How Your Dollars and Cents Help Salt & Light Make Change

The changes we have undergone at Salt & Light have drawn a ton of attention because of our unique approach to access to basic to resources like food and clothing. For many, our developmental model is all they need to know to believe in supporting our work. The fact we are creating jobs while building towards a self-sustainable model through people shopping in our grocery and thrift stores is icing on the cake.

As more and more people learn how shopping in our stores help to support the programs and services at Salt & Light, our challenge is the community thinking we no longer need their financial contributions. While our one-of-a-kind model is treading into uncharted territory for a nonprofit by finding ever-increasing levels of self-sustainability, it is important for us to communicate that we aren’t there yet.

Our annual budget is approximately $2.75 million. Based on our current sales projections, about 85% of that will be funded by people in the community shopping in our grocery and thrift stores. While it is unheard of for a nonprofit to realize this kind of self-sufficiency, it leaves about 15% ($412,000) we still need to raise from financial contributions.

Certainly, we should celebrate and shout from the rooftops this social entrepreneurial model for what it is becoming, but we have to be careful we’re not so loud people can’t hear our need for help.

We anticipate the contributions made will primarily go to cover the store credit our participants earn, with proceeds from grocery and thrift sales used to cover the cost of operations. In the first eight months of this year alone, our participants have earned and spent over $230K in store credit, with 75% of that being used to buy groceries.

These aren’t people standing in line waiting to be handed a pre-selected bag of groceries. They are working as part of a community and experiencing the fruits of their labor as a result. This was made possible through giving, but also through people shopping in our grocery and thrift stores—where buying groceries for your family actually helps someone else to feed theirs.

Historically, we have been an organization funded through the support of a community deeply concerned with helping those in need. Whether it’s $10 or $100 a month, we need people who want to see lives transformed, believe in our model, and want to see us continue to grow something I believe will transform how communities across the country engage poverty.

In order for this kind of transformation to take place a person first must believe they are capable. They have to begin to see themselves as someone of value and worth with something to offer. This kind of life change was recently touched on by one of our participants while watching a video we shared discussing our capital campaign:

“I’m crying right now because Salt & Light has literally given me back my self esteem. I want everyone in our community to realize that those who were broken are getting healed through helping others.”

As simple as this may seem, for someone who has spent much of their life feeling marginalized—often treated as though they have nothing of value to contribute—this is a monumental first step.

If you want to be a part of bringing help and hope to people in our community, click here to find out how you can help.

 

3 WYAS BUYIN GROCERIES AT SALT & LIGHT WILL TRANSFORM YOUR COMMUNITY

3 Ways Buying Groceries at Salt & Light Will Transform Your Community

It’s a common misconception that Salt & Light’s grocery and thrift store is not open to the public. We often find people think either 1) Our store is only for those in need, or 2) If they shop in our store they are taking things from people in need.

Both of these could not be further from the truth.

In fact, without people shopping in our store our model simply will not work. We need at least 400 families to buy half of their groceries at Salt & Light to make it all work. In a community our size this is certainly not an insurmountable number.

Our store is stocked with a mix of name brand and generic options like you would find at most of the stores in our community. This inventory is continually replenished just like at any other store, so no need to fear items not being available for our participants earning credit.

Here are three ways buying your groceries at Salt & Light not only helps, but also will actually transform our community:

  1. You help those in need.

In addition to our educational programming, your purchases help to fund the store credit participants earn when they work/volunteer at Salt & Light. When participants volunteer they earn store credit they can spend in our grocery and thrift store to acquire the resources their family needs. Our one of a kind program provides access to basic needs like food, clothing, and household items in a model that reinforces the capacity of the individual while affirming their dignity in the process. By shopping at Salt & Light you make this possible.

  1. You increase the economic impact of your shopping.

Several studies have shown that when you buy from an independent, locally owned business, rather than a nationally owned business, significantly more of your money is used to make purchases from other local businesses, services providers, and farms – further strengthening the economic base of the whole community.

This is certainly true at Salt & Light. We purchase as much as we possibly can from locally owned businesses, and even source an ever-growing amount of our produce from local farmers. This is something the superstores and big box groceries simply don’t do.

  1. You invest in our community.

Unlike the superstores and big box groceries, Salt & Light is heavily invested in our community. Every level of leadership at Salt & Light is made up of people who live in the community—people who have a vested interest in working everyday to help make it a better place for everyone to live. Because we are your friends and neighbors we understand the community, and care deeply about how the decisions we make impact it.

Our vision is to see every person growing their God-given potential. It’s not about profits for us. It’s about empowering people to realize the fullness of who it is they were created to be, and in the process affecting lasting change their lives that not only changes their situation, but also transforms our community.

 

The bottom line is you have a choice where you buy your groceries. The question is,

“Will your choice only feed your family or will it also help someone in need to feed theirs?”

what really matters

What Really Matters?

In Matthew 22, we find this interaction between Jesus and the Pharisees:

34But when the Pharisees heard that he had silenced the Sadducees, they gathered together. 35And one of them, a lawyer, asked him a question to test him. 36“Teacher, which is the great commandment in the Law?” 37And he said to him, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. 38This is the great and first commandment. 39 And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. 40On these two commandments depend all the Law and the Prophets.”

While most of us in the church are very familiar with this passage, our application of it can vary wildly—especially the part about loving your neighbor as yourself. Certainly, there is plenty of latitude here for a broad range of applications; however, I fear the diversity of application has less to do with theological interpretation than it does our desire to make it fit our personal conveniences.

To love someone like Jesus is talking about requires action, and not a passive when it’s convenient for me kind of action, but a relentless till it hurts kind of action. It is one thing to wax eloquently about our convictions on Sunday morning, but an entirely different thing to not only be inconvenienced by them, but actually sacrifice something on their behalf.

We serve a God who sacrificed everything. Who loved us so much, He sent His son to die. If our love costs us only marginally, how deeply can it possibly run?

Hunger isn’t What You’ve Been Told it is Part 2

salt and light ministries Urbana, IL

hungry          adjective / hun·gry / ˈhəŋ-grē

  1. a: feeling an uneasy or painful sensation from lack of food: feeling hunger (merriam-webster.com)

In Part 1 I revealed the misleading marketing used by those benefiting from the
hunger mythology, and how that marketing has influenced misperceptions of the realities of hunger in the U.S. These misperceptions have prevented the public from
1) understanding the real problem our communities are facing, and therefore, 2) fairly evaluating the efficacy of the programs we have employed to address it.

At a minimum, this misleading marketing is a serious breach of the public’s trust,
and more seriously, it is a disservice to the individuals who struggle to meet this basic need.

In the ten years Salt & Light operated as a typical food pantry what I came to realize was the majority of individuals standing in our food pantry line were not facing crisis situations requiring emergency relief. Instead, they were more often in a state of chronic need—which required a more developmental solution. Something else I learned through my own experiences was that if you intervene in a chronic situation with an emergency intervention (giving stuff) you develop dependency and create entitlement. Period. More importantly, one-way giving models to address chronic need diminish and disempower the very people they are trying to help.

So what are we to do?

Many people are struggling to meet their basic needs. Many people do need support, sometimes significantly, if they are to affect lasting change in their lives. The question isn’t whether or not people need help; the question is, “What is the best way to help?”

The reality of poverty is that it is very complex. For every family we encounter at
Salt & Light there are multiple factors contributing to their material poverty. From systemic injustices to personal choices, no two situations are exactly alike, so no one solution is going to “fix” it. Therein lies the problem. Not only are the programs we have employed to address poverty generally unhealthy, they do not allow for individualizing our response. An emergency room where every patient was treated as though they suffered from the same ailment would be unfathomable, yet that is exactly how we have approached poverty alleviation—and the results have been devastating.

Hunger isn’t What You’ve Been Told it is: Part 1

Salt and Light Ministries Champaign, IL

hungry          adjective / hun·gry / ˈhəŋ-grē

  1. a: feeling an uneasy or painful sensation from lack of food: feeling hunger (merriam-webster.com)

You have probably seen countless commercials, billboards, and advertisements lamenting the number of people suffering from hunger in the U.S., and if you’re like me you have felt some degree of shock, outrage and responsibility to do something about it.

The problem is, the messaging simply isn’t true.

Before you read any more I want you to picture all of the images that come to mind as a result of the advertisements and “public service” announcements you see and hear regarding hunger in the U.S. At the end of this article I want you to compare these marketing-induced images with the realities of the majority of those standing in our food pantry lines. When you have done this, you can decide for yourself whether we are being misled.