Annual chocolate tasting highlights Love INC of Tinley Park’s mission
A Tinley Park nonprofit pairs music, food, and a live auction in an event with a unifying theme: chocolate.
Love In the Name of Christ hosted its third annual chocolate tasting on Feb. 17 at Trinity Christian College in Palos Heights. By design it served as a fundraiser fit for the Valentine’s Day, involving area churches that benefit the local nonprofit organization.
Kim Sullivan, executive director of Love INC, said holding the event alongside the February holiday is a pairing in and of itself, as the organization’s mission centers on loving and showing compassion to others.
“What we do is we help the community by organizing churches in the area in order to meet needs in the community,” she said. “One of the best pictures I can get is that Love INC is kind of like the conductor, and the churches are like the different sections in an orchestra. We just kind of make all the music sound lovely.”
There are a number of nonprofits in the community who aim to help support those in need, but Love INC’s focus is different, Sullivan said.
“A lot of nonprofits have a very focused need that they’re looking to meet,” she said. “We do pretty much absolutely anything. It doesn’t even have to be financially based. It can be somebody who needs a ride to their doctor or something like that.”
When Love INC learns of their clients’ needs, they collect information about their situation and a clearinghouse coordinator tries to connect them either with a church, another organization or ministry.
The Rev. Steven Lange, of Living Word Lutheran Church, said he and his wife Karen were enjoying their time together.
“It is date night,” Karen said.
The couple sat a table decorated with candles mingling among other guests, as they sampled chocolate pairings.
Steven, too, shared the importance of Love INC and the works its members do for residents.
“Their purpose in the community is one where they’re trying to make a difference, and I think that anything we can do where we’re [providing] ministry to or serving the needs of the community regardless of whether they’re spiritual [is key],” he said. “People won’t listen to what you have to say if they don’t think you care about their basic needs first.”
This year’s fundraiser brought in roughly 150 guests and featured five different types of chocolate pairings.
“It’s definitely growing,” Sullivan said. “Every year, it’s grown. I think the first year we might’ve had 50-75 [guests]. Last year, we probably had 75-125. This year, we were really hoping to get about 150-200. Every year, we’re adding a few. So, that’s good, but we do have some people who look forward to it every year.”
In 2016, the fundraiser raised $13,000.
“We have a goal $25,000,” Sullivan said of this year’s event. “We would love to reach that goal on or close to the date of the event.”
Sullivan credited promotion between the media and area churches for increasing the nonprofit’s exposure.
“We’re kind of a newer organization, we’re only a little more than 5 years old,” she said. “I think [it’s] our credibility, and people are just starting to be more aware of Love INC and who we are.”