Raejene Schlenke and Love INC blanket the area with church ministries
Profession: Executive director of Love INC
Family: Married to Dave Schlenke for 25 years. She describes him as her "best friend." Their daughter, Christina, 21, recently married Caleb Anderson. She will graduate from UW-Milwaukee in April. Their son, Matt Schlenke, 18, is working full time and attending Mott Community College part time.
Role models: Gary and Peggy Thorne, her good friends.
"Gary took care of Peggy for three years while she battled and lost her fight with brain cancer," Schlenke said. "They both were always in good spirits and never bitter in serving each other. I saw first-hand their dedication and love—to each other and God."
Favorite Psalm or Bible passage: Psalm 119 and Philippians 4:4: "Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice!"
Favorite book other than the Bible: "The Last Lecture," by Randy Pausch.
Hobby: Running marathons and doing stained-glass projects
Volunteer jobs: Day of Compassion in 2008 and 2009
JANESVILLE It's tempting to make a saint out of Raejene Schlenke.
It would be easy to gush about her kindness and the strength of her faith, to put her on a pedestal as an extraordinary human.
But do that, and you've already begun to draw away from the reality of her contributions.
Schlenke, 49, is the executive director of Love In the Name of Christ—Love INC—an organization that serves as a clearinghouse for church ministries, connecting people with services. The organization also creates "gap ministries" to serve needs that are not being met.
Every day, Schlenke looks into the faces of "the least of these" and believes that she is right where God wants her to be.
"God is bigger than all the problems that are out there," she said, and then just smiles.
Her journey to Love INC wasn't an easy one.
She taught at Rock County Christian School and later worked with kids in the after-school programs at Jackson Elementary School in Janesville.
"The kids there really had a lot of needs," Schlenke said. "It put a real burden on my heart."
She thought, "This is where I need to be."
"I kept trying to get a full-time job with the school district, and I was just devastated when I didn't," Schlenke said. "People say that 'God opens a lot of doors.' For me, it's more like God shuts doors."
After the door to teaching closed, Schlenke volunteered to help coordinate the Day of Compassion at her church, New Life Assembly of God. The event offered free haircuts, grocery giveaways, children's games, carnival-style rides and inexpensive concessions.
After two successful years, organizers decided to create a more permanent ministry in the community, one that connects the needy with church resources and looks for gaps in services.
Every day, Schlenke and her staff see and respond to those who have fallen through the cracks or have no resources available to them.
They work on a case-by-case basis, using all their contacts in the churches, social services and other organizations, such as food pantries and homeless shelters.
Their resources are limited, and they can't meet every need that comes through the door.
They always, always offer to pray with people.
Tina Westman, Love INC's clearinghouse coordinator, described Schlenke as "very compassionate but very practical, too."
Schenke's ability to engage local churches has helped keep the organization going, Westman said.
"Obviously, it's God that keeps us going, but she is the vessel that he uses," Westman said. "She wants him to get the glory for everything."
That's the thing about Schlenke: She's an ordinary person who feels the love of God so strongly that she has to respond with love. She would tell you—right to your face and without much provocation—that God loves you, too.
"God is my only source," Schlenke said. "Not the government, not the circumstances I'm in, but God."