South County Love Your Neighborhood was definitely a God lead and inspired thing. I can still remember the day that I was sitting in the office of my late friend and banker at the time, Dave Riley. He was planning on retiring and was just sharing words of reflection. He made a statement that the Holy Spirit grabbed onto and planted deep within my spirit. He said, "We are losing the generous men of old whose heart was always giving to the people around them and to the community. Many of them have passed away and I don't see a generation to replace them." Wow! Talk about conviction. Dave knew I didn't have the financial means to be one of those men, so I let it go. What I didn't realize that it was the beginning of a spark that God was to use to get my attitude and perspective readjusted.
A few months later I received a call from a friend who wanted me to come down to Indy and join them in a BBQ Cook-off event for charity. We didn't win, but we had a great time. As I was driving home from that event it (or the Holy Spirit) hit me...We can do this. It doesn't have to be someone with a whole lot of money! It has to be people with compassion and a desire to give back. It has to be people that love their neighbors and their neighborhood.
That summer I called a bunch of community people together and we talked about doing our own BBQ Cook-off and in short order we pulled it off. We were all people from the Southern part of Porter County and we wanted to love our neighborhood and so the name South County Love Your Neighborhood came to be. I approached Hopewell Mennonite church where I attend and pastored at one time about being the umbrella organization for our not-for-profit and we received their blessing.
At the same time I had started some very small dinner theatres in our small banquet facility in Kouts. It was a way for us to showcase our great food, encourage people with a postive message through entertainment and also showcase local talent. As time progressed and the evenings began to outgrow our small facility it (or the Holy Spirit) hit me again....why not do these for South County? Thus, the beginning of South County Love Your Neighborhood dinner theatres began. These dinner theatres have become another great way to bless our community. They still let us share our great food, bless people with a positive message through great local talent, but now raise funds for great people and organizations that are in need.
Since September '09 when the first Cook-off began and December '11 when the South County took over the dinner theatres we have given away over $40,000! What a blessing! This is truly an effort of people, of community, and of course God. Thanks to all! Remember it doesn't take anything except compassion, which is the love of God, to make a difference. Jesus said, "who was the neighbor to the man?" the one who showed mercy and love...go and do likewise. It is funny how many people that ask why we do this? It is pretty simple. I deserve eternal torment & separation from God but was given eternal relationship with God. All because of Jesus' death & resurrection! I gave up the right to myself in this life and am to live for him. The least I can do is offer the same mercy & grace I have been shown! That is why we do what we do. Jesus said, "A new command I give you today. Love one another the way I have loved you."