Hired July 15 as director of Love INC (In the Name of Christ), Hillis has been visiting churches, talking with ministers and church leaders letting them know what Love INC is all about.
"It's an incredible ministry," she said. "Everything we do revolves around doing things in the name of Christ."
Now that Hillis has been hired, Love INC is getting off the ground, working from a room at St. Andrew's Lutheran Church. The first task on her "to do" list is to let churches know Love INC needs what they have to offer -- volunteers with skills to give people a hand when they need one. Many churches already have helping ministries, but not everyone knows what they are. Love INC seeks serve as a clearinghouse for social service agencies and churches and connect them to people with a legitimate need.
"We are not going to give out any funds," Hillis said. "We will be able to refer to other agencies for funds."
Working with Project Hope, First Call for Help, the United Way and other service agencies, Love INC will take applications and verify the need for someone seeking help without duplicating services. It can then refer the applicant to a volunteer who can help and follow up on whatever else a person or a family needs.
The clearinghouse aspect is the first of three phases of Love INC's ministry. In addition to gathering a list of volunteers who are available to help, Love INC's board has identified two "gap" ministries it will take on to provide services agencies and churches are not currently offering.
One gap ministry will be called "First Night Fix," a support service for families who take in foster children.
"Children are brought to the homes at a moment's notice, leaving little or no time for the primary caregiver to make the necessary arrangements," Hillis sad. "Many of the kids are given nothing but the clothes on their back."
The First Night Fix ministry will use volunteers to bring a meal over for the foster family on that first night with the foster child. Volunteers can also help ease the transition, especially for neglected children who might arrive lice-ridden and in need of a bath. Love INC will be looking for groups to help make up a "We Care Kit," a tote bag filled with hygiene supplies, clean clothes, a nightshirt and, for comfort, a stuffed toy, blanket or a book to cling to those first few days.
"We're looking at setting up once a month a night out for foster families," Hillis said. "Children can have a safe haven in church facilities while parents have an opportunity to get out. It's a way to reach out with the love of Christ and meet people's needs."
A second gap ministry would help people with limited mobility and those who have had an accident or a stroke and have trouble getting around at home.
"Love INC volunteers will help these individuals locate funding sources and provide the labor needed to build ramps and complete minor modifications to their home," Hillis said.
Volunteers will also help with meals and other errands to ease the burden for the patient and family.
Once the Clearinghouse ministry is up and running, the next level will be linking volunteers with individuals and families in need of long-term help: mentoring, goal setting, counseling and prayer. Level three sets up a community development plan to address the issues that contribute to poverty and hopelessness, Hillis said.
Love INC is a new concept to Cape Girardeau. Its partnership with the United Way was developed when Denis Rigdon, director of Project Hope, learned about it and investigated, Hillis said. It is supported financially by United Way and by Abbey Road Christian Church, Bethel Assembly of God, Christ Episcopal, Evangelical United Church of Christ, First Baptist of Cape, La Croix United Methodist, Mount Auburn Christian, Red Star Baptist, St. Andrew Lutheran, St. Mary's Cathedral, St. Vincent de Paul and Westminster Presbyterian.
Love INC began more than 30 years ago as a way of coordinating and facilitating how people can help others in need. Love INC helps churches do what they used to do so well before there were government programs.
President Lyndon B. Johnson "took on the Great Society, the war on poverty, and churches backed away," said Love INC board chairwoman Kaye Hood. "We want to get the churches back into it."
For the immediate needs, Love INC would like to find someone who would donate a permanent location for the clearinghouse in a central location, handicapped accessible with parking and enough space for two offices -- one for Hillis and one for a telephone bank. All clients will be referred; there will be no walk-ins, Hillis said.
It also needs office furniture, computer equipment, office supplies and technology support, as well as marketing and public relations and printing services.
Love INC is also asking for prayer support.
"Government agencies do a good job, but they can't pray," Hillis said. "Love INC is about bringing the love of Christ. We're looking for someone to coordinate a prayer ministry for our clients, get the client into churches, on prayer lists. They don't have to be involved with a church to get help. It's open to anyone with a legitimate need. By showing Christ's love we will draw people who want to draw closer to Christ."
To contact Love INC, call Eva Hillis at 382-2457 or by e-mail at LoveINC_semo@yahoo.com.
335-6611, extension 160