Jose Sifuentes gave up everything to get everything.
Sifuentes left his job and home in Sandwich and moved to DeKalb in an effort to gain full custody of his two young children. Sifuentes eventually received full custody, but not before spending six months in a homeless shelter.
Now back in an apartment and starting over with a new job, Sifuentes said it is the work of community organizations, particularly Love in the Name of Christ, that has given him a new lease on life and a chance to get back on his feet.
A quick tour of Sifuentes’ apartment shows almost all of the furniture including a coffee table, kitchen table, dressers and chairs are donated from Love INC. – a Christian-based nonprofit organization aimed at connecting volunteers in local churches to those in need in surrounding communities.
“They’ve helped tremendously. As a single father with two kids, I can’t really afford furniture,” Sifuentes said. “It can be life changing ... we need more charity like that in this city.”
Love INC hopes to make more stories like Sifuentes’ possible this Saturday with a donation drive at Waterman Bible Church on 500 S. Birch St. The drive is an effort to collect lamps, clocks, toys, bikes, board games, kitchenware and diapers among other items.
Those interested in donating just need to drive their donations to the church between 11 a.m. and 2:15 p.m. on Saturday and volunteers will unload the car.
Chris Burlingame, the church’s Love INC coordinator, said it is the first time the congregation has hosted a collection and the energy has already shown as some people have started dropping off donations. She said there also were members who were baking cookies to give to people who donate items.
“We’re real excited to help them collect items and it is a good fall cleaning of our own,” Burlingame said. “I’m just looking forward to seeing the support from the church and Waterman community.”
The ministry has helped 325 clients so far this year and met 89 percent of the need thanks to more than 150 volunteers a month who have participated in 107 moving days to give people the items they need.
Nathan Scott, executive director of Love INC, said the ministry has been strong this year and he is glad to see it expanding in the southern portion of the county with the Waterman event Saturday.
“The stronger the support base, the stronger impact Love INC and the churches of a community can have together,” Scott said. “Without the churches and volunteers, Love INC would not be serving one of our purposes of existence.”
In addition to the “gap” ministries, which include food, linen, car and financial ministries hosted by different area churches, Scott said he is in the process of developing “transformational” ministries.
Those ministries would focus on mentoring and accountability as opposed to physical needs.
“We want to continuously grow in our capacity to provide effective opportunities of service,” he said. “And we see volunteerism continue to grow.”
For people such as Sifuentes, the expanding services are vital in reestablishing a safe future.
“You don’t find places like this everywhere,” he said. “There needs to be a bigger voice for them because not enough people know about it.”