LOVE Week, an initiative of Elevation Church, wrapped up Sunday with volunteers serving a grand total of 50,340 hours around the city of Charlotte, N.C., this past week.
Elevation, the area's fastest growing megachurch, partnered with 31 local churches to serve 62 outreach organizations. More than 4,800 volunteers did everything from building houses, stocking food pantries, feeding the hungry and homeless, and dancing the night away with senior citizens at a senior prom.
The church also partnered with Presbyterian Hospital-Matthews to pledge $80,000 to help fund enhancements and expansion at a local free clinic.
Tonia Bendickson, spokesperson for Elevation, told The Christian Post that "the event inspires a sense of unity and selflessness in our community."
The week started with 352 events scheduled, and dozens more were added during the week as demand grew; in the end volunteers served at more than 400 opportunities.
Different volunteer opportunities were spaced out throughout the week at different locations across the city. The purpose was to give people with varying schedules the opportunity to fit a volunteer opportunity in.
Steven Forbis, a teacher at a local Charlotte school, participated in LOVE Week this past weekend. He grew up in Charlotte, but through his participation he said his eyes were opened to a different side of his city.
He and a team of volunteers went to an apartment complex in Charlotte to help residents fill out job applications. The applicants were mostly refugees from places like Burma, Vietnam, and Nepal and because of a significant language barrier they needed help with applications.
While a group of the volunteers put on a barbeque and played with the children living in the apartment complex, the parents went with another group to a tutoring facility to fill out applications and be placed in an employment database.
"I genuinely had no idea that problems like this existed in Charlotte. It is easy to be blind to problems within your own city. LOVE Week [gave] us an opportunity to interact with groups of people we might not normally be associated with, and it let us make a difference inside organizations that are sometimes struggling to find volunteers," Forbis commented.
For volunteers like Forbis, the week was about finding ways to serve in their own backyard and it helped to expose the "needs of a growing city like Charlotte. For me, missions work begins at home," he told CP.
Brian Schindler also took on this mission mindset and decided to take eight days off from his job at Apple to work at a local food pantry for the week. He is a volunteer with Elevation Church and was the liaison coordinator between the church and 2nd Harvest Food Bank.
"We did a lot of sorting," Schindler told The Christian Post. "One morning we sorted 8,000 pounds of bread."
A lot of people in the community came up and asked what they were doing; some even thought they were crazy to take time off work to volunteer. But "the biggest impact [was] being able to tell people about it. It showed people that the Church cares," he noted.
With so many churches from the community participating and the mayor of Charlotte's official recognition of LOVE Week, Schindler said it was a "huge win for us."
Mayor Anthony Foxx proclaimed Feb. 11-19 as LOVE Week across the city. He joined Elevation Church Lead Pastor Steven Furtick on Valentine's Day at the Levine Children's Hospital to give gifts, sing songs and read to children and families.
Last April, Furtick and Foxx signed the "Orange Initiative" – an Elevation Church promise to serve 100,000 hours and give $750,000 in one year to fight homelessness and hunger, and improve the city.
Even though LOVE Week officially ended Sunday after those at various Elevation campuses made 10,000 sandwiches to serve their neighbors, today they are taking those sandwiches, along with gift baskets, house wares, clothing items, furniture, and more to all of their local outreach partners.