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WHY S ACCESS TO TECHNOLOGY SO IMPORTANT?

Why Is Access To Technology So Important?

Among the greatest advances in technology in the last quarter century, the personal computer and the Internet would be near the top of that list. Imagine the panic, anxiety, and chaos that would occur if the web were to go down for an even an hour.

But for 25% of the population with the lowest income, the interruption would be barely noticeable.  Updated computers, tablets, smartphones are luxuries, much less actual broadband online access. 

Why should internet disparity be a concern?  Because it may actually play a role in keeping poor people poor by cutting off access to:

  • Government benefits and services.
  • Employment pathways. 80% of Fortune 500 companies, including Target and Walmart, only accept job applications online. 
  • Educational opportunities and resources. More and more schools are assigning homework that requires internet usage.  Research show us that students who have Internet access have graduation rates 6-8% higher than those who don’t.
  • Comparison shopping in order to find cheaper products, services, and rates. Consumers can save almost $8,000/year finding discounts on essentials like apartment rentals, clothes, gasoline and food.
  • Time saving online tools which frees up time for other activities.
  • Sources of knowledge and information for research, medical advice, day-to-day repairs, etc.
  • Relationships and even employment can be enhanced by social media.
  • Productivity and developing skills useful for the marketplace.

Our Technology Center at Salt & Light will make these invaluable resources available to our participants and neighbors.  We hope it becomes a place of collaboration sparking creativity, innovation, and imagination.

Instruction will be available in basic word processing, how to utilize the web, internet security, social media, and other essential computer usage.  Lab monitors will be on hand to assist with need that may arise.

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.

Volunteer Spotlight – Meet Dennis Rose

volunteer spotlightDennis has been a valuable member of our volunteer team for almost two years!  He has worked in both locations and currently helps keep our grocery shelves organized.  But Dennis’s biggest role is that of friend.  He greets everyone as if they have known each other for years and makes each person that walks through our doors feel welcomed and important.

Dennis says he loves being the “clown” of the team and particularly loves working with Nicolas (Grocery Manager) and Mike (Retail Director).  According to Dennis, “Salt & Light is my big family.”  We are grateful for Dennis’s heart and contribution to our ministry.

5 WAYS TO SUPPORT SALT & LIGHT TODAY

5 Ways to Support Salt & Light Today

  1. SHOP.  Both locations are open to everyone in the community.  When you shop in our stores, you are not taking anything away from people in need.  100% of sale proceeds help us buy our food, run our store, and offer the member credit that lets financially struggling people shop in our stores right alongside you.
  2. DONATE GOODS. We rely on your generosity in order to stock our thrift areas.  Both locations have a donation drive-thru for your convenience and are open during all business hours.  Volunteers will happily help you unload your car and offer you a tax receipt.
  3. DONATE FINANCIALLY.  Our goal is to become self-sustaining but we are not there yet.  Sales from our grocery and thrift areas are growing but so are the needs of our community.  We desire to give each person that wants to become a credit-earning member a chance to do so.  We need your financial support so that we can continue to offer meaningful opportunities to our participants.
  4. VOLUNTEER.  One of the more difficult assets to sacrifice is our time. But we would not make it without our amazing community partners who come in groups or individually on a regular basis simply to give back.  Volunteering side by side with our participants and building relationships with them is a priceless investment. Whether you’re interested in helping with a single event or serving on a regular basis, give us a call and we will find the right place for you!
  5. PRAY. Ministry is difficult, messy, beautiful, and sacred.  Your prayers are needed and felt by our staff, volunteers, and participants.
the real question of poverty

The Real Question of Poverty

 

Lately, I’ve been doing a lot of thinking about poverty.  It seems like there is ongoing controversy about what can be done to help those in poverty.  Although lots of people from all kinds of different philosophical and religious backgrounds feel it’s important to help the poor, and all are approaching the issue with good intentions, just as with most things that are truly important, there are strong disagreements regarding how to go about it.  I don’t mean to minimize the efforts of all those who are working hard and often making great sacrifices to do what they feel is in the best interests of America’s poor, but I wonder how often we are jumping the gun by debating the question of methodology before answering a much more important question.  I think that before we can truly know anything about how to help those in poverty, we first have to ask, exactly what is poverty?

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.