Stewarding Your Donations Through Recycling

With a spent Pepsi can in hand, a customer asked, “Do you recycle?”  I quickly responded, “You have no idea.  Yes, we recycle.  I won’t say we have a recycling program; it’s more that we are a recycling program.  Every donation that comes through the door goes through a recycling process.”

All thrift stores recycle to some extent.  Thrift stores give used items a second chance.  Salt & Light is all about this.  We make every effort to move your donations to our sales floor so that someone who needs it has a second chance to get it. 

Honestly though, not every item will make it to the floor.  Donated items compete for limited space.  The best items make it because our customers demand it.  If an unusable item does make it to the floor, it will be rejected by our customers…and eventually pulled from the shelves by our staff.  We have a second secondary route for the following items:    

  • Metal
  • Cardboard
  • Books
  • Purses/belts
  • Household decorations
  • Kitchen Items
  • Clothing
  • Linens

Even if these items can’t be used here, many places around the world can use them for a variety of reasons.  Metal and cardboard can be molded into something else.  Wearables, linens, household items are shipped overseas to be worn or used.  It’s good for our environment, our employees and participants, and makes a more complete use of your donations.

Recycling reduces what we send to the landfill. 

Garbage is a real expense for Salt & Light.  Even with our massive recycling program we spend thousands every month to throw away items that can not be used or recycled.  This has an impact to the ministry.  Dollars spent on garbage removal cannot be spent on education or credit to purchase food. 

Salt & Light redirects 200,000 pounds a month away from the landfill.  That’s over 300 thirty-yard dumpsters a year!  Not only does this have a positive impact on our our environment, but it also saves us over $39,000 a year.

Recycling allows Salt & Light to maximize your donation in this community.

Yes, recycled items are used elsewhere.  I believe that’s a good thing.  We also see a huge benefit here because in addition to cost savings listed above, we generate a substantial income from our recycling program.  These dollars help fund our ministry and keep the lights on.  It is safe to say that Salt & Light would not be able to exist as it does today without these funds.   

Recycling creates jobs.

Geoff Mulgan said, “Recycling is an area where jobs could be created at low cost.  Green collar workers.  That’s not very sexy.”  It’s true on all fronts.  You don’t see it when you walk into the store, or hear a lot about it when we do speaking engagements, but simply operating a recycling a program is beneficial. 

Over 80 staff hours a week are required to run our recycling program.  This does not include the dozens of volunteers who are earning credit, fulfilling their service commitments or simply volunteering their time. This is real income generated that didn’t exist before we expanded.  Your donations create recycling jobs. 

I took the customer’s Pepsi can.  I walked it off the sales floor and in to our back processing area.  I placed it in one of our two 40 yard metal dumpsters.  A metal dumpster that had replaced a plastic tote that we used to collect metal hangers just 4 years ago.  So yes, we recycle.  And it continues to grow.

Thank you for your donations.  We promise to be a good steward of it. 

The Potential of Those in Poverty

Jim Nowlan recently wrote a piece entitled, “Poverty Doesn’t Limit Your Potential.” In this editorial, he provides many examples of successful individuals who broke the cycle of poverty. I’m sure we all know someone who, despite humble beginnings, became successful. James “Cash” Penny comes to mind. J.C. started off far worse than most people on welfare today. His hard work benefited the masses and made him millions. I like these stories.

If all other things were equal, and if poverty was just a matter of insufficient income, as some suggest, I’d have to agree with Mr Nowlan.  Sadly, things are not equal; life is not fair. I believe that there are many contributing factors to poverty. Access to a good education, proper role models, parental involvement, internal motivation, micro-cultural attitudes toward success – it’s these factors and more that threaten a person’s potential, not just a lack of money.

An individual’s potential is limited to their knowledge, skills, expertise, and maturity. The more these areas are hindered, the more likely a person is to be unsuccessful and live a life in poverty. Jim Nowlan gave us anecdotal evidence of those who busted out of that poverty. I like the stories. But they are stories, and simply not the norm. A 2009 study by The National Center for Children in Poverty at Columbia University found exactly that. Those who grow up in poverty are more likely to live in poverty as an adult and the odds increased the longer they lived in poverty as a child. Why? Childhood is a critical time to learn the knowledge, skills, expertise, and the maturity needed for success in adulthood.

Take something as simple as the daily interaction between children and parents. On average, children in a professional family household hear over 2,100 words per hour. A child born into a “working class family” hears 1,200 words per hour while a child living in a welfare family environment may hear only 600 words per hour. The cumulative effect of this is significant. A 10-year-old child growing up in a welfare home will not hear as many words as a 3-year-old whose parents are working professionals. While I reject the idea that one is more advantaged than the other, it’s clear that one has a marked disadvantage.

Many see poverty simply as a lack of income and a solution to the poverty problem is to throw money at it in a variety of ways: welfare, a hand-out from a benevolent church, redistribution of wealth, or even the most recent idea of a universal basic income. I’ll let others debate the validity of these approaches. I have my doubts, and so does history. I will argue that this is not enough. Even if we were able to subsidize every family living today in such a way that they lived above the poverty line, we’d be robbing them, and the rest of us, of their full potential.

What, after all, is potential? When and how is it realized? J.C Penny reached his potential. He not only met and exceeded his physical and financial needs, he also reached the point that he was able to serve others. The potential of those living in true poverty is beyond our imagination. Our investment in them must be more than in dollars. It must be a lifelong walk developing the whole person.

Only in that way we do we ALL reach our full potential.

More Than a Store

More Than a Store

Salt & Light is more than a store. 

Now, you won’t see it when you walk into Salt & Light.  No, when you walk in you will see a store.  We have clothing, shoes, furniture, and households.  There is a changing room in the back.  There are cash registers up front.  We have groceries, fresh produce, frozen items, and awesome sales everyday.  There are dozens of staff and volunteers here to serve you as you make your purchases.  We are a store that’s open for everyone.  That you can clearly see.  And we need you to shop. 

 

Our store is here to serve you.  It’s also here to serve us.  See, at our core we are a ministry.  Our desire is to share God’s love by fighting poverty and it’s damaging harmful effects to individuals, generations, and to society as a whole.  We do this by empowering people with new and fresh opportunities that lead to lasting change.  Our desire is to see people become the people God desires them to be.  They then bring change to their family line and to the community they reside in.  The store is where this happens. 

 

Salt & Light is a training ground.

Poverty is a complex creature and fighting it one must take a multifaceted approach.  One way we do this is by opening up opportunities, like vocational training and education.  The prospect for on the job training here is huge and the possibilities continue to grow!

  • Administration/office
  • Dispatch
  • Clothing processors
  • Retail
  • Grocery
  • Customer service
  • Warehouse
  • Professional internships
  • Merchandising
  • Delivery

In each of these departments one can learn a variety of skills.  Teamwork, problem solving, self management, and computer skills are just a few examples.  Non for profit groups, schools, and even churches have found this to be true and use Salt & Light a safe place to train the people they work with. 

People also come to us on their own initiative seeking help.  We call the people we work with directly “participants” as opposed to “recipients” or “clients.”  Participants fill out and keep their own schedule, they clock in, they work as a team, and they work (really hard).  Our participants gain useful skills and vital self-confidence through daily encouragement.  

Salt & Light restores dignity.

Our participants are called so because they are actively engaged in meeting their own needs.  Participants earn $8.25 in store credit an hour and can earn up to $165 a month.  With that they can choose what food they will put on their table or even which table they are going to put in their home. They provide what they need by their own efforts.  That’s something that many are robbed of in most poverty alleviation efforts.  Though done with the best of intentions, when one in need is handed something without any costs, week after week, it is unintentionally communicated that they have nothing to offer.  We have found that free is actually costly.  It demands the recipient pay with dignity.  We fight poverty with dignity.    

Our participants are meeting their needs.  Their spirit is refreshed as they do so.

We also work with many people who may never find work outside of Salt & Light.  Disabilities limit their job choices.  They don’t lack resources as much as they lack purpose, yet another form of poverty.  Salt & Light meets this need as well.  You can see it in the eyes of “the least of these” when they proudly say, “I work for Salt & Light!”

Salt & Light is a community. 

When you walk into our store, you might not see at first glance that we are more than a store.  But if you listen, you might hear it:  “This is my home away from home.” 

I’ve never heard, “This is my happy place…” at a big box retail store.  Here at Salt & Light, if I’ve heard it once, I’ve heard it a thousand times – “this is my family.”  This truly is a place where community happens and not just for our participants.  Customers, donors, staff, and volunteers have found this place to be their place.  Why?  At our core, if we are anything, we are relational. 

We have found that lasting change happens at the relational level.  According to Dr. Thomas Sowell, isolation is a major contributing factor to the poverty problem.  People in poverty lack strong social networks and/or they don’t have the same access to knowledge or methodologies that other “successful” groups have.  Doing life together opens up a new world with new possibilities. 

More simple than that, people are more open to help a friend than they are a stranger.  You might not cross a street for a stranger…you’ll move mountains for a friend.  And, yes, even a struggling person needs to trust the one who is trying to help.  A cold handout won’t change the world.  Love will.  We are relational.   

And that’s what makes this place unique. 

Jesus said it: “By this everyone will know you are my disciples, if you love one another.”  You Can’t buy that in a store. He can’t merchandise that. You can’t even teach that in customer service. And that’s why we are not just a store.  We are Salt & Light.