Leticia Santana has known financial hardship for most of her life. She grew up on food stamps and signed up for Medicaid when she became pregnant at age 18. In 2015, she lost her home.
Today, Santana works as a valuations coordinator in the mortgage department at Wells Fargo. She has two kids, two dogs and a home. And she credits her transformation to a program called IMPACT at Love In the Name Of Christ (LoveINC) Littleton.
This year, the Christian nonprofit organization is celebrating the fifth anniversary of IMPACT, a program that offers weekly life skills classes and life coaching to help people improve their lives.
“[IMPACT] handed me something that I could use for the rest of my life,” Santana said.
LoveINC Littleton is a local affiliate of a national organization that “mobilizes local churches to offer a holistic approach to caring for people in all areas of life,” according to LoveINC’s website. In addition to the IMPACT program, LoveINC Littleton’s 44 partner churches work together to provide physical resources such as diapers, clothing, furniture and transportation to community members across Jefferson, Arapahoe and Douglas counties, said Kathryn Roy, executive director of LoveINC Littleton.
The partner churches span a wide range of Christian denominations, Roy said.
“It's all about sharing Christ's love,” Roy said. “We're not ignoring the things we disagree on, we're just not focusing on that. There are so many things we're called to do, and serving and loving others is the top of the list.”
When community members reach out to LoveINC, their first point of contact is the Connections Center. The goal of this call center is not only to understand and address immediate concerns, but also to identify underlying needs.
“For example, if someone calls and says, ‘I need help with diapers,’ that is a tangible ministry we do serve. However, we do like to go a little deeper,” said Ann Donelson, director of connections ministries at LoveINC Littleton. “Why is that need presenting? What is the cause of that?”
The Connection Center volunteers guide community members to resources provided by LoveINC’s partner churches. They also often offer vouchers for callers to shop for free at LoveINC’s resale store, Renewed Treasures, which is celebrating its 10th anniversary this year.
Once the Connection Center team builds trust with a community member and feels they could be ready for the program, they introduce them to IMPACT, Donelson said.
IMPACT offers classes focused on financial, spiritual, mental, emotional and relational wellbeing, said Terry Bate, director of relational ministry at LoveINC Littleton. These courses are offered on a trimester schedule from September through June, Bate said.
The entire program is free and open to anyone, regardless of church affiliation or lack thereof.
“I always look at the makeup of the classes and discussion groups and just marvel at the fact that it’s just a true melting pot,” said Bate. “Early on we said, you know, we're just going to throw the doors open and everyone is welcome.”
In celebration of IMPACT’s anniversary, Bate and his fellow staff members were honored with an Excellence in Leadership Award for the development and provision of the program. The award was granted in May by Thought of the Day, an online inspiration team founded by Anne Heathman, a LoveINC volunteer.
Heathman was inspired to create the award when she was asked by the LoveINC staff to nominate fellow volunteers for recognition of their commitment to the IMPACT program. Although she saw a beautiful group of volunteers to choose from, Heathman said she wanted to recognize more than just her peers.
“I had to be a renegade nominator,” Heathman said.
In addition to obediently nominating some volunteers, Heathman sneakily worked with the Thought of the Day team to create a separate award to honor LoveINC’s staff members for dedicating their careers to IMPACT.
“If [LoveINC’s staff members] were in corporate America…they would earn two to three times what they earn here,” Heathman said. “And they choose to serve the Lord in this capacity, and they work many hours beyond what you would expect them to. And the results are staggering.”
Heathman knows IMPACT on a personal level, as she has been a participant of the program as well as a volunteer. After surviving a fire at her apartment building in 2018, Heathman signed up for Affirming Potential, an IMPACT course about pursuing goals.
“They evaluate your skills and they evaluate your interests, and then they take the next step, and they make you dream of what you would like to do,” Heathman said about the class. “And so, that's where Thought of the Day came [from].”
What started as a creative way to inspire her women’s group at Cherry Hills Community Church with photos and Bible verses blossomed into an online email campaign that now lands in 70,000 inboxes per day, according to Heathman.
“I think maybe the biggest compliment I can think of for LoveINC is not only did they help individuals, but they launched another ministry,” she said, beginning to choke up with emotion. “So as you can imagine, my admiration for LoveINC is huge.”
Heathman and Santana both admire LoveINC for the ways it changed their lives. Santana hopes for others in the Littleton community to know that they’re not alone.
“It’s just so beautiful how life can be changed. Because I’ve been there, I know how it feels to feel alone,” she said. “But these people love and they want you to succeed. And it’s just amazing how much a little team of people loves so many people.”