Category Archives: Social Justice

SoV – Agency Profile – Home Glory

Home Glory Properties

Home Glory Properties in central Indiana is not a social service agency but rather a small business guided by faith that seeks to balance profit with doing good for others. The mission of Home Glory Properties is to rehabilitate homes in need of a second chance, in order to create homes for people in need of a second chance. 

The business was founded by former missionaries, Indira and Doug Hsu, who have personally experienced God’s redemptive work in their lives. Over the years, they have strived to bring that same redemptive hope – and that same second chance – to others. 

Starting with some equity drawn from their own home, they have rehabbed half a dozen properties in Anderson, IN. Their goal is to create homes that they themselves would be happy to live in, to keep rents as low as possible by investing their own sweat equity, and to rent to down-on-their-luck people in need of a second chance.

Some of their tenants come to them as Section 8 clients through the Anderson Housing Authority. Others come as referrals from a local community organization. Still others come to them through Zillow. Doug and Indira are willing to work with people who have bad credit, criminal records, and other issues that usually make it impossible for them to rent from anyone but slumlords.  The couple feels that it is their calling to give these people a second chance. They fill their units with high quality stainless steel appliances and new bathroom fixtures, all while keeping rents low, and have even fronted utilities for people whose poor credit history prevents them from being able to get connections in their own name.

Doug and Indira see their tenants as more than just customers. They do what they can to encourage them, pray with them, talk them through difficult life issues, and help wherever they can. It doesn’t always work out, of course. They had one tenant with severe mental illness who actually called the cops on them. But that was simply a reminder of the sometimes painful road that Christ himself had to walk. 

That same attitude comes to the fore in their relationship with their contractors. Doug and Indira look for people who can do good work, but lack fancy websites or pretty business cards – contractors and handymen who are struggling to make a name for themselves. They share what it is they’re trying to do, and have found contractors who are willing, even eager, to work with them.

Indira tells the story of one contractor they hired who had been struggling with a drug addiction. They gave him a chance. Shortly after hiring him, he was diagnosed with terminal cancer. Instead of canceling the contract and hiring someone else, they gave him the keys to the apartment and let him use it as a refuge while he went through chemo. He continued to work on the unit at his own pace for many more months, finishing the work with a huge sense of pride just two weeks before he passed away. They treated one another like family, and Doug and Indira are still grateful that the Lord gave them a chance to stand beside this man in his time of need.

To learn more, visit

SoV – Agency Profile – Family Network

Family Network of Wyoming

The Family Network of Wyoming, located in a suburb of Grand Rapids, Michigan, was formed in 2004 as people concerned about hunger in their community reached out to several local Christian Reformed churches to create an umbrella ministry.  That ministry was formalized into a nonprofit organization in 2008.  The agency finds its theological roots in Matthew 25, and its members work hard to constantly remind themselves that what they do for the least of us, they do for God.

The agency is actually housed in a former Christian Reformed church that donated the property after declining membership led them to close their doors.  The sanctuary now serves as a warehouse, but they kept the cross as a symbol of their mission.

The Family Network is a small organization with just three staff, one of them part time, and an operating budget of $250,000.  With that, they run three main programs.  The biggest is their food bank, which averages about 10,000 pantry visits a year.  They also offer a durable medical equipment lending program, providing wheelchairs, walkers, shower benches, toilet risers, and the like to some 200 people a year.  Lastly, they run a Christmas store for their food pantry clients.  Each Christmas some 300 children receive gifts through the program.  Local churches and individuals donate the toys, which are marked at about 25% of retail value.  The families pay $10 per child (all of which is re-invested in the program) and are able to spend that on up to three presents worth approximately $40. 

Over the years, the Family Network has built up a loyal base of volunteers, who are essential to their day-to-day work.  Many of those volunteers have established real relationships with the agency’s clients.  People who come to the pantry for food greet the volunteers by name and ask after their families.  It’s a strong bond – and one which helps remind everyone involved that, there but for the grace of God go I.

Like many relief agencies, The Family Network faced a serious challenge with COVID.  The number of people seeking help from their pantry ballooned from less than 1,000 in March to more than 2,500 in April – and all at a time when the agency was down to a single paid staff member.  They were forced to transition their pantry to a drive through model, packing standard boxes of food and providing a shopping cart’s worth to each family – with extra for the largest families.  Given the severity of the crisis in Michigan, and the gaps in the state’s unemployment system, they also changed their rules to allow families to visit the pantry more than once a month.  Only the neediest have taken advantage of this, but each month about 35-40 families make a second visit.  And while COVID has been a struggle, it has also served as a stark reminder of why groups like The Family Network of Wyoming exist. 

Karrie Brown

SoV – Fundraiser – Hunger Hike

Hunger Hike

Hunger Hike is a unique fundraiser with a history stretching back almost 30 years.   On its face, it seems normal enough – an event based around a 3K walk that relies on a combination of corporate sponsorships, teams of walkers, and peer-to-peer fundraising to bring in donor dollars.  But what sets Hunger Hike apart is the fact that it’s actually a cooperative fundraiser in which three Lafayette area nonprofits come together to share both the costs and the dollars raised.

The three agencies are Food Finders Food Bank, Lafayette Urban Ministry, and the Haiti Mission at St. Thomas Aquinas Catholic Church.  They split the cost of hiring a part-time staffer to organize the event, and each agency contributes volunteers to a joint task force that helps to coordinate planning and oversee fundraising efforts.  Volunteers from St. Thomas Aquinas spearhead outreach for corporate sponsorships, staff from Food Finders write grants to corporate foundations, and Lafayette Urban Ministry volunteers encourage participation among local churches.

The proceeds from the event are divided evenly among the three agencies and go to fund:

  • Food Finders Food Bank’s Fresh Market Food Pantry
  • The Lafayette Urban Ministry Protein Pantry, Emergency Shelter, and After School Program
  • The St. Thomas Aquinas Haiti Ministry at the parish of Baudin, which include the purchase of high yield seeds, clean water collection, a community store, and goat husbandry

Collectively, Hunger Hike has raised more than $2 million since its inception.  But despite that long history, 2020 was a challenge.  The centerpiece of the event is normally an afternoon festival with speeches from local dignitaries, clowns, hot dogs, and a huge Zumba dance party followed by a 3k walk.  Because of COVID-19, none of that was possible, and Hunger Hike had to be re-tooled into a virtual event.  The organizers set up a challenge week – where supporters were encouraged to either make personal pledges, like walking 100 miles or running a mini marathon, or to create challenges for their fundraising teams.  Throughout the week, Hunger Hike staff sent out daily motivational messages and videos.  It was all capped by a livestream event featuring an MC, recorded speeches, and entertainment from Zumba dancers, a magician, and a local improv comedy troupe.  

The result was amazing.  Despite initial fears, Hunger Hike 2020 proved to be the most successful in the event’s 30 year history, bringing in $123,000 from more than 800 individual donors and two dozen corporate sponsors.  That success, even in challenging economic times, is a mark of both the faith that people place in these three agencies and the value of cooperation.

SoV – Agency Profile – ChristNet

ChristNet Services

ChristNet Services is a homeless shelter in Taylor, Michigan, just twenty minutes south of Detroit.  The agency’s history goes back to August 1992, when a young minister at St Paul’s United Church of Christ began getting calls from people in need of food and shelter. After learning that other local churches were getting the same kind of calls they formed a committee to try and handle the problem.  The solution they ultimately came to was a rotating shelter, in which guests were housed in a different church each week.  That first year, they had eight churches in the network and operated from January to the end of February, serving two to three guests a night and using a local ambulance service to transport them to and from the churches.  

Over time, they were able to expand their shelter and keep it open from mid-October to mid- May.  Their network of churches grew to 50, with 33 host churches and 17 support churches providing food, volunteers, money, and transportation.  Together, they are able to serve an average of 27 guests a night.  

ChristNet has three full time staff and a part time van driver.  Two of their staff and a board member are also former clients of the agency, and the board member even created a CD called “Hymns for the Homeless” as a fundraiser.  They operate on a budget of $225,000 a year and lease space from the Taylor Church of Nazarene to run a day center where the guests can wash up, get something to eat, or use a computer.  

Their mission is to meet their guests where they are, to help them achieve the goals they have for themselves, and, where possible, set new goals.  While faith is an important component of ChristNet’s identity, it’s not something they force upon their guests.  They have bible study during their day time program, and guests are free to participate if they choose.   The same is true of the churches, which often offer devotions, bible study, or even concerts to guests who want to participate. 

With COVID, ChristNet had to undergo a drastic reimagining of their program, as churches quickly decided they no longer felt comfortable hosting.  From April through August they leased space in a building owned by one of their host churches and turned it into a 24 hour shelter supervised by a combination of ChristNet staff and staff from the Wayne Metro Community Action Agency. Starting in September, ChristNet moved back into their old building and re- opened it as a day center, while Wayne Metro worked out an agreement with a local hotel.  The guests stay at the hotel at night and Wayne Metro provides staff to manage things on site. The host churches continue to play an important role in providing meals, toiletries, and other things needed by the guests.

It’s been a difficult transition, but Executive Director, Debbie Petri, refused to turn her back on her clients, and the host churches are looking forward to the day they can get back to work. Website:

SoV – Agency Profile – Family Life Center

Family Life Center of Greene County

The Family Life Center of Greene County takes its mission from Matthew 25 – “For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, I was naked and you clothed me.”

They operate a food and clothing bank in rural Greene County, Indiana.  But in practice, food and clothing is just their hook to get people in so they can start building relationships.  Once they understand their clients’ real goals and the barriers that are holding them back, they are able to provide the help people really need to move forward – whether that means financial assistance, job training, or getting them into rehab.

The Family Life Center operates off of a fairly unique model – one which they have shared with others and used to create seven similar agencies scattered across southern Indiana and Illinois.  From the time that they were founded in 1998, they have never taken a single grant dollar.  They have no paid staff, and operate entirely off of community support. 

From their executive director down to their maintenance crew, everyone is a volunteer.  A core of 50 volunteers run the agency, but their biggest source of project-based volunteers is the clients themselves.  Any client who receives financial or material support (other than food and clothing) must donate one hour of time for every $10 in assistance.  That helps the clients feel ownership over the assistance they’re getting, but it also deepens their relationships with the core volunteers so that they can better work together to help that client move forward.

This complete reliance on volunteer labor means that in 2020, the Family Life Center averaged just $800 a month in operating expenses.  More than 98% of the money coming in went directly to serving families.  In 2020 they gave out $325,000 in material support – including food, clothing and direct aid – using more than 14,000 volunteer hours.

Of course, in 2020, like everyone else, the Family Life Center had to face up to the challenges of COVID.  To keep their food and clothing programs running, they again took a very unique approach by moving everything outside.  They set up their fridges, freezers, and shelves outside and stock them two to three times a day.  People can come by 24/7, no questions asked, and take what they need.  One sunny day, they also set up racks of coats outside.  Using this approach, they gave out almost 62,000 pounds of food and 800 coats last year.

Their other COVID innovation was their blessing boxes.  They set up nine of these boxes in rural areas around the county – some as small as a microwave and others large enough to have shelves.  They don’t stock the boxes, but encourage others to do so.  They are simply a place where those with food can leave it, and those who are hungry can take it.  What a wonderful concept.

Dianne Langer

Executive Director Serves on MLK Day Panel

Where Do We Go From Here?

Wes Tillett, LUM executive director, served on a Martin Luther King, Jr. Day of Service community panel entitled: “Beloved Community Conversation: Where Do We Go From Here?” The event was sponsored by Beloved Community Lafayette, a grassroots group in Greater Lafayette with a passion for social justice. The group is led by the Reverend Annettra Jones, associate pastor at St. Andrew United Methodist Church, a LUM member church.

The topics focused on how our community leaders plan to create more unity and move forward after last year’s local Black Lives Matter demonstrations. The virtual, live panel discussion featured county & city elected officials, school corporation leaders and social service agency directors. Thanks to the moderators, which included the Reverend Dr. Bradley Pace (St. John’s Episcopal Church rector) and the Reverend Dr. Hilary Cooke (Chapel of the Good Shepherd chaplain), the conversations were lively, informative and transformative. Wes Tillett took the opportunity to share the mission, programs and aspirations of LUM as important initiatives about equity & inclusion are addressed. Thanks to Beloved Community Lafayette for sponsoring this meaningful event and inviting LUM to participate in the conversation.

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.