Love Our Community aims to help Lake families in need


By: Jessica Holbrook


HARTVILLE The nonprofit is working to transform the former Lake Center Christian School into a hub of services.


When Kelli Viscounte walks through the empty school on Woodland Street SW, she sees something beautiful.


An empty classroom with cracked windows is a simple, cheery apartment. A wet concrete basement is a clothing closet filled with outfits for sizes of all ages. The principal’s office is a cafe, where folks can find help applying for jobs and kids can stop for breakfast before class.

Viscounte is the founder and executive director of Love Our Community, a Christian nonprofit launched last year with a goal of doing just that — loving people of Lake Township and meeting their needs, from housing to food to clothing to counseling.

With the help of donors, the organization recently purchased the former Lake Center Christian School building.The plan is to transform the two-story building, built around 1968, into a hub of services for Lake Township residents.


“This is truly a way for us to come together and meet needs,” Viscounte said.


Community

Love Our Community has its roots in an Easter egg hunt.

In 2016, Viscounte was the director of outreach for RiverTree Lake Church. She had the “crazy thought of ‘what it would look like if we went out in the community and didn’t expect everyone to come to us?’”

So the church partnered with area businesses, organizations and other churches to hold a community egg hunt. With everyone working together, the event was a bigger success than anticipated and it continued to grow each year, she said.

That summer, several township families had house fires and needed assistance with clothing. That led to a community Clothing Closet, where families experiencing an emergency could quickly acquire clothing, blankets and toiletries. And it kept growing. They soon added summer meals and a Christmas event.

Last summer, Viscounte left her role at the church to run Love Our Community as a nonprofit. It was incorporated in September.


Hidden problems

People in Lake Township often don’t realize how many of their neighbors are struggling, Viscounte said.

“Many urban communities are very good at saying, ‘Hey, we need help.’ Suburban communities say, ‘We’re fine, we’re fine, everything’s great’ and behind closed doors, things are falling apart,” she said.

The township has a homelessness problem, but people often don’t realize it because the issue is hidden. Homeless individuals and families are stayi