On Tuesday, Aug. 15, Jordan Labiosa and Mayor Lenny McDonald hosted a meeting to introduce the Love Thy Neighbor Fund which is joining CarePortal to aid those in need in Craig County.
It was held at Lasterday, where proprietor Jasmine Brown, provided an array of desserts with homemade lemonade and tea.
Though three years in the making, Labiosa and McDonald have formed the nonprofit Love Thy Neighbor Fund which now seems to be the foundation of the beginning of a new relationship, bringing CarePortal to Craig County.
“The Department of Social Services (DSS) is so excited to have the CarePortal come to Craig,” shared Craig County Department of Social Services Director Pat Franklin. “The CarePortal is a service that will allow greater needs to be met beyond what DSS can or could every do on our own. The Care Portal is more than a financial assistance program, it is a way to allow the community to come to the aid of their neighbors and help hold them up and support them through rough times.”
McDonald opened with a prayer thankful for the people who are already ready to serve and the explanation of the creation of the Love Thy Neighbor Fund.
“During COVID Jordan and I were sitting on our duffs an awful lot which meant that we would call each other and go to lunch each day and share the vision that he had for Craig County and what was possible,” McDonald shared. “Not what was being done, but what was possible.”
McDonald added with a laugh, “I learned really quick that Jordan doesn’t sit still very well. So, we hatched a plan to start the Love Thy Neighbor Fund that would serve the needs of Craig County that could be uniquely met by forming this non-profit organization as there are some very unique things that a non-profit can do.”
“Our fund is based on the Bible scripture of Matthew 22:39 that says thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself, so we tried to take that and put it into action,” McDonald added.
They are a charitable nonprofit organization that has been launched in Craig County to live out this teaching.
McDonald listed three ways they have envisioned they can impact the county most effectively, adding value to its citizens.
- Reduce the impact of poverty.
- Virginia statistics say 10% living below the poverty line
- Craig County is 14% living below the poverty line
- Children in Craig County have 25% living below the poverty line
- Make generational changes.
- Developing strategies to overcome family struggles they face
- Biblical based financial literacy courses
- Increase community pride
- Develop and help maintain high quality public spaces that highlights our rich history while reducing the tax burden of such spaces from our community at large.
“With Craig having 25 percent living below the poverty line, that means they are one automobile accident away from a crisis. Clearly there is a need! And, the DSS has their hands full and overwhelmed sometimes,” McDonald said. “Yet there are enough effective people who wish to serve in some way that we felt we could marry CarePortal with DSS, the school system and make a difference.”
He added, “If we understand there is a need and we have the ability to fulfill it, Jordan isn’t going to sit. He is going to jump on it and find a way to make things better.”
McDonald made the statement that if citizens educate people on financial literacy, then they have the opportunity to not just fix the crisis but to build the strategy for that family to have success and move forward.
“I am so excited that you are here, that you have a heart for service, that you want to help the Love Thy Neighbor Fund make a change for the better,” McDonald shared.
Brandi Paige with Southwest Virginia Crossroads Coalition for Orphan and Foster Care has been a part of launching several CarePortals and Labiosa shared that she has been a useful resource and has helped trained many thus far in how to use the system.
Paige shared that when she drove to Craig for the first time, her breath was taken away with its beauty.
She added, “I wish I could take Jordan and put one of him every community that borders West Virginia and Kentucky as they are all like you, small communities that feel like they are forgotten.”
“I live in Wytheville and cannot say enough about the difference it made in our community,” Paige said. “Your heart beats for your community and the children in it and you want them to have all the things they need to grow up successful and to make your community successful.”
She shared that when one joins CarePortal, there is an app to download.
“You will receive a notification of a need and we encourage each of you to make a personal connection to that family because that is what the heart of CarePortal does,” Paige explained. “It lets us go out on little mission trips and meet our neighbors right where they are.”
A video was shared that said, “The mission field is in our backyard. It means meeting a need at just the right time. At other times the connection starts life-changing relationships that change lives, transform communities, and reverse the foster-care crisis in our nation. That yes makes children a priority. Children have the power to change us.”
“It is really shocking at the level of homelessness, incarceration, and even sex-trafficking that can be associated with the foster care system,” Labiosa added. “If we can interact before they even enter the system and save those biological families, think about how many people we can save throughout the long run in their lives.”
Carrie Gooseman, adoption and resource family supervisor for the Roanoke City Department of Social Services, shared a testimonial about a child from Craig with CarePortal.
The child had been placed in different places, yet the end of the story is that through CarePortal, they were able to get the child back with family who needed furniture, etc. before they could be ready. CarePortal, with the help of community and churches and were able to set the family up so the child could live there.
Care Portal is also able to help with directions for the family and starting relationships with community.
“Self sufficiency is the goal though not always a reality,” Gooseman said.
She added that they welcome churches, groups and individual community members to be a part of this program such as have furniture, clothes, financial assistance, etc. they wish to donate.
“We are so excited to have some school board members and so many churches and others who have shown interest,” Labiosa shared. “Also, Pat Franklin has been a great resource for us only being in Craig for a year and half, but it seems like she has had five years of organization accomplished with all the work she has done.”
Franklin shared that the department is small with only 11 total employees with only three other employees besides herself that takes care of adoption, Child Protective Service, foster care and other needs.
“That is not enough, but with Care Portal, it will allow us to expand our footprint and to help more people in Craig,” Franklin said. “If we can reach a family and get the needed help before it becomes a CPS, before the child has to be removed, then we have done our job.”
She gave an example of a child coming to school with dirty clothes. Sometimes it is just that their washer broke, and the family cannot afford another one and there is no laundromat in the county.
“DSS has limited funds so if we can enter into CarePortal that we have a need for a washer, it can possibly stop the issue,” Franklin added. “The child is then not embarrassed and it not acting out because they don’t want to be in school because they don’t have clean clothes and they are ashamed; we have done our job! The factors and steps to save a family is so important.”
Franklin explained that it takes a community or village to raise a child, and this is what CarePortal and the Love Thy Neighbor Fund is all about, helping them to get assistance to families when DSS is unable to meet all the needs.
Franklin added that they need people to help install or to move furniture for them once they purchase or find the items. Also, contractors from all areas are needed.
McDonald added, “Everyone has mentioned these needs but none of this will work if we do not have participants to join us. We have several churches who have already signed up including Cornerstone-New Castle, Grace Assembly and Kindling School Ministries, as well as other pastors that have shown interest that I will be visiting.”
“DSS is our main partner when it comes to making requests,” Labiosa said. “We will be approaching the school system this year about having guidance counselors potentially being able to make requests on behalf of the students and eventually the sheriffs’ office. We are super excited about this.”
Alex Bunnell, of Craig County DSS, shared the first call of a teenage girl. However, Cornerstone Church -New Castle was present and donated a check to DSS to fund the need. Other people present shared that they could help in other ways as well.
“Our goal is to have no need unmet in Craig County,” McDonald shared.
For the first year, Love Thy Neighbor Fund has received donations to cover expenses of joining the Love Thy Neighbor Fund which the schools will not have to pay, hoping that even in future years, they will have enough funds to cover it as well. No individual pays.
Paige added that other larger schools pay much more but usually donations are received to cover them.
McDonald also shared the 78% success rate that Teen Challenge has five years after someone graduates.
“The reason why I think this is so successful is because it introduces the community of the church to people,” McDonald added. “There is a root cause that a church can meet and help the family overcome.”
McDonald and Labiosa encourage community members to contact them if they are interested in donating or being a source of assistance or to inquire more deeply into the program to see if “it is a right fit for you or your organization.”
Matthew 22.org is the Love Thy Neighbor Fund website and they were excited to announce that they have collected funds to pay for the first year to join CarePortal, to try and use the program.
If community members are looking to join or look into the program, go to CarePortal.org and then click on “get involved” and from there it will direct individuals.
McDonald requested to pray for them and the future.
To report a need, please call Craig County DSS at (540) 864-5117.
“I am pleased that we had the restaurant filled with folks who want to make a difference in our community. It was humbling,” McDonald shared. “I am excited about the impact we can make with the Love Thy Neighbor Fund. This is our first step of many to add value to our County!”
“We are thrilled with the overwhelming turnout at the launch of CarePortal in Craig County! It’s evident that our community is not only excited but also deeply committed to the mission of the Love Thy Neighbor Fund,” Labiosa added. “The response highlights the shared belief in the power of community collaboration and the potential that CarePortal holds to create a lasting and positive impact on our county. We look forward to working hand in hand with our local churches, community groups, and volunteers to uplift vulnerable families and foster a network of support that goes beyond immediate assistance, providing lasting change and empowerment.”