Category Archives: Social Justice

SoV – Policy Article

Minimum Wage = $7.25 in 21 US States

The last time Indiana raised its minimum wage was in 2007, when it went from $5.15 to the Federal level of $7.25. But $7.25 is hardly a living wage. At 40 hours a week, 52 weeks a year, that’s barely more than $15,000 – $6,600 less than the federal poverty level for a family of three.

Of course, the federal poverty level itself is a blunt and unreliable tool which does not account for differences in the cost of living from state to state or between rural and urban areas. Nor does it adequately reflect the amount of income that a family actually needs in order to survive without government assistance.

That’s where the Self-Sufficiency Standard comes into play. This is a county-by-county assessment of the actual cost of living. The Self Sufficiency Standard for Tippecanoe County, Indiana is $48,510 for a family of three – more than twice the federal poverty level. To earn that kind of money, a minimum wage employee would have to work more than 125 hours per week.

During the 2020 legislative session, there were two attempts to raise the minimum wage in Indiana, but neither was successful. Senate Bill 176 proposed raising the minimum wage to $10 an hour starting on July 1, 2021, and increasing to $15 by July 2023. After that it would have increased by the same rate as the consumer price index. The bill never even got a committee hearing.

While the Indiana house democratic caucus did not introduce a bill, representative Cherrish Pryor (D, Indianapolis) did try to attach a minimum wage increase as an amendment to Senate Bill 409. That effort also failed.

People opposed to an increase in the minimum wage often argue that most minimum wage workers are young and working supplemental jobs not intended to support their families. However, a 2013 report from the Economic Policy Institute shows that in fact 36% of minimum wage workers are over 40, 28% have children, and on average they earn about half of their family’s total income.

While business leaders and government representatives may be able to argue both sides of this issue, those of us working on the front lines of social service are all too familiar with working parents coming through our doors, seeking help as they struggle to support their families on one, two, or even three different minimum wage jobs. These families deserve better, and we can help them by advocating for an increase in our state minimum wage.

While this policy article highlights legislation from Indiana, we would love to hear what legislative issues are affecting clients in your communities. If you have a legislative or policy issue that you’d like to see highlighted in a future newsletter, please email it to

SoV – Meet an Executive Director

Jonathan Rocke, Peoria Rescue Ministries

Jonathan joined Peoria Rescue Ministries as their Executive Director in November 2016 after spending most of his career working in his family’s company, RMH Foods, which produced fully cooked meals for sale at national retailers from Walmart to Kroger. In 2016, Jonathan was asked to leave the company, which had been acquired a few years before.

But God seemed to have a plan in mind for Jonathan. Just a few months prior to this, Jonathan had been asked to join the Peoria Rescue Ministries board, an agency which had already been finding its way into his prayers for several years. So when the previous director decided to retire and approached Jonathan about taking over his job, it seemed as though the stars had finally fallen into alignment.

When he first stepped into the role, Jonathan didn’t know anything about the world of nonprofits, and he spent much of the first year learning from his staff and developing a theological foundation for the work of Peoria Rescue Ministries.  The latter was especially vital because the previous Executive Director had held his position for 48 years, making the transition a God-sent opportunity to re-examine the agency’s mission.

Through this process, Jonathan and his staff realized that Peoria Rescue Ministries had inadvertently fallen into a service-as-relief model – meeting the client’s immediate needs, but not helping them move towards self-sufficiency and growth.

For example, their downtown men’s shelter has 92 beds. Two years ago, 80% of those beds were for emergency shelter. Today, 90% of them are for men in medium to long-term renewal programs, who reside there while they receive case management, search for jobs, and work to obtain permanent housing. In the last 18 months, they’ve placed 300 men in jobs and 160 in permanent homes.

At the same time, their agency culture has shifted from one of compliance and control to one of gospel and grace. They have come to believe that by taking a holistic approach and leading with faith, the people they serve can transform their lives and build pathways out of poverty.

In his personal life, Jonathan and his wife, Jolene, have three married children and ten grandchildren ages six to fourteen. He and his wife love riding their tandem bike, and when he’s not out riding or spending time with his family he enjoys composing and singing his own contemporary worship music.

SoV – Joe Micon’s Tips for Fundraising

Dos & Don’ts of An Effective Fundraising Letter

Joe Micon was the Executive Director of Lafayette Urban Ministry for 30 years. During that time he wrote almost 180 fundraising letters, netting close to $35 million for LUM.  

For Joe, writing a good fundraising letter is an inherently creative process, one that cannot be rushed.  He begins mulling over ideas for the letter several weeks in advance, and when it comes time to put pen to paper he makes sure to give himself at least two to three days to compose and edit the letter before distributing it to a few trusted individuals for critical feedback.

Here are a few of the main fundraising letter Dos and Don’ts that Joe has compiled over the years.


  1. As an executive director, you have to get comfortable with the fact that YOU are responsible for raising the money.  Because people don’t give to a good cause, they give to people with a good cause – people they trust and respect.  If you look at all the most successful national nonprofits, you’ll probably think first of an individual person you’re attracted to, like Jimmy Carter for Habitat or Morris Dees for the Southern Poverty Law Center.  As an executive director you are the face people associate with your agency – and it’s your voice that comes across when they read your letter.  So even if you get help in writing the letter, YOU should always be the ONLY one to sign it. 
  2. It’s vital to know how to tell individual stories.  Statistics are great, but ultimately people respond best to a heartwarming individual story.
  3. Keep paragraphs short and concise.
  4. Know who responds to a six page letter and who responds to a three sentence text, because both can be effective.


  1. Don’t forget to put a PS at the bottom of each letter.  The average fundraising letter has 1.3 seconds of life.  If the donor opens it, they’ll read the first sentence and then turn it over and look at the PS.  If those draw them in, they are far more likely to keep reading and to give.
  2. Don’t forget to actually ask for specific dollar amounts.  If you don’t ask for something specific, people will be far less likely to give.

SoV – A Baby’s Closet

Associated Churches of Fort Wayne & Allan County

A Baby’s Closet provides mothers with access to a wide range of necessities to help them care for their children, including cribs, car seats, diapers, and baby formula. What makes A Baby’s Closet unique is that the mothers purchase their items with vouchers obtained by keeping their pre- and post-natal care appointments.

Back in the late 90s, Fort Wayne had one of the highest infant mortality rates in Indiana. It was clear to the staff at Associated Churches that certain areas of the city struggled with health equality and they wanted to help address that.

Realizing that they were not experts in the field of healthcare, but that they did have a great deal of experience in working with the low-income population of Fort Wayne, they forged a partnership with another local agency called Healthier Moms and Babies. That agency goes into the mother’s home to carry out the actual pre- and post-natal care visits and to help coach the mothers through their pregnancy and the first months of their new babies lives. To help incentivize the mothers to keep those appointments, at the end of each visit they hand out vouchers from Associated Churches that can be spent at A Baby’s Closet for items to keep their baby healthy and safe.

According to Roger Reece, Executive Director of Associated Churches, one of their guiding principles as an agency is that in order to be successful they must lead with humility, and remember that the people they are serving are fully fledged human beings who have experienced struggles and hardships that their staff will never be able to fully identify with. So regardless of the program, they try to approach each client and each situation with mercy and compassion and to maintain a deep and abiding sense of humility.

A Baby’s Closet serves more than 600 women a year. And the partnership involved provides an excellent example of how the faith community and health care agencies can work together to address problems in our neighborhoods. Each year, the women in the A Baby’s Closet program who have been identified as needing an extra touch of love are also served through Associated Churches‘ Christmas Outreach. In a collaborative effort with the Fort Wayne Police Department, staff members, including the Executive Director, visit families in their homes to distribute food and gifts, and occasionally find themselves invited to sit down for a meal. Roger sees it as a wonderful opportunity for senior management such as himself to connect directly with the families they serve – and in important reminder of why we are called to serve.

SoV – Agency Profile

Christian Ministries of Delaware County

Christian Ministries of Delaware County has roots going back all the way to 1945, when a group of pastors came together to help those in need while promoting unity among the many different Christian churches in their county. Today they have an operating budget of $200,000, one full time director, and eight-part time staff.

Their programs include a family shelter, emergency assistance, and a thrift store. They also distribute free school supplies, blankets, bed linens, formula, baby food and diapers to those in need. However, they are best known for their men’s shelter and food pantry. The food pantry operates four days a week and last year served more than 10,000 people. The shelter has been in operation for 25 years, and is the only low barrier shelter in the county. The men staying there don’t need to show ID and don’t need to enter into any sort of program. The only requirement is that they not be intoxicated or on drugs.

Their mission is to meet the short term needs of people while sharing the love of Christ through justice, mercy, and humility. Christian Ministries receives regular financial support from about a quarter of the churches in Delaware County. At least another quarter provide volunteers for the food pantry and men’s shelter, or donate needed items like diapers, toilet paper and laundry detergent.

They work hard to incorporate congregations from a diverse array of traditions and beliefs that includes Methodists, Baptists, Catholics, Presbyterians, Lutherans, Nazarenes, Evangelicals, and even a Unitarian Universalist church and a Jewish temple. While this wide net has at times created tension, for the most part the many congregations have worked well together.

One of the methods that Christian Ministries has long employed to promote this sense of connection and unity is inviting people from all of their supporting congregations to a different member church each year for both Lenten and Good Friday services. They often have as many as 300 people taking part in these special services, getting to experience how others worship and sharing their traditions with one another. While Christian Ministries does have bibles available to hand out, and their staff offer to pray with any clients who would like to do so, they do not have any religious requirements for their services. They offer bible study in both the men’s shelter and the family shelter, but as optional activities which some clients choose to take advantage of and others do not. All people are served regardless of religion.

Joe Micon


Joe Micon is the Executive Director of the Lafayette Urban Ministry.  LUM is an organization of 47 Greater Lafayette area churches that serves as a social safety net for at-risk children and low-income families.  He has a Bachelor’s Degree in Applied Sociology from Purdue University (1980) and a Master of Social Work Degree from Indiana University (1983).

Joe is our retired Indiana State Representative from West Lafayette – serving two terms from 2004 to 2008.  While at the Statehouse, Joe served as Vice Chair of the Indiana House Education Committee. He is also a past President of the Warren County Council, serving from 1998 to 2002.

He currently serves as Commissioner of the Indiana Lobbyist Registration Commission, is a member of the Purdue University Public Health Program Advisory Board, the Association of Retired Members of the Indiana General Assembly, the St. Vincent Williamsport Hospital Board of Directors and the Creasy Springs Retirement Community Board.

Micon has been a member of St. Thomas Aquinas Roman Catholic Church Parish Council, the Greater Lafayette Chamber of Commerce’s Third House, the West Lafayette Rotary Club, the National Association of Social Workers, the Board of Directors of the Purdue University Warren County Cooperative Extension Agency, the Indiana University School of Medicine Lafayette Advisory Board and the Advisory Board for St. Vincent’s Hospital in Williamsport.  He was a Junior Achievement volunteer in his children’s school, and a youth baseball coach. Micon served on the Benton Community School Corporation’s Textbook Adoption Committee, the Vision 2020 Education Round-table, and the Warren County Child Protection Team. He has served on the Editorial Board of the Lafayette Journal and Courier, the Indiana Native American Commission and on the Indiana Family and Social Service Administration’s Select Welfare Reform Advisory Council.  

His spouse, Jo Micon, is the Dean of the School of Public Affairs, Social Services and Education  at IVY Tech’s Lafayette Campus. They have two adult children; Katie, a Physician Assistant at PeaceHealth St. Joseph Medical Center in Bellingham, Washington and Jonathan, a Ph.D candidate in Archaeology at the University of Georgia in Athens GA.

Hoosier Social Change Agent

Joseph “Joe” Micon

From 1980 to 1989, Joe Micon directed the LUM Advocate, Jubilee Christmas, Repairs on Wheels and Social Justice Programs. In 1990, the LUM Board of Directors appointed Joe Micon as the third Executive Director, where he quickly established LUM as a 21st century model for church engagement.  

During his tenure at Lafayette Urban Ministry:

  • LUM Camp grew, and After School and 5th Quarter Summer Learning Programs were created for at-risk youth. 
  • LUM Tax Assistance Program, Immigration Clinic, ID Clinic, Winter Warming Station and Protein Food Pantry were established.  
  • Four “Isaiah 32” houses were purchased. 
  • Three major capital campaigns were successfully completed, buildings were built and solar energy was brought to LUM.  

Joe Micon significantly expanded LUM’s fundraising, established LUM’s social media presence and grew LUM’s membership to 47 churches. LUM was recognized by MSW Online Magazine as One of the 99 Most Effective Non-profit Organizations in America. 

The first social worker ever elected to the Indiana General Assembly, Joe served two terms, from 2004 to 2008.  His legislative accomplishments include increasing Indiana’s minimum wage, authoring full day kindergarten, making state taxes more progressive, greater funding for K-12 remediation and expanding Indiana’s 21st Century Scholars Program. Consumer protections were strengthened, death rates for teen drivers decreased and our community found in Joe Micon a tireless advocate for Purdue University.  

Dream Team Project

The LUM Dream Team Project is a fund as well as an outreach & networking initiative.

OUTREACH & NETWORKINGThe Dream Team Project includes creating a network of “urban ministries” in the East North Central states for the purpose of sharing ideas and potentially resources. LUM will publish a Dream Team eNewsletter four times a year. If you wish to be included in the Dream Team network or wish to contribute to the newsletter, please email

THE FUNDThe fund will support research and evaluation that will foster the goals of LUM and address its needs.  Research funded by this permanent fund will document societal-level, state-level and local-level trends in poverty, explain fluctuations in various types of poverty, give the LUM board the data needed to modify its policies and programs and show how participation in these programs impacts low-income people over time. The Dream Team Fund will allow LUM to subsidize original studies, secondary analyses and meta-analyses of societal trends related to the causes and consequences of poverty, the circumstances that foster poverty among individuals in our community (and other comparable communities), the effects poverty has on Hoosiers and their families, churches efforts to serve the poor and build a more just and equitable society, and the implications that theses analyses have on the policies and programs of LUM and its member churches.

DONATE If you wish to invest in this research, please consider a donation to the LUM Dream Team Fund for Research & Evaluation. To donate, click here:

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Dream Team Fund

Additional information on the LUM Dream Team Fund, please call or email Josh Prokopy, Dream Team Project director ( |765-423-2691).

LUM Dream Team History

On September 17, 2014, Lafayette Urban Ministry announced the creation of a new fund to support program-related research and evaluation at LUM — the LUM Dream Team Fund for Research and Evaluation.

The LUM Dream Team members — pictured above L to R — the Rev. Don Nead , Thomas Hull Ph.D, the Rev. Ron Elly , and Professor James Davidson Ph.D — were among the early planners and developers of what became the Lafayette Urban Ministry.

In 1976, only four years after LUM was incorporated, these four individuals conducted a research study that led to the formation of the LUM board model of participating member churches, which is still in place today. (This study was funded by the Lilly Endowment.) In 2014, the Dream Team members gave a combined gift of $40,000 to LUM to start this new research program, whose purpose is to further research and evaluation to benefit the children and families served by the Lafayette Urban Ministry.

O’Callaghan Returns to LUM

Patti O’Callaghan, LUM Lobbyist

Patti O’Callaghan returns as the new LUM Lobbyist (reporting to the Executive Director).

She has many years of experience advocating for Indiana families including serving as the LUM Social Justice director for more than 11 years, as well as being a founding board member of three agencies advocating for local children.  

Patti grew up in Brooklyn, New York, and currently lives in West Lafayette with Mark Diekman, her husband of 42 years. They are members of the Chapel of the Good Shepherd Episcopal Church, West Lafayette. They have two grown sons, Casey & Brian, both professors, and five grandchildren, ages three, five, five, seven & eight. Patti graduated from St. Agnes Seminary High School and earned a BS in Biology from New York University and a Master’s from Colorado State in Reproductive Physiology. She served two terms on the West Lafayette City Council and two terms on the West Lafayette Community School Board of Trustees.

Patti is excited about her new role with Lafayette Urban Ministry because it gives her an opportunity to create lasting positive change for the families in Tippecanoe County and the entire State of Indiana. She shares that, she is

looking forward to working with our state representatives and senators to give a voice to Indiana children and create a better future for Indiana families.

In her free time, Patti enjoys playing Pickle-ball, sharing books with her book club friends, and most of all, spending time with her family. LUM is fortunate to have someone with Patti’s passion and talent re-join the LUM team.

It’s Time to Vote

  • For everything you need to know to VOTE in INDIANA, click HERE
  • For everything you need to know to vote in USA, click HERE
  • Tippecanoe County (Lafayette, West Lafayette, Battleground, Dayton)
    • Early Voting Schedule – NOW through Monday, November 4, 2019
      – click HERE
    • Election Day Voting Locations – Tuesday, November 5, 2019, 6 a.m. to 6 p.m.
      – click HERE

Bending Toward Justice – 40 Years of Influence

Presentation by Joe Micon, LUM Executive Director

Mark your calendar for this special presentation by Joe Micon, executive director of Lafayette Urban Ministry, on Thursday, November 14 at Noon at the LUM Ray Ewry Center (525 N 4th Street, Lafayette, IN).

Bring your own lunch and join us as Joe Micon reflects on the impact LUM has had, over the decades, working toward social justice and advocacy on behalf of families.

The presentation is entitled, Bending Toward Justice; LUM’s Forty Years of Influence in the Public Square

Save the date.