to class, they get a $25 grocery store gift card.  Combined with the family meal and childcare, Valley Interfaith is trying to address all of the potential reasons a single mom might have for not participating.  According to Executive Director John Keuffer, that gift card often serves as a vital incentive for the first three or four classes, until the women begin to see the value in what they’re doing.

Through the class, the women develop strong bonds with one another, forming a vital ongoing support structure that can help them as they delve into the work of restarting their education, getting better jobs, and building a future for their family.

John likes to tell the story of one woman who thought she was too old to go back to school, but had a passion for baking.  Through Neighbors Empowered, Valley Interfaith connected her to a program that helps train cooks.  She completed it and went on to become a pastry chef at a local restaurant, even starting a small catering business on the side. 

The biggest obstacle Valley Interfaith has encountered in running the Neighbors Empowered program has been the cost in staff time and gift cards.  They’re trying to address this problem by reaching out to their partner churches.  Their goal is to train facilitators so that the churches can run their own groups – with Valley Interfaith recruiting and screening participants and the churches providing the meals, childcare, facilitation, and – ideally – gift cards.  These new classes would also be smaller, with only 5 women each – as compared to the 10-20 they currently have – which could in turn provide for a tighter support structure while also allowing for increased social distancing in the time of COVID.

SoV – Hope Southern Indiana

Esteem Makeover Bootcamp

Hope Southern Indiana’s Esteem Makeover Bootcamp grew out of a conversation the Executive Director, Angie Graf, had with counselors from a nearby high school. In speaking to them, she learned that any student who expresses suicidal thoughts has to be sent home until they’ve had a mental health evaluation – which can sometimes take a week to schedule, further isolating an already depressed student.

In response to this, Angie wrote a grant to Impact 100 – a philanthropic agency with the goal of empowering women – and received $100,000 to fund the Esteem Makeover Bootcamp.

The camp serves girls in middle and high school, ages 11 to 18. The girls and their counselors spend a weekend at the Country Lake Retreat Center in Underwood, Indiana. Friday night and Saturday are focused on inner beauty, and cover topics from bullying to social media, mental health, and nutrition. The girls might work with anyone from a yoga teacher to a self-defense instructor. On Sunday, they talk about outward beauty, and bring in hair stylists and make-up artists.

Before they leave the camp, the girls get a care package filled with materials that they can use to continue implementing the various techniques they’ve learned. Hope Southern Indiana also brings the girls back together one Sunday a month for six months to provide follow-up help and track how they’re doing.

To date, 143 girls have gone through the program, which started in 2019. They take an average of 50 girls at each camp, and try to run two camps a year – though they had to cancel the camp scheduled for June of 2020 due to COVID. Girls can be referred to the free camp through the schools, mental health services, or their parents – though a handful have come to the program on their own without any referrals.

Every girl takes a self-esteem quiz at the start of the weekend, and another at the end. So far, the scores from the second quiz have shown an average 75% increase. But, in a sense, all of the program’s many accomplishments can be illustrated by a single powerful story. One of the students who came through the camp had been cutting herself and had carefully hidden scars all over her arms and legs. What she found at camp made her comfortable enough that she was able to open up for the first time and share what she’d been going through. From there, they were able to help the girl find the courage, and the safe space, to finally share all of this with her mother, so that she no longer had to hide what she was doing or go through it alone.

It’s Time to Vote

  • Register to Vote, by THIS Monday, October 5. To register or to check your registration, click HERE
  • Vote Early. Voting begins on THIS Tuesday, October 6. To find your sites & times, click HERE
  • For everything you need to know to VOTE in INDIANA, click HERE
  • For everything you need to know to VOTE in USA, click HERE

Harrison Kiwanis Club Donates $300 to LUM

State Rep Sheila Klinker Delivers $300 Check

Early one morning this past week, Indiana State Representative Sheila Klinker delivered a $300 donation from the Harrison Kiwanis Club to Wes Tillett, LUM executive director (pictured). The Harrison Kiwanis Club is part of a global community of clubs, members and partners in 80 countries and geographic areas dedicated to improving the lives of children one community at a time.

This gift will be used to offer assistance to families in our community, including the support of the LUM Youth Programs. LUM is grateful to all of the members of the Harrison Kiwanis Club, especially Representative Klinker, for their continued support of LUM. If you, your group or organization would like to invest in the children & families served by LUM, click the button below to donate or email

Seeds of Vision eNewsletter – Summer 2020

As an initiative of the LUM Dream Team ProjectSeeds of Vision was founded. Seeds of Vision has started with a quarterly electronic newsletter, which provides a platform for Ecumenical Social Service Agencies from across the East North Central region (Illinois, Indiana, Michigan, Ohio & Wisconsin) to share their knowledge and experience with each other.

Below is a summary of the articles recently published in the second edition of the Seeds of Vision eNewsletter.

As communities of faith engaged in the hard work of lifting up the “least among us,” there is so much that each agency can learn from one another. By coming together and sharing both challenges and our successes — each agency will find new ways to help those in their our community.

To view the Summer 2020 edition of the Seeds of Vision eNewsletter, click HERE.