Beacon was an affiliate of Love INC (Love In the Name of Christ), a Christian-based organization that provided a model for using church members to meet the needs of the poor, elderly, families, and children of the community. Under the leadership of Rev. Robert Smith, Senior Pastor of Union United Methodist Church, Belleville IL, a group of church members from throughout the Belleville area were invited to a presentation on Love INC in the Fall of 1993.
In mid-1994, Rev. Smith approached the Ecumenical Laypersons United (ELU), an ecumenical group of laypersons that had been meeting together for several years to discuss religious issues. On October 16, 1994, the first organizational meeting of the combined group was held at Westminster Presbyterian church. Over the next two and one half years, the group met to develop plans for the organization, developed incorporation papers necessary to be registered as a non-profit organization in the state of Illinois, provided briefings to many of the local churches to start gaining support for the endeavor, and began looking for a site from which to operate. Coincidentally, McKendree College had received, through a donation, a building on Main Street, Belleville, which had some office space that could be used and not interfere with the classes they were conducting in the evening. An agreement was signed between McKendree and Beacon that allowed Beacon to open its doors in March 1997. Beacon moved from there to a small office suite in west Belleville, where they operated for more than 10 years.
Deacon Bob Lippert, a founding member of the ELU, became the first Executive Director of Beacon. Mr. Bob Gage, lay member of St. Nicholas Catholic in O’Fallon IL, became the second Executive Director and served for approximately one and one half years. Mr. Ken Bergo, a layman from Faith Lutheran in O’Fallon, later assumed responsibilities for the operation. Ken served a little more than one year until he resigned to pursue other personal goals.
The position of Clearinghouse Coordinator was filled by volunteer personnel during the first nine months of operation, but it became apparent a paid coordinator would be more credible to Beacon’s operations. Arlene England was hired as the first coordinator and served for over two years, rapidly becoming the “voice of Beacon.” Upon her retirement, the Board of Directors hired Maggie Daughtery in 2001. Beacon continued its presence in our community with Maggie’s networking abilities and knowledge of church and social agencies.
Today, Beacon continues to grow. In May of 2009, the Board hired Jade Sodam as Program Director to further promote growth amongst businesses and agencies in our service area. In May 2010, Maggie moved on to federal employment and the Board of Directors named Laurie Brown as the new Clearinghouse Director. In Apr 2011, the Board of Directors named Bill Kniesly as the new Furniture Coordinator. In late 2011, a Visioning Committee began work to bring the focus of Beacon back to creating a deeper connection with our partner churches. Our organization was renamed Beacon Ministries and our revised mission is: Beacon & churches serving those in need. In 2013, Conrad Steinhoff was hired as Executive Director, Laurie Brown retired in 2014, and Dan VandeRiet was hired as Director of Ministries, taking over the furniture ministry, as well as, the former Clearing House Director position. Jade retired in 2014 and Carol Haffner-Meyer was hired as office manager. Conrad retired in 2016.