Tag Archives: dream team

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.

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 jprokopy@lumserve.org.

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?

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 dreamteam@lumserve.org.

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.