The story of Love Fort Wayne began with an event, The Global Leadership Summit, that was brought to Blackhawk Ministries in 2003. The Global Leadership Summit, a 2-day event being simulcast from Willow Creek Association (now known at The Global Leadership Network), growing and empowering leaders in the Church. Kelly Byrd, leading the charge at Blackhawk had the vision to incorporate our business leaders in the mix. We realized that there were many in our community that did not have the funding to be able to attend the 2-day event. Kelly called on local corporate leaders to partner with us to match funds that we would raise to start a scholarship fund to allow leaders with financial restrictions to be able to attend.
The Summit at Blackhawk would grow from 200 leaders to around 500-600 leaders in the 10 years they hosted the Summit. After the 2012 Summit, two local leaders came to Kelly and asked if Blackhawk had ever considered moving the Summit out of the four walls of the church. We had actually considered it, but it was too much of a financial stretch for the church. These two leaders offered to pick up the costs of moving it to the Grand Wayne Center. In 2013, we had our first Summit at the Grand Wayne. We saw our Summit numbers double each year from 2013 – 2017. The Summit became and still is the place to be in August in Fort Wayne.
In 2014 Kelly felt God calling him to a move from pastoring, to Leadership Development. He left Blackhawk Ministries and joined the Sweetwater Sound team. With the blessing of Blackhawk Ministries, Kelly took the Summit with him and Chuck Surack welcomed the opportunity. Kelly brought with him Sherri Miller who brought her gifts of fundraising and business practices and Lori Whitman who brought her gifts of event management and Summit history.
With obtaining partners, which included financial assistance from these partners. It quickly became apparent that a 501c3 was needed and GLS & Beyond was birthed.
In the Fall of 2014, GLS & Beyond Board of Directors was formed with Sherri Miller as board chair. It was created with 2 objectives:
- Fort Wayne Leaders / The Global Leadership Summit
- Between the Summits
As the years progressed; 2018 God brought to us the leading of a City-Wide Prayer Gathering looking at how we are to be deeper involved in the restoration of our community – allowing every man, woman and child to hear the Gospel.
In 2020, we hired Jeri Purdy as an Executive Director. Jeri’s first action was to help GLS & Beyond in their branding and moved GLS & Beyond to Love Fort Wayne as the “brand” with the focus being a city-wide movement to engage the 4 pillars of a flourishing society–education, families, faith, and work.