Category Archives: Social Justice

SoV – COVID-19 Response

LUM’s Response to COVID-19

In the months since COVID-19 became a reality, Lafayette Urban Ministry (LUM) has been working to restructure its programs to better protect their clients, volunteers, and staff while still meeting the real needs of their community. Here’s a glimpse of what that means in practice.

Many of the LUM assistance programs, from the Good Samaritan Program (emergency financial assistance) to the Immigration Clinic, have switched from an in-person, walk-in model to one where as much work as possible is conducted online or over the phone. The Immigration Clinic is conducting most of its client meetings via video conferencing.

When clients do need to come to the LUM Office it’s by appointment only and they must wait outside until they are called in. Before entering the building all clients must have their temperature checked with an infrared thermometer, disinfect their hands or wash them in a portable sink, and don a face mask. They are then directed to a meeting room where a staff member or volunteer is already seated at their desk behind a clear plastic shower curtain. After each meeting, the entire area is disinfected. And all surfaces, handles, and light switches are disinfected throughout the day.

Individuals experiencing homelessness used to come into the LUM Office every afternoon to sign-up for the shelter. That process has been moved to the parking lot, and guests line up six feet apart on large Xs on the pavement. At night, before entering the shelter, all of the shelter guests must wash their hands, wear a face mask, and have their temperature checked. If a guest shows a temperature or is exhibiting signs of respiratory distress they are not admitted and the health department is alerted.  All of the shelter staff follow the same procedure and also wear face shields.  Social distancing is practiced inside the shelter, during meals, and while sleeping (head to foot).  The entire area is disinfected each day before the guests arrive, throughout the evening, and again after they leave in the morning.

At their weekly food pantry, all staff and volunteers must have their temperature checked, wash their hands, and wear masks before entering the building.  Anyone dealing directly with clients also has to wear a face shield and gloves. Food items are packed in boxes for the clients and delivered to them outside, where they stand in line six feet apart on large Xs on the sidewalk.

For their summer childcare program, enrollment has been reduced and the children are separated into groups of twenty, each of which will meet in a separate classroom. Parents are not allowed inside the building.  A LUM staff member meets the parents outside when they drop off their children.  Every child must get their temperature taken and be assessed for signs of illness, and they have to wash their hands and wear a mask while inside the building.  As with everything else, the entire space is sanitized each day before the children arrive, throughout the day, and after they leave.

SoV – Policy Article

Paid Family Leave

The Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA) allows employees to take up to twelve weeks of unpaid leave to care for a sick family member, deal with a personal health emergency, or spend time at home following the birth or adoption of a child.  The unfortunate reality, however, is that many people simply cannot afford to take advantage of these protections.  If they’re not working, then they’re not bringing in the money needed to pay rent and utilities, buy food, and care for their family.

Workers without access to paid family leave are more likely to forgo necessary medical care for themselves and their family, and to return to work too soon after the birth of a child.  A 2016 study by researchers at McGill University found that each month of paid maternity leave is associated with a 13% reduction in infant mortality.  Paid maternity leave can reduce the stress on expectant mothers, provide them with easier access to third trimester care, enable them to better seek medical help if their child is ill, and increase how long they breastfeed their babies. All of this is critical in a state like Indiana, which has the 7th highest infant mortality rate in the country.

However, as of 2018 only 16% of civilian workers in the US had access to paid family leave, and only 40% to paid parental leave. 

During the 2019-2020 legislative session, Representative Chris Campbell (D, West Lafayette), introduced HR 1427 to the Indiana General Assembly in order to try and address this problem.  The bill would have allowed any employee using FMLA to receive a portion of their wages for up to six weeks.  The money would have been paid out through a state-managed benefit plan funded by a payroll tax set at 0.4% of employee wages – at least half of which had to be covered by the employer.

The amount of benefits paid out would have been tiered based on income.  Anyone making less than half of the state average weekly wage could have gotten 90% of their income for up to six weeks. Employees making more than that could have gotten benefits up to the state average.

The bill was co-authored by Rep Carrie Hamilton (D, Indianapolis) and Rep Rita Fleming (D, Jeffersonville).  Campbell first tried attaching the legislation as an amendment to the state budget.  When this failed, she introduced it as a bill.  The bill was assigned to the Employment, Labor, and Pensions Committee chaired by Rep. Heath VanNatter (R, Kokomo).  However, Rep VanNatter refused to give it a hearing.

As social service agencies fighting for the rights of low-wage workers in our communities, we can help by contacting our legislators and demanding that they support any future paid medical leave legislation.  And in particular, reach out to Rep VanNatter and demand that he give any such bills a hearing.

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 – Night In A Car

Home Sweet Home Ministries has been serving the homeless and hungry with Christ’s love in Bloomington, Illinois since 1917.  On the eve of their 100th anniversary, they held a gala fundraiser with a dinner and auction.  But while the event was a successful fundraiser, it did little to raise awareness or advance the agency’s mission. This realization led to their new annual fundraiser – Night In A Car. 

As the name suggests, teams of people raise money from sponsors to spend a night in their car.  The event takes place on the first Friday in February so that participants can get a genuine taste of what it might be like to live rough in the middle of a Midwestern winter.  And the event always kicks off with a creative educational experience.

One year the library brought their bookmobile to the event and ran an all-ages storytime featuring books on poverty and homelessness.  Another year, Home Sweet Home offered a selection of workshops, including one in which participants played a food insecurity game.

Last year, they set up an escape room called the Four Seasons of Homelessness.  It consisted of four rooms, each representing a different season of the year.  The summer room was kept unbearably hot, while the winter room was freezing cold.  Each room had a padlocked door and a series of homelessness-inspired clues that had to be solved in order to get the combination.  In one room, for example, participants had no health insurance and couldn’t buy glasses, so they had to read a rental application while wearing a pair of goofy goggles that distorted their vision.  But best of all, the guides leading participants from room to room were all current or former clients of Home Sweet Home.

The event concludes on Saturday morning at 6:00 a.m., when a hot breakfast is served and participants can reflect on their experiences with one another. 

In 2019, the event raised $89,000.  While the majority of that came from the teams, which brought in an average of $1,000 each, Home Sweet Home also attracted corporate sponsors. Their success in reaching out to the local business community is a testament to their long presence and solid reputation in Bloomington.  But, CEO Mary Ann Pullin, believes they’ve also been aided by the fact that this is Home Sweet Home’s only annual fundraiser.  So business sponsors know that they won’t receive multiple requests for support from the agency.

Night In A Car checks all the boxes for a successful fundraising event.  It brings in a great deal of money, but also gets people excited and provides them with a genuine learning experience and a deeper appreciation for what it means to be homeless.

SoV – Meet an Executive Director

Kurtis Kaechele – Streams of Hope

Kurtis Kaechele took the reins at Streams of Hope on February 17, just weeks before Michigan governor Gretchen Whitmer’s shelter-in-place order took effect.  So it’s fair to say that his introduction to the agency has been unusual.

Kurtis grew up in Caledonia, Michigan and got his bachelors degree in communications and media from Michigan State.  He spent the first 15 years of his career as a brand and marketing strategist, most recently as the Marketing Director for his local NBC affiliate.  He’d been looking for a new job for some time, never expecting that it would be in the nonprofit world.  But when he saw the position at Streams of Hope, he knew that was where God meant for him to be.

Kurtis is the first full-time employee in the agency’s history, but he oversees a dozen part-time employees and more than a hundred volunteers.  Streams of Hope’s mission is to demonstrate God’s love and foster sustainable change through services that build relationships, meet family needs, and promote a healthier community.  The agency does all this on a six acre campus that houses their food distribution program, a community garden, offices, and a rec center. 

Obviously, one of the biggest challenges Kurtis has encountered so far in his short time at Streams of Hope has been the COVID-19 pandemic, which forced him to turn away many of his most dedicated and willing volunteers, who were clamoring to keep working despite being in high risk categories.  But the way in which the agency was able to quickly pivot and respond to the rapid fire pace of change brought on by the virus has also been one of his proudest achievements.  While their rec center has been shuttered, and the many educational and empowerment-focused programs they run placed on hold, Streams of Hope still operates its food pantry, which had to be shifted from a choice model to a drive-through pick up.  And Kurtis’ own day-to-day schedule has changed from meeting with potential donors and pastors to packing up boxes of food.

In his free time, Kurtis is a drummer and actually managed a wedding band for twelve years.  They traveled all over the Midwest, playing as many as 25 gigs a year.  He also loves to fish, and to spend time with his wife, Jordan, and their four year old daughter, Brooklyn.  And, naturally, he’s a devoted fan of all things Michigan State.

SoV – Agency Profile

Operation Love

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.

SoV – Dining Room and Dégagé Dollars

Dégagé Ministries

Dégagé Ministries operates out of the Heartside neighborhood in Grand Rapids, a community with more than its share of homelessness and subsidized housing.  Dégagé responds to that need by trying to, “reflect the love of Christ to all who come through our doors by building relationships and offering programs that foster dignity and respect.”

A prime example of this spirit is the Dégagé Dining Room.  While many agencies offer soup kitchens to feed the needy, Dégagé has worked hard to meet this most essential need in a way that also instills dignity in their clients.  The Dining Room operates like a restaurant.  Anyone, from Dégagé clients to members of the community, can eat two meals a day there.  But instead of lining up with a tray to get whatever is on offer, they order off a menu, just like at a restaurant.  And when it’s ready, volunteers bring the food to their table.

Another key difference is that meals are not free.  All meals at the Dining Room cost $2.  And anyone who can’t afford that can pay with Dégagé Dollars.  The Dollars can be earned by doing simple custodial jobs around the center. Dégagé generally offers 30-40 such jobs a day, most of which take around ten minutes to complete, and the pay is always two Dégagé Dollars, which is enough to buy a meal, rent a locker for the week, get a haircut, or do laundry.  Regardless of how the money is spent, people using the vouchers are given the dignity of knowing they’ve earned what they’re getting. 

Dégagé also sells the vouchers to people in the community, so that when they come across someone asking for change on the street, instead of ignoring them as we all too often do, they can hand that person Dégagé Dollars.  It’s a way to give someone immediate assistance without feeling conflicted, and it can help connect them to a vital community service they may not be aware of.  Since launching this initiative seven years ago, Dégagé has sold tens of thousands of their Dollars.

Another unique aspect of the Dégagé Dining Room is that it also functions as a community center.  Volunteers and college students regularly host activities there, from Bingo to live music, turning it into a social venue for people from across the neighborhood.  And once a month they host a big party for anyone celebrating a birthday.  Honorees can bring a friend and are treated to a meal, birthday cake, music, and a small gift.  For many, it may be the only acknowledgement of their birthday that they ever get.

According to Dégagé’s Marketing Manager, Bob Kreter, the atmosphere of community in the Dining Room provides both staff and neighbors the opportunity to develop true friendships with the people they serve, to reflect the love of Christ.  And what’s more beautiful than that?

Indiana Primary Election – TUESDAY or Vote Early

Voting Locations | Early Voting | Submit Absentee

If you have an Absentee Ballot, don’t forget to fill it out and submit it. If you are voting in person on Primary Election Day (Tuesday, June 2) in Tippecanoe County, view the voting locations and times, click HERE. You may also vote NOW (before Tuesday); Early Voting dates, times and locations are as follows:

  • Tippecanoe County Office BuildingToday – Saturday, May 30, 8 a.m. – 4:30 p.m.; Monday, June 1, 8 a.m. – Noon
  • River City Community CenterToday – Friday, May 29, Noon – 7 p.m.
  • Eastside Assembly of GodToday – Friday, May 29, Noon – 7 p.m.
  • Northview ChurchToday – Friday, May 29, Noon – 7 p.m.
  • Northend Community CenterToday – Friday, May 29, Noon – 7 p.m.
  • West Point Volunteer Fire DepartmentSaturday, May 30, 8 a.m. – 1 p.m.
  • Fellure Foods: Saturday, May 30, 8 a.m. – 1 p.m.
  • Stockwell United Methodist Church: Saturday, May 30, 8 a.m. – 1 p.m.

Primary Election absentee ballots must be completed and returned to any voting location in your county by noon on the Primary Election Day, June 2. Election information including contact information for all 92 county election offices may be found online at

Indiana Primary Election – Voting Options

Every Voter is Eligible for an Absentee Ballot

Due to COVID-19, Any registered voter may request an absentee ballot for the June 2 Indiana primary. To vote absentee-by-mail, voters must complete the Application for Absentee Ballot and mail, email or fax it to your local county election office or the Indiana Election Division. 

The application must be completed & received by
May 21 at 11:59 p.m. 

After an application has been received, the voter will be mailed a Primary Election ballot. The voter must then complete the ballot, and return it to the county election board by noon on Election Day, June 2. You may also vote absentee in person beginning 28 days before Election Day at locations designated by your county’s election board. For more information, contact your local county election office. Election information including contact information for all 92 county election offices may be found online at

Absentee Ballot – Application forms are as follows:

Tippecanoe CountyElection & Voter Information is as follows:

  • Fax: 765-423-9386
  • Mail: PO Box 619, Lafayette, IN 47902
  • Vote Absentee In-Person at the Tippecanoe County Building, 20 N 3rd Street – 3rd floor, Lafayette, IN 47901; Tuesday, May 26 to Saturday, May 30 from 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.; and Monday, June 1st from 8 a.m. to noon
  • In-Person Early Voting begins Tuesday, May 26. For information on locations & times, click HERE.

For more information go to

Seeds of Vision

Ecumenical Social Service Agencies
in the East North Central States

As communities of faith engaged in the hard work of lifting up the least among us, there is so much that we can learn from one another. 

It is our humble hope that Seeds of Vision will help make that possible by providing 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. Our faith calls upon us to serve the poor and afflicted in our midst. 

By coming together and sharing the work that we do – both our challenges and our successes — perhaps we can all find new ways to help those in our community who are crying out for help.

Connect on Social Media — Join the Seeds of Vision Facebook Group — click HERE.

If you know of other ecumenical social service agencies in your area who should be receiving Seeds of Vision, please send their contact information to — or share this page and ask them to complete the form below.

If you would like to see your agency, or one of your programs, featured in Seeds of Vision, please email Josh Prokopy at  We would love to work with you.  We’ll conduct a brief telephone interview before drafting an article and sending it to you for your approval.  

Seeds of Vision News

October 31, 2020 – Great Ideas & Fall Updates from Ecumenical-Social-Service-Agencies

July 21, 2020 – Seeds of Vision eNewsletter – Summer 2020

April 15, 2020 – Exciting New Network of Ecumenical-Social-Service-Agencies

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