A Pot Luck Filled with Love Plus

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Love Plus Life Skills Training and Mentoring Fall Program

It was a pot luck dinner in many ways like the holiday parties that help define Christmas time:   friends getting together, co-workers taking a moment to spend some social time with one another, or family joining in the spirit of the festive season.  Only this pot luck was different

This was a pot luck dinner celebrating the graduation of ten participants in the Love Plus Life Skills Training and Mentoring Fall Program. 

Love Plus is a life skills training and mentoring program offered by Love, INC in Merced.This year, ten participants completed the program. Since September, they have been attending weekly sessions at a classroom in the Gateway Community Church Conference Center.A second program was started this fall at the Atwater Nazarene Church.Each week, the session would begin with a speaker and specific lesson.Following the one-hour class, the participants would meet with their mentors for the second hour of the session.

The group was honored at a special graduation ceremony at Gateway Community Church in December, but not before one final lesson.Monika Grasley, Executive Director of Life Line Community Development, presented the final class about using the skills learned from the Love Plus program to recognize the gifts individuals have with their head, hands, and heart. 

Monika was one of several volunteer presenters who spoke to the classes throughout the program cycle. Presentations over the twelve-week program included job interviewing, soft skills, financial management, and community service.It was an honor for me to be among the presenters.Throughout the season, other presenters included Shelly Hansen, Sherry Macias, and Eric Swensen.

Love INC

Sherry is the Executive Director of Love INC, and the force behind the Love Plus program.In her comments at the graduation, she told the group, “We can’t truly help people, until we take time to learn about their lives, connect with their struggles, and encourage their gifts.

The people entering the program cross a wide range of life experiences.Most have been through some setbacks.Some acknowledge they were responsible for some of the things that happened to them.But to a person, all agree that the combination of life skills alongside weekly mentoring has made a big difference in their lives. 

At the ceremony, each participant was asked to speak to their experiences from the program.Most talked about their relationships with their mentors. 

Experiences from the program

Teresa told the group she learned a lot of things that she’s going to use. Laura praised her mentor saying how she showed her how to be a better person. Candy said the program helped her realize that the best way to help others is to be sure she helps herself.Gina was recognized for having one-hundred percent participation in the program.Sable spoke about how her mentor showed her how to knuckle down to stay on track.Renee was grateful that the program exists for those who feel many doors have been closed to them.

Manuel and Stacy, one of two couples in the program, found the financial management sessions to be of great help to them. The other couple, Melinda and Jason, werepraised by their mentor whosaid, “They weren’t just individuals, they were a couple that are working great as a team.”

Volunteers also included child care givers who would look after the small children of some of the participants.Alex DeBusk donated her time and talent to document the event with photographs including the one selected for this column. 

Faith in action

Love Plus is a program of Love INC, a coalition of churches working together to put faith into action.

A new cohort of participants is being recruited for the spring session beginning in early 2015.Of special need is for more potential mentors to step forward to help guide and nurture program participants.Anyone interested in learning more about becoming a mentor for the next Love Plus program beginning in early 2015 should contact Marcy Cotta, at 383-7034, or by email at info@loveincmerced.com

My involvement came about thanks in part to the columns I write for MercedCountyEvents.comA program volunteer found me in a Google search, realized I lived in Merced County, and asked me to share a cup of coffee to discuss the program.That happened more than two years ago.I met for coffee, asked a lot of questions, attended a session, and then agreed to do a presentation based on my book Soft Skills for Hard Times. 

The graduation ceremony was about the people who have taken advantage of a unique opportunity to learn more about coping with life.They have learned that there are people out there willing to get to know them, and to find out more about who they are as individuals.As honored as I was to be part of that special pot luck dinner in December celebrating the success of this latest Love Plus class, I was grateful that someone reached out to me over two years ago to offer me an opportunity to share my experiences with others by being a program presenter.

I have a lot for which I’m thankful.Just like a pot luck dinner isn’t really about the food, this program to help others is much more than that.I was helped as well by being part of the leadership team for Love Plus that made this opportunity for others possible. 

Steve Newvine lives in Merced