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'Things a dad would do'

"'Things a dad would do'" Continued...

Issue: "Face-off," Aug. 13, 2011

Rodriguez encourages the other men in the program to let go of regret for years wasted and focus on the time God still gives them: "Even the Bible talks about it: The years that the locusts have eaten will be given back to me."

Video and photos by James Allen Walker for WORLD (jamesallenwalker.com)

Listen to a report on Hope Now for Youth on The World and Everything in It.

Hope Now for Youth

Location: Fresno, Calif.

Size: Seven full-time employees; 1,700 at-risk young men placed in first-time jobs since 1993

Expenses: $596,860 last year (all funded privately)

Website: hopenowforyouth.org

Read profiles of finalists and winners from 2006 through 2011 on WORLD's Hope Award page.

Love INC

West region runner-up

By Jamie Dean

Duarte family

About this time two years ago, Steven and Monique Duarte's checking account had a single digit balance: $4. By that year's end, their marriage was also depleted: The couple decided to tell their two daughters after Christmas that they were divorcing.

Their problems were substantial: They faced medical bankruptcies, mounting tax bills, piles of debt, and a foreclosure notice on their home. Steven was unemployed and battling alcoholism. Monique compulsively shopped. Conflicts raged, she says: "I just couldn't see the light."

Two years later, the darkness has lifted: On a Thursday night in July at a packed church in Nampa, Idaho, the couple told clients and volunteers from Love INC of Treasure Valley how the local ministry helped them: Through financial counseling and practical assistance with items like groceries, clothing, and school supplies, the couple avoided foreclosure and paid off more than $12,000 in debt. Through marriage counseling, the couple is still married and "better than ever," says Monique: "How blessed am I?"

Lois Tupyi, executive director of Love INC (an acronym for "in the name of Christ"), says helping couples like the Duartes takes more than just providing material or financial assistance: "If we look at the need but don't look at the person, we imprison them in these situations."

The Nampa chapter of Love INC is one of 140 independent affiliates in 30 states aiming to help local churches meet local needs. In Nampa, that means maintaining a network of some 6,500 volunteers from area churches willing to help with dozens of ministries: Some work at the ministry's thrift store; others process donations of clothing, furniture, and household items; and some visit the elderly or disabled in their homes. Other volunteers maintain ministries at their churches like clothing closets, auto repair days, and tutoring for children.

But when a local resident calls Love INC's office for material assistance, help isn't automatic. A handful of volunteers sit at cubicles answering phones and using an extensive intake form to ask callers questions: Why do they need help? Are other agencies helping them? Do they have a family? Are they members of a church? Are they working? Do they collect government assistance?

Tupyi says the information helps the ministry determine how they can help address the underlying causes of clients' financial needs. After volunteers and staffers process applications, they refer clients to one of the local ministries connected with church volunteers. If callers won't answer questions, they aren't eligible for assistance, says Tupyi: "It often takes saying 'no' to a felt need to move them to a greater need."

The ministry addresses greater needs through community classes on topics like finances, job training, life skills, family life, and nutrition. A more intense relational program-completed by clients like the Duartes-connects couples or individuals with serious financial problems to a volunteer financial counselor. The clients (usually 35-40 families each week) surrender their checkbooks, expose all their debt, agree to record all the money they spend, and listen to sound financial advice. Volunteers refer clients struggling with addiction or marriage problems to local Christian counselors. The ministry gives clients material help like weekly groceries and gasoline cards to free up cash needed to pay off debt. The results are dramatic: Love INC reports that families have paid off $2.1 million in debt since 2002.

Monique Duartes says the encouragement and accountability saved her family and her finances. And she says their financial records have an addition she still can't believe: "Our checking account has a comma in it."

The final four

By Marvin Olasky

We now have four finalists for the 2011 Hope Award for Effective Compassion: from the East, Bowery Mission Women's Center, New York City; from the South, Challenge House, Hopkinsville, Ky.; from the Midwest, Victory Trade School, Springfield, Mo.; from the West, Hope Now for Youth, Fresno, Calif.

For profiles, videos, and additional photos of all four finalists, and to register to attend Awards Night in Houston on Oct. 14, please go to Hope Award page.

You can help make one of our finalists the national winner by going to that page and voting for the program that most appeals to you. Online voting begins now and continues through Sept. 30.

Jamie Dean
Jamie Dean

Jamie lives and works in North Carolina, where she covers the national political beat and other topics as news editor for WORLD. Follow Jamie on Twitter @deanworldmag.

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