Friday, April 29, 2016

Steve and Deb LaForge: Partners in a Life of Service

When Steve and Deb LaForge first met, Steve was very involved with Habitat for Humanity.  After they got married in 2007, Deb also got involved with Habitat and together they became project supervisors, helping to direct volunteer groups in the building of new homes.

One of the homes they oversaw belonged to Randall, who had been a participant in Room In The Inn’s recovery program. Randall had actually worked on the construction crew for Room In The Inn’s new facility in 2009 and 2010, saving his earnings to pay for his new home. Other recovery program participants, along with staff members from Room In The Inn, volunteered to help build, under the capable supervision of the LaForges.

On the day of Randall’s house dedication, Steve and Deb had the chance to meet Charles Strobel and others from Room In The Inn. Inspired by the way the Room In The Inn community had come together to support Randall, they wanted to get more involved. Their congregation, Woodmont Christian, was part of Room In The Inn’s winter shelter program. Steve and Deb responded to a plea for overnight hosts. Steve says, “we became an overnight pair and have had many wonderful experiences. We love that this is something we can do together.”

Woodmont Christian is one of Room In The Inn’s “on call” congregations, meaning that in addition to hosting guests on a weekly basis, the congregation often opens its doors on nights that are freezing cold, snowy, or icy. Woodmont’s extra efforts, combined with those of other on call congregations, means fewer or no people turned away from a night of safe shelter. Deb notes the importance of being there for her neighbors who have nowhere else to turn, saying, “I would pray that if I found myself in that situation someone would be there for me, bringing to life ‘do to others as you would have them do to you.’ I know I would not want to find myself out in the cold with no place to go. Because I do have a place to go, I want to share what I can.”

As much as Steve and Deb love serving others themselves, getting other people involved is just as gratifying. They recall inviting a new family with teenage daughters to get involved. The first night these new volunteers served, the church had set up a television to watch football and served barbeque and popcorn. The girls and the guests were divided on who they were cheering for, and as Steve remembers, “it was like having all of your friends over to your house for the big game.”

The LaForges attended last summer’s Second Sunday Series, an educational opportunity for Room In The Inn volunteers. Steve says, “Using the information the staff provided, we have widened our Room In The Inn program to not only serve the gentlemen, but also women and families. We have a better knowledge of the challenges our guests face every day.”

In thinking about the impact of Second Sunday, Deb said, “it was good to learn that there is no one way of hosting and providing for our Room In The Inn guests. Each congregation does it a little differently.

Deb sums up her experience with Room In The Inn by saying “We both have had occasions where we’ve been able to share stories with our guests.  We’ve cried with them, we’ve laughed, we’ve prayed with one another, and each time it’s been a humbling experience. It becomes its own form of addiction and the desire to serve grows each time because you want to hold tight to that feeling.”

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