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.

 

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.

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.

4 WAYS SALT & LIGHT PARTNERS WITH CHURCHES

4 Ways Salt & Light Partners with Churches

Our mission here at Salt & Light is sharing the love of God by fighting poverty with opportunities that empower people for lasting change. As we work to accomplish this mission every day, we partner together with many groups, individuals, and organizations in the community, and some of our most important partnerships are with churches.

A partnership, by definition, is an arrangement in which both parties make a contribution, and both parties reap the benefits. As churches enter into partnership with Salt & Light, the contributions they make are often easy to identify—financial support, material donations, and volunteer service—and these have clear benefits for the organization. But it’s often less clear what contribution Salt & Light is making in these partnerships that would help to benefit churches as they fulfill their own mission. Here are four important ways that Salt & Light wants to partner with your church in the shared work of Kingdom-building in our community.

Salt & Light can help the people of your church:

  • develop spiritually healthy attitudes toward material wealth, poverty, and possessions. Our culture views poverty as the simple lack of material things. For people of faith, a close study of the Scripture paints a picture of poverty as much more than a solely material affair. Poverty of status, poverty of relationship, poverty of being, are all treated as an equal part of true poverty in the eyes of God. In their book “When Helping Hurts”, Steve Corbett and Brian Fikkert paint a picture of poverty as a brokenness that can apply to any of our foundational relationships with God, others, ourselves, or our possessions. Author Bryant Myers describes it as “the absence of shalom in all its meanings.” Working together with our participants at Salt & Light, truly getting to know those who lack material resources, helps bring a real-life understanding of the way those resources fail to define our true poverty or wealth. With this understanding, we can know that our material possessions can never truly make us rich. Therefore, having them or losing them isn’t of primary importance in our lives. Mutuality and generosity become more important. We can understand that fighting poverty means more than just helping others accumulate money. We can hold what we own more loosely. We can walk away from the need to control others in the area of their material possessions, or value them based on their material wealth.
  • develop a spiritually healthy view of themselves. If poverty is actually something we experience in all areas of life, and not just a material lack, then poverty is something we all experience. All of us carry some degree of brokenness—none of us are in the place of fullness that God intends for us. Understanding the true role of material possessions in determining wealth and poverty will not only help prevent us from undervaluing others based on their material lack, it will also help prevent us from overvaluing ourselves based on our material abundance. Our financial gifts and material donations are important and helpful contributions, but as we volunteer and shop alongside others in Salt & Light’s buildings, we’ll see many others who are making contributions just as valuable, with their time, ability, wisdom, joy, and the sacrificial giving of the limited resources they have. We’ll begin to understand that it’s not our gifts that cause lasting life change in others, but the opportunities they help to create for others to use their gifts as well.
  • develop spiritually healthy relationships with others. No one wants to be someone else’s project. But if poverty is something we are all experiencing, then the path to abundance—material, relational, and spiritual—is something we are all walking together. The ability to grow and learn from each other in relationship is most effective when it is mutual—when each person knows that they are accepted by the other as they are, as equals, who both have something to contribute and something to learn. Salt & Light’s model is built for community participation on equal footing; it is a not a system that requires impoverished recipients and wealthy benefactors. Every person in your church who gets involved here will be part of a system in which everyone is making a contribution that is equally valued, as they shop, volunteer, and share. This means everyone is also a recipient of all the benefits of the relationships, learning, and community that are built here.
  • develop a spiritually mature understanding of the gospel. The message of the gospel is the message of reconciliation—of coming into right relationship. God wants to bring us into right relationship with him, and as a result, into right relationships with others, with ourselves, and with material creation. As believers in Christ, we’ve been made ambassadors of the Kingdom, but to effectively fulfill that responsibility, we must understand the nature of our message. The good news of the gospel is that we are all poor and broken, and we are invited into a Kingdom that is offered only to the poor. Through our work here at Salt & Light, we are able to see ourselves as all equally broken, all equally impoverished, but all equally loved, chosen, and sought after by God. The practical ways that we work together here to create opportunity, sharpen skills, build community, and meet needs, are all ways that we move together toward that reconciliation in all areas, as we learn to more fully live out the heart of the gospel.

The staff at Salt & Light works with churches to do small group presentations, tours, special events and projects, monthly engagement, and even sermon series that can support your congregation’s work in these areas of discipleship, generosity, and spiritual growth. We would love to talk with you further about opportunities to partner with your church.

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.