Niles nonprofit seeks to spread love through mission

NILES — Rain and cool temperatures did not dampen the spirits of those working to get food boxes to those in need at Spero House on Saturday.

Spero House, “spero” being the Greek word for hope, is located at 24 N. Fourth Street. The Christian nonprofit charitable organization was filled with boxes of food ready to go out the door on at 2 p.m. on Saturday. The organization is adapting its mission to the community’s needs and began that mission with addressing hunger.

New to Niles, Spero House was on a mission Saturday to help those without access to food. The Spero House Niles COVID-19 Relief Event lasted three hours, with a drive-up location stationed right outside the door. Normally, the volunteers and workers would want to be welcoming those in need inside, but on Saturday, they brought the aid out to those arriving.

Volunteers set up a tent outside the door to hand off food boxes from those inside to those outside before running to the goods to people arriving. The boxes, filled with non-perishable food items, were accompanied by a packet of information from Spero House that included low-cost recipes, free and low-cost family night ideas, marriage advice for “date nights” through quarantine, and a sheet of contact information for resources ranging from clothing, to addictions counseling to handling an eviction notice. By the end of the event, most of the boxes had been given out, with a handful remaining that Spero House’s founder John Lee hopes to use in other ways like potential bagged lunches.

Lee sat in the establishment on Monday and reflected on the mission he hopes Spero House will fulfill. The organization does not aspire to fill the need of a food bank, despite launching with a food pickup. Lee recognized that those resources already exist in Niles.

Lee hopes to feed another need in the area.

“I believe there are a lot of people that don’t think that they’re lovable,” Lee said. “I want to be a part of changing that. I think when somebody feels loved, they just thrive in life. I think that’s the fire I’m camping around.”

Lee and his teammates’ vision is that when it is safe to open Spero House’s doors to the public, they will host a coffee and bagels event on Tuesdays and Thursdays. This will allow people to come in and connect with Lee and others.

“I think we have a good team in place, a very diverse team,” Lee said. “I’m trying to back off and let their visions come alive in the whole thing while protecting the main heart of it: helping the struggler. Spero House means hope house, a shelter from the storm.”

Lee wants to establish the wall visible upon entering Spero House as a quick resource center where he can easily connect others to established supports in the Niles community. He also wants to take the time to listen.

“We need someone to hear their story. That’s where my heart is,” Lee said.

Lee and his wife moved to the Niles area after years of residing in the South Bend area.

After meeting at Bethel University where they both attended, the pair stayed local after getting. married. Lee is no stranger to ministry — he has worked as a youth pastor and been involved in church leadership.

They both felt called to the Niles area.

Lee knew Niles was the place for Spero House when driving through downtown. He realized that he recognized it as home. He hopes that the nonprofit can continue through and after COVID-19 to rise to meet the community’s changing needs as its offerings adapt.


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