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.

 

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.

WHY IS SALT & LIGHT OPENING A CHILDCARE ROOM?

Why is Salt & Light Opening a Childcare Room?

This fall, we’ll be opening a child care room at Salt & Light Urbana, staffed by volunteers, that will offer a safe, fun space for preschool-aged kids to play while parents volunteer, or attend a class or program on site. We’re starting small, with limited hours and resources, but we hope to grow as soon as it’s possible to offer this service during most, or even all, of our open hours. It’s not a community or staff day care; it’s not a preschool. So with such a narrow focus, it seems like a nice “extra” for volunteers, but you might wonder, is it really important?

Everyone knows that raising a child is expensive. This year, the estimated cost of raising a single child born in 2017 is just over $10,000 for expenses related directly to that child’s needs alone. And this figure only represents the costs for kids in a two-parent, two-income household—for single-parent households, child-related costs rise to more like $12,000 annually. This is particularly challenging for single parents, over 80% of whom are mothers, when the typical two-parent household brings in more than three times the income of a single-parent home. As many as 40% of the U.S. households headed by single parents are living in poverty. Many parents and families could use an extra measure of support in providing food, clothes, and all the other things their household needs. A member account at Salt & Light is an opportunity to do just that—but for parents who don’t have or can’t afford safe, reliable child care, volunteering here to earn credit for groceries, diapers, and all the clothes and shoes that kids outgrow so quickly just isn’t a possibility.

Without a child care space, we have always tried to make it possible anyway for parents to come and volunteer by bringing children with them. This has often worked all right as long as little ones are small enough to be held in a sling, or to ride in a grocery cart while a mom or dad is working. However, as soon as they are old enough to take off in their own direction, their active, curious play makes them anything but helpful to accomplishing their parents’ desired tasks. As a result, when parents come with toddlers and preschoolers, we are often required to give them volunteer jobs that allow them to be in an enclosed area, safe for their child to roam without wandering away, but separate and apart from other volunteers. This allows parents to earn the credit that helps support their families financially, but it fails to allow the opportunity to work alongside, talk to, and form relationships with others, which is an enormously important part of the benefit of membership at Salt & Light for everyone, but particularly for parents with young children, for whom isolation from other adults is already a significant issue. Without a safe place for kids to play on their own, parents can be engaged here as providers, but are still extremely limited in their opportunities to spend time with anyone other than their own child.

One of the things I’ve enjoyed about working at Salt & Light is the way that kids have been an integral part of our community, particularly when they have come with their parents like this to volunteer. If you’ve come for a meeting with me in my office, during which we were joined by a preschooler coloring or a toddler demanding to see the bubbles on my screen saver, you know what I mean. But if children are to be truly a part of the Salt & Light family, that means it’s necessary for us to give them the same regard that we aspire to for adults. They deserve to be in a place that is safe, that considers their needs, in which they can be the focus of attention. It’s incumbent on us to think about what will give them dignity and show them respect, and to create an environment that lets them demonstrate their capacity, build their confidence, sharpen their skills. Riding them along in a grocery cart, while it’s sometimes fun and entertaining for us, can never do this in the way they need.

Salt & Light is intended to be a place for everyone, of every age and every ability, to learn and grow. Every person’s presence is an equally important contribution to creating our community, and the community can never be complete unless we make a place for each unique, irreplaceable, individual person. For moms, dads, kids, and all of us, the child care room is one more way we continue to work toward that every day.

To donate, volunteer, or for questions about Salt & Light’s child care room, contact Child Care Coordinator Dorinda Prince at dorinda@saltandlightministry.org.

 

Why Should You Attend Financial Peace University?

One of the opportunities we provide to empower our participants and community members is Dave Ramsey’s Financial Peace University.  This nationally acclaimed program gives individuals resources to take control of their finances, work towards being debt free, and the privilege of being generous.  Statistics in America show us:

  • Average Household Income: $56,516
  • Average Household Debt: $187,187 (Mortgages, Student Loans, Auto Loans, Credit Cards)
  • 76% of people live from paycheck to paycheck
  • Average household wastes 24% of their take-home pay on consumer debt.
  • 64% can’t cover a $1000 emergency
  • Money problems are one of the top 3 reasons for marital problems and divorce

FPU has proven to be a game-changer in helping improving people’s financial outlook.  Dave uses conventional wisdom along with Biblical principles to spell out ways to experience freedom in this area of their lives.

  • God wants us to be wise stewards. “Honor the Lord with your possessions and with the first produce of your entire harvest” (Proverbs 3:9).
  • God doesn’t want us to be in debt. “The rich rules over the poor, and the borrower becomes the lender’s slave” (Proverbs 22:7).
  • God wants us to be generous, and to allow our finances to be a part of His plan in the world. “Whoever is generous to the poor lends to the Lord, and he will repay him for his deed” (Proverbs 19:17).
  • God wants us to prosper. “Then the LORD your God will prosper you abundantly in all the work of your hand, in the offspring of your body and in the offspring of your cattle and in the produce of your ground…” (Deuteronomy 30:9).  [*NOTE: “prosperous” doesn’t necessarily mean “rich” and doesn’t only apply to finances]
  • God want us to experience peace. “Do not worry then, saying, ‘What will we eat?’ or ‘What will we drink?’ or ‘What will we wear for clothing?’…For your heavenly Father knows that you need all these things. But seek first His kingdom and His righteousness, and all these things will be added to you” (Matthew 6: 31-33).

Every paid participant will receive an FPU membership kit with the student manual (9 sessions), course CDs, FPU “wallet,” and other valuable money management tools.  Read here to learn more about our next course, starting September 20th. 

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?”

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.