By Paul Thompson
October 12, 2016
KANSAS CITY, Missouri – New Salvation Army Bellefontaine Corps (3013 E 9th Street) Administrator and Pastor Janice Love can thank one of her 13 siblings for helping her find her calling in community service.
Love’s older sister was doing her Master’s Degree practicum at the Salvation Army, so she’d often bring a teenage Janice to the organization’s youth program while she worked. On one fateful Sunday morning, a 16-year-old Love first witnessed a female pastor leading service while wearing full Salvation Army regalia. It was love at first sight.
“I went on a Sunday, and that’s when I recognized Salvation Army as a church. I didn’t know they were a church,” said Love. “I loved the hat, and I fell in love with the uniform.”
Love soon began attending Salvation Army services regularly, on the condition that she continued attending her family’s congregation, as well. Women weren’t allowed to be ministers in her family church, so Love was nervous about asking her father if she could follow her dreams with the Salvation Army. Luckily for Love, her father recognized her passion.
“If he had said no, I would not have gone. That’s the respect I had for him,” said Love. “But I think my father knew that I didn’t do things lightly. It wasn’t something I took lightly, and he saw my involvement.”
So Love followed her dream of becoming a minister, and now decades later, she has brought her wealth of experience to the Northeast. Love came to Kansas City from Chicago, and was stationed in St. Louis prior to that. She only arrived in the city on June 28, but she says that she’s already learned a lot about the obstacles that the community faces.
“There are a lot of challenges in this community. Not just the homeless, but just in getting people to recognize that there are just some things they can do,” said Love. “It’s getting the children to understand that people who may not look like you aren’t bad, and that you have a responsibility to show that you’re not bad. It’s not always on someone else. You have to take ownership for your own actions, and that’s one of my things for the youth.”
Love says that she plans to stay in the area for the long haul – expecting to remain in Kansas City for no shorter than a six-year term. She understands that transforming a community takes time, as well as a tremendous buy-in from area stakeholders.
“You’re not going to see a lot of change until after the first year, so you can’t expect it,” Love said. “You’re not going to get the whole loaf, but you will see crumbs.”
For now, Love is looking for minor victories, and that starts with cleaning up her Salvation Army location.
“We are going to have to do something with people just being vagrant on the property, because it also hinders other programs,” said Love. “I want this place to be a safe haven for children, but I know I can’t have it if I have men sleeping out there.”
Under Love’s leadership, the Bellefontaine Corps has already begun conducting Fine Arts programming after services on the second and fourth Sunday’s of every month. She’s also hoping to utilize the location’s space to create mentorship programs to help mold young men into community leaders.
“We have a lot of after-school programs, but we have very few programs that focus on 18-24. That’s probably going to be my focus, is developing something,” said Love. “I want to look at a GED program on-site, and a program specifically for young men that are in that 17,18,19, 20-year-old bracket, who have graduated and who are in need of that very specific male focus.”
To that end, Love added that she is currently seeking adult male volunteers to serve as mentors at the Salvation Army. All volunteers must fill out an application and pass a background check to be considered.
“Volunteers are always needed. We always have them during the holidays, but it’s during the other times,” said Love. “I’m going to be looking for some male volunteers, because I really want our young men to see men in a positive light. I think it starts there.”