At Salt & Light, every day, our mission is sharing the love of God by fighting poverty, with opportunities that empower people for lasting change. This means that a daily part of our work consists of building a system of opportunity for those in need in our community. There are many possible ways of building systems of equality, reciprocity, and opportunity, but the one we have chosen is a retail-based community-development model—non-profit grocery and thrift stores. Our stores are meant to be an open model; we serve the entire community, which makes this a big undertaking! As a donation-supported non-profit with limited financial resources, we rely every day on the efforts of volunteers.
Running our stores is a lot of hard work. Each day there are groceries to be stocked and shelved, and donations to be priced and processed. Customers need helped, messes need cleaned, phones need answered, data needs processed, and trucks need unloaded. Each week, over 100 pieces of furniture and around 40,000 pounds of recyclable clothing move through our stores. Volunteers are the fuel that makes all this happen. While our amazing, dedicated staff works hard each day to make Salt & Light the best it can be, we literally could not operate for a single day without the efforts of community volunteers who come through our doors to sort, stack, stock, stage, and sacrifice their time to make Champaign-Urbana a better place. Their work makes opportunity possible for people in poverty to have their needs met with dignity and grace.
However, working toward a mission like that—sharing the love of God—can’t be done solely by accomplishing tasks. Our primary way of sharing God’s love, fighting poverty, and supporting lasting change, is through building relationships with the people who come through our doors. Even if every task involved in running the store accomplished itself by magic, it would not be possible to build a community of love, equality, and opportunity without the time and presence of volunteers. Community can only be built as we all labor side by side in the pursuit of a shared cause; every volunteer who works with us here at Salt & Light not only blesses us with the results of their work, but makes us richer and stronger with the gift of their presence. There’s no substitute for the role that volunteers play in making Salt & Light what it is—and if you haven’t experienced it, we hope you will. There is always room for one more.