Love INC expanding footprint in city; acquiring house starts it up

Love in the Name of Christ volunteer Dave Walker (left) mans the saw as Dick Widelski looks on. The two-man crew is renovating a house adjacent to the Love INC facility on Washington Street, which will become the new offices for the organization.
Love in the Name of Christ volunteer Dave Walker (left) mans the saw as Dick Widelski looks on. The two-man crew is renovating a house adjacent to the Love INC facility on Washington Street, which will become the new offices for the organization. Photo by Rebecca Sandlin.

Originally published March 31, 2016.

There’s a lot to love about “Love” — and soon there will be even more to love, as Love In the Name of Christ prepares to expand its footprint in Huntington as the hub of help to those in need.

The ministry has purchased a house at 426 E. Washington St., located adjacent to the Love INC building, and is in the midst of fixing up the structure. Executive Director Joey Spiegel says the leadership had desired to acquire the house for quite some time, but the timing wasn’t right until recently.

“It was for sale about a year before I came to Love INC, and I know at that time they were hoping to purchase it and just didn’t have the resources,” says Spiegel.

“So in 2014 the owner of the house called me and said, ‘Hey, I’m interested in selling. Do you guys want to buy it? Let me know.’”

Even though making a major purchase such as a house wasn’t in the plans, Spiegel says local pastor Ray Seilhamer presented the opportunity in July 2014.

“He said, ‘If you ever want to do a capital project, let me know, I’ll help you out.’ He has a lot of experience with it. So I approached the board and said … ‘I think it would be a good property to have,’” Spiegel explains. “It tees off of our building, it will help us expand, it’s really inconvenient to have it there and not own it and we have this experienced fund-raiser who will help us raise money to get it.’”

The board agreed, beginning its capital project campaign a month following the purchase of the house. Spiegel says 2016 is the last year of the campaign, with a goal of raising $250,000.

“We haven’t met our goal, but we have been able to do all the projects we wanted to do,” he says. “In the last year we’ve put on a new roof, we repaved the parking lot, we worked with the city and did the sidewalk 50-50 program,” he says. “Then we purchased the house and it’s being renovated right now.”

Plans call for the house to become the new clearinghouse and offices for Love INC. All offices, with the exception of the community food pantry coordinator’s office, will be located in the house.

The home has three bedrooms upstairs plus a bathroom. Spiegel and Ministry Coordinator Kyle Metzger will use the upstairs for their offices. The ministry’s clearinghouse intake workers and office staff will be situated on the first floor.

Volunteers Dick Widelski and Dave Walker installed a second bathroom on the first floor and have been turning the living room, dining area and kitchen into office space and a break room kitchenette. The house also features a walk-in attic for storage.

The rehabilitation hasn’t been without its challenges. During the harsh winter of 2014-15 the furnace broke down, Widelski remembers.

“The pipes froze, and we had water damage and the ceiling fell in. It was a mess,” he says. “Once we got everything fixed as far as the plumbing and the furnace was concerned, Dave ended up tearing everything out and re-doing the ceiling with plasterboard.”

Walker also built a handicap-accessible ramp to the back door of the house, with easy access from the backyard parking lot.

Other improvements included changing the flooring to wood laminate, upgrading electrical outlets, painting walls and using the three-season room at the front of the house as a waiting area.

Walker says the funds collected so far during the capital campaign have seemingly multiplied, allowing them to do more renovations than originally planned.

“I think this has cost a lot less than they expected it to,” he adds.

Spiegel says Love INC is thankful for those who have supported the ministry financially during the transition. He says they have been able to accomplish some things they have only dreamed about for the past several years. However, the present office space in the building located at 715 Byron St. is still on Love INC’s projects wish list, Spiegel saying he hopes it can be used as classroom space.

“What we’d like to do — we don’t have any money for it yet — we’d like to open it up and create a large meeting area/classroom/kitchenette,” he says. “Our hope is, we’ve been having these classes called ‘Everyday Cooking,’ which is a program designed to help out clients who use our food pantry, to give them an opportunity to learn how to use some of the ingredients more nutritiously.”

The cooking class is currently located in the food pantry area, which does not contain kitchen facilities.

Spiegel would like to include a large island that people can sit around, plus two ranges for cooking up recipes taught in class.

The current Love INC building will still contain the food pantry lobby and main reception area.

Spiegel says he expects the offices will move into the house sometime in May.