On any given morning at the corner of Pontiac and Warsaw Streets in Fort Wayne, Indiana, Lewis King greets customers at his barber shop. Except at this shop, the conversation is not only about the events of the day and the business isn’t just the latest hair cut trends. The building serves also as King’s Community Outreach Center and, in partnership with Holy Cross Lutheran Church, Vicar Lewis King is on a mission to share the Gospel with his neighbors and friends, sharing Christ’s mercy through word and deed.
That’s why this past summer the Helping Hand Initiative became a perfect opportunity for King and the congregation as they work to build stronger connections between the congregation and this neighborhood on the south side of Ft. Wayne.
Vicar Lewis King and his family have been a part of the Holy Cross church family since his children started attending Holy Cross Lutheran School six years ago. In a neighborhood where 45% live at or below poverty, the ministry of the center is critical. Working with Holy Cross and other partners, King helps distribute food to those in need and school supplies to students. And thanks to a partnership with LCMS National Housing Support Corporation (NHSC) and Laborers For Christ (LFC), this summer he and Holy Cross helped 17 local homeowners with critical home repairs.
In the target neighborhood of approximately 260 households, fewer than one-half of the homes are owner-occupied. Stabilizing these residents in their homes will make a significant impact and provide a practical means for Vicar King and Holy Cross Lutheran Church to build relationships in the neighborhood, drawing more residents to King’s Community Outreach Center.
NHSC helped secure funding from local foundations such as the Mary Cross Tippmann and Charlie Tippmann Foundations and another national partner. Additionally, donations from Holy Cross Lutheran Church, local LWML Zones and others boosted the total to $58,000 raised. LFC and other partners (such as the City of Fort Wayne Department of Parks and Recreation) provided at least $15,000 of “in-kind” support. The value of LFC labor is conservatively valued at double the $6,000 cost and the City of Ft. Wayne donated RV spaces at Johnny Appleseed campground.
A work week featuring youth and other volunteers from Holy Cross and Promise Lutheran Churches in Ft. Wayne helped to accomplish additional work at the homes: painting, clean-up, and brush removal. A “Paint the City with Love” block party at King’s Community Outreach Center on July 20th was a great way to celebrate the initiative and welcome even more neighbors to the Center.
While the immediate benefit of the Helping Hand Initiative is seen in the repairs to homes and improved lives of recipients, the long-term benefits will be seen when stronger relationships will give opportunity for a witness to the Gospel of God’s love in Christ!