Why People of All Abilities Volunteer at Salt & Light

Why People of All Abilities Volunteer at Salt & Light

If you ever volunteered or visited at Salt & Light during the years we were an emergency food pantry, you would have found many people with various types of disabilities standing in line for food. This is a reflection of the face of America’s poor. Only around 30% of the people living in poverty in our country are considered able-bodied, fully employable people who are searching for work. The other 70%, while it also includes children, the elderly, and others, is comprised of a significant number of people who are considered disabled and unable to be employed.

In the United States, people who have a documented disability can qualify for permanent disability benefits and receive an income from government support systems. But the disability system, like many others, has drawbacks. The income received is usually barely sufficient for survival, and then only when used in combination with other benefit programs. And if recipients find a way to bring in any additional household income, benefits are cut in response, resulting in no net financial gain—in fact, people often experience a significant financial loss in this situation, since not only disability income can be cut, but other benefits the person was receiving will be decreased as well as a result of any new income.

When we began our system of member credit at Salt & Light in 2014, the first explanation of our system of volunteering to prospective members was often met with the answer, “Oh, I can’t do anything—I’m on disability!” I lost count of the number of times we heard the phrase “I can’t do anything”, almost always said with genuine fear and distress. The fear created by these systems is obvious and understandable, when people are confronted with the thought of doing anything that could jeopardize their survival, or cut a family off from their only systems of support. The other, less obvious effect is the communication of the message that disability means you are not able to do anything, especially not anything that will make a meaningful contribution, either to change your own situation, or to benefit others.

Now that we are no longer operating as an emergency relief organization but instead are a development-oriented community model, one of the main ideas underlying what we do is that every human being has skills, talents, gifts, and abilities given to them by God. There are no exceptions—disability is not a dis-qualifier. In other words, every human, no matter their age or ability, has some important contribution to make to the world, and everyone’s contribution is equally needed and equally valuable. As a result, there is a place for everyone at Salt & Light.

For our members, volunteering here earns store credit that supplements their household income without threatening their systems of support, so we can allow people to help themselves and their families without fear. But even more importantly, we are putting the lie to the message that any disability makes a person incapable of contributing meaningfully to the world. We are often thanked for the opportunity to earn the credit that helps many families move from surviving to thriving, but most often, we are thanked for the opportunity to work. Among our members and volunteers, you will find people with wheelchairs and walkers, oxygen tanks, canes, hearing aids, and a variety of other assistive devices. Our Salt & Light family includes those who are recovering from stroke or head injury, who live with autism, blindness, PTSD, traumatic brain injury, and the list goes on, with many other physical, developmental, and cognitive delays and disorders. These are the people who run our stores every day. Alongside their friends, neighbors and community members, they bag groceries, stock shelves, sort donations, answer phones, manage data, greet customers, and welcome donors. We could not operate a single day without their efforts. No one’s work is more important or more valuable than another’s. Each person’s unique gifts, smile, struggle, heart, are what come together to create the place that makes our work possible. We would not be Salt & Light without each one of them.

So why does this matter to you as a customer in our stores, or a donor in our drive-thrus? There are two reasons. The first is that the expectations for what you encounter in our stores should be a little different than those in other retail settings. As you drop off your donations or browse through the clothing racks, you’ll notice that our team is made up of this beautiful, wide, diverse array of people. As a result, our environment is saturated with grace, because sometimes we need it. Sometimes we operate at a slower pace; sometimes our social interactions are a little awkward; sometimes we need a little help. But also, all the time, we are grateful. We are appreciative. We are happy to be here. This grace is what makes our stores a happy place. In our buildings, you’ll find more patience, more weirdness, more acceptance, and more joy.

The truth is, everyone sometimes moves a little more slowly. Everyone has bad days, limitations, weaknesses, quirks. Everyone needs help. And that’s the second reason why all this is important for you. The grace that is present for our volunteers and members is available to everyone, and that means you too—there are no exceptions. The contribution you make with your presence is equally valuable, equally needed; you will be equally accepted and equally loved. There is a place for everyone at Salt & Light.

faithfully standing in prayer for our community

Faithfully Standing in Prayer for Our Community

Violent crime is nothing new to our twin cities, here in central Illinois, especially the last 5 years. While we may grow calloused to being bombarded constantly with news reports of tragedy, it hits a nerve when a child or teenager is struck down as was the case recently.  As people try to solve issues on the political level, what is the spiritual role and responsibility of the Church?

Throughout history, God’s people have had a habit of getting off track.  In those moments, He sought to raise up a servant with a prophetic voice to return them to their proper place to fulfill their purpose.  We see Ezekiel as one of those people charged to call the Israelites to attention: “I looked for someone who might rebuild the wall of righteousness that guards the land. I searched for someone to stand in the gap in the wall so I wouldn’t have to destroy the land, BUT I FOUND NO ONE” (22:30)

In those days, cities needed to be defended.  If there were no natural defenses they built walls, sometimes 15’-25’ thick and 25’ high.  Walls were an indication of a city’s strength and ability to fend off attacks.  Atop these walls were watchmen constantly scanning the horizon who would warn of impending danger.  They were the first line of defense.  But due to corruption and wickedness in Judah, no one was found to fulfill this crucial role.  They weren’t available to perform their duties and failed the people of the city who relied on them.

In the same way, much of the Church has grown worldly and apathetic.  Not only have we failed to diligently stand on the wall, we’ve been negligent in protecting anyone except ourselves.  The WALL is the prayers of the Church lifted up for the people of the city from the weakest to the strongest, youngest to the oldest.  The voices that cry out against moral decay and compromise, leading the way to true repentance, and multitudes seeking after God.  Then we will experience His justice and peace.

God is searching out the courageous who will stand on the wall and fight for their city–against an enemy who is ruthlessly trying to destroy His people.  Individuals, small groups, congregations…all are being called up for active duty to drop to our knees and pray.  Our cities don’t need our programs and one-time events which are ultimately self-serving.  They need us practicing 2 Chronicles 7:14 and Matthew 28:18-20.  Until then, the enemy is free to do what he wants.

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?”