Love INC to coordinate church and service organizations


LACONIA — Service to others is an integral part of Christianity. Each local church or organization has found its own way to minister to the needs of the poor, cold or hungry of the community, resulting in a patchwork of services available across the region. This created a sometimes problematic situation, where a person with specific or broad needs might require more than what their local church can meet, but that person's needs might be met by the collective abilities of several churches. Better that they all network together, and that's just what the organizers of Love INC are seeking to accomplish.

Love INC logoLove INC – the INC stands for "In the Name of Christ" – is an organization that is headquartered in Saint Paul, Minnesota, which started in 1977 and which currently has 155 affiliates around the country. Each affiliate employs a model that connects the local Christian churches and service organizations through a network. Love INC aims to act as a clearinghouse, so that when a person with a particular set of problems approaches a member of the network, the other members of the network can be leveraged to work together to more efficiently, and more effectively, provide charitable works.

A group of local people, representing a variety of churches and denominations, is organizing Love in the Name of Christ of the Lakes Region, which aims to bring such a network to central New Hampshire. Patrick's Pub and Eatery in Gilford is hosting a fundraiser to help launch the effort. From Dec. 11 to Dec. 15, diners who mention the organization will have 25 percent of their bill donated to Love INC which is opening an office in Laconia and which hopes to hire a part-time administrator.

Though the local effort is in its infancy, there are already 10 partners already on board, including some notable agencies such as the St. Vincent de Paul Food Pantry, and the Salvation Army. Ultimately, organizers hope to include up to 60 local Christian entities, including members of all Christian denominations.

"One church can't do it by themselves," said Ron DeDucca, one of the organizers of Love INC of the Lakes Region, "but if we can be unified, we can do it in a much more effective manner."

A common problem for churches, DeDucca said, is that 90 percent of the work is performed by 10 percent of its members – the other church members might feel too busy or otherwise unable to help. Part of the Love INC model is to solicit "talent surveys" from member organizations, so that each person's abilities might be recorded and applied to a particular need. For example, a mechanic might be able to help a person get their car running, while another could help write a resume.

Ultimately, the goal of Love INC is to gather together thousands of talents so that individuals who come looking for a basic need can be helped in ways far greater. Linda Wright said the organization hopes to someday be able to offer classes, such as job interviewing skills, nutrition and cooking, and parenting.

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Paying it forward: The BipBoppity Boutique and fashion expo

By EMILY GRAY, Contributing Writer

LACONIA — Kim Ainsworth, founder of BipBoppity Boutique, has redefined the term "pay it forward." BipBoppity is a charitable dress boutique that offers free prom dresses and tuxes, as well as other special occasion wear such as semi-formal dresses, to any young person over the age of 12 in need. No verification of need is required to receive a free dress, but the recipient is asked to pay this deed forward with a good deed such as volunteering somewhere in the community or donating to a charitable event such as The Lakes Region Children's Auction.
This Sunday, Dec. 11, Ainsworth is hosting the first-ever BipBoppity Fashion Expo at Laconia High School. The doors open at noon, and the fashion show will start at 2 p.m. Tickets are available for purchase for $5 at the high school and BipBoppity Boutique now, but they will also be available at the door. The entry ticket also includes a free raffle ticket. The expo will have numerous vendors such as Avon, LuLaRoe, and, of course, some food options. There will be live music performed by local artists to enjoy while visiting the various vendors, or while purchasing more raffle tickets for the table raffle on products donated by the vendors.
The fashion show will be a team effort. There are 40 female models and five male models from the community taking the stage. Empire Beauty has volunteered to do the models' hair and Jenn's Color Bar is taking care of makeup. Various community members have pitched in for nails for the female models. The theme is "The Magic of Winter," and will showcase mostly formal wear, but there will be a couple of semi-formal and wedding dresses modeled to highlight the other forms of wear BipBoppity has to offer.
So how did Ainsworth start all this? Together, she and her daughter went to a similar boutique called the Cinderella Project, where her daughter received a free dress. Ainsworth also learned that the year she visited was the last the Cinderella Project would be available in New Hampshire. Ainsworth was devastated, but soon determined to "pay it forward" by creating a similar program for people like herself and her daughter.
"We are learning as we go," said Kim when explaining the process of starting BipBoppity. It took a year to gain a space and enough dresses to start. The Laconia Community Center donated the space, 700 dresses were donated to start and soon Rochester Dresses closed and gave 2,000 dresses to the program. For a while there was an issue with the racks-to-dresses ratio, but Peebles donated racks during the start-up. The Faith, Love and Hope Foundation also contributes every year now with a one-day event that accumulates about 100 dresses for the program.
The Fashion Expo is planned to be the main fundraising event annually for BipBoppity Boutique, which has been kept running through donations and out-of-pocket expenses paid for by Ainsworth. All proceeds from the expo will go directly to funding the Boutique. Eventually, Ainsworth wishes to move BipBoppity to a larger space, and maybe even open multiple locations around the state because this is the only program of its kind in New Hampshire.
So far, BipBoppity has given 100 young women and women dresses for their special night. After the fashion expo, word will likely spread and more women in need will visit BipBoppity versus deciding not to go to events like Prom just because of the cost. Eventually, Ainsworth would like to assist young women wishing to attend the prom in other ways, like tickets, or hair and makeup.

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School bus strike averted as First Student agrees to contract with drivers


BELMONT — School administrators from all over the Lakes Region breathed a collective sigh of relief Wednesday night when they learned that First Student Inc. had signed a contract with its workers at the Belmont facility.

The employees, who are represented by Teamsters Local 633 of Manchester, had been working without a contract and had threatened to strike the company in an effort to settle some wage and pension issues.

"This was definitely a piece of very welcome news," said Gilford Superintendent Kirk Beitler, who said he sent a group message to all of the parents when he was informed about the contract last night.

"It means no disruption of our services," he continued, saying he had gotten quite a few responses from relieved parents who had been trying to plan how they would get their children to and from school had been a strike.

First Student in Belmont provides school bus service for students in Belmont, Laconia, Gilford and Gilmanton. While the other school districts in the area are served by First Student facilities other than the one in Belmont, they too were on alert for fear of a general strike if the Belmont workers couldn't reach a resolution.

"We value our drivers and recognize the excellent work they do in transporting children safely to and from school. First Student is happy to have this matter resolved (and) we return our full focus (of) providing continuous service for the school districts we serve," said First Student spokesman Chris Kemper.

Throughout the Lakes Regions, school superintendents were making contingency plans to get their students to school had their been a strike. While all but Shaker Regional said they would be able to keep their schools open, all after school activities including sports, would have a ground to a halt.

"A work stoppage would not have been good for our students, staff, and families.,"  said Dr. Brendan Minnihan the superintendent of Laconia Schools. "It is also nice that the agreement, as far as I am aware, covers the next five years.  It is a situation where although we had a contingency plan, we are more than happy to not have to implement it."