As founder and pastor of The Connecting Grounds, Christie Love’s mission is to provide support to people experiencing need in the community, but she also wants to show members of the unsheltered community how to find their own voice.
“Through my advocacy and leadership, I strive to make the daily life of those in poverty and living without shelter better on a daily basis by meeting practical needs and raising awareness for issues that need change,” she says.
And what is more practical than speaking up for oneself? That is something Love helps people to achieve.
“Through The Connecting Grounds, we created a leadership development program for those who are unsheltered to challenge them to advocate for themselves, provide peer leadership to address issues in their community and implement ideas to make our city a better place for all,” she says.
Love works directly with the homeless community in many ways. One is by offering a Community Outreach Center that is open 10 hours per week and offers a food pantry, clothing bank, computer lab, laundry and medical resources.
She also takes her church’s show on the road through a street outreach program that visits homeless camps once a week in the spring, summer and fall and every night in the winter to provide lifesaving supplies to those trying to survive without shelter.
Since 2019, the church has had a Family Connection Program that supervises visits for families in the foster care system. It has overseen over 800 visits and helped reunify numerous families.
Love runs a volunteer program that allows unsheltered people to earn needed items or money by working at the Outreach Center or by picking up trash on the four streets the church has adopted.The Connecting Grounds also has partnered with Mercy Hospital Springfield to create a clothing closet so patients can acquire needed clothing, shoes and emergency supplies.
The church also has purchased a small house that serves as a respite location for those unsheltered people who are healing from an injury or illness.
While Love’s focus in The Connecting Grounds is local, she came from an international role as founder of the global ministry LeadHer. There, she worked with women and faith communities in seven countries.
“Through my work, I saw a great deal of poverty worldwide and felt the need to become more engaged in my community and combat our poverty level locally,” she says. “I made the hard choice to close the international organization to plant a local church called The Connecting Grounds that has sought to serve the needs of our neighbors.”
Now located at 4341 W. Chestnut Expressway, The Connecting Grounds launched in 2018 on Commercial Street. As founding pastor, Love has worked with other churches and organizations to begin to close social justice gaps in the community.
“Once a month, we host a partnership breakfast for many faith communities and organizations so that we can talk about ways to work together to continue to meet the needs of our neighbors,” she says.
Plans for the Finley Ridge apartment complex in the growing community of Ozark call for four buildings, four stories apiece, with 48 units each for a total of 192, as well as a 1,500-square-foot shared community and fitness room.