By Emily Harrington
Most adages I never remember. However, I do occasionally recite to myself (or chide my husband with), “Give a man a fish, and you feed him for a day; show him how to catch fish, and you feed him for a lifetime.”
That common saying seems to be part of the philosophy behind the new giving model adopted at Salt & Light Ministries. At the end of August Salt & Light shut its doors for more than a month. Inside the closed doors, administration and staff were shifting their way of thinking and changing most existing processes for giving.
Jennifer Milazzo, director of development, said the catalyst for change was the hope to see an end to a continuous cycle of poverty—sometimes generations of poverty. Salt & Light sees the same participants come through the doors, waiting in line for hours, getting their food and then coming back. This method sends a message that the participant can’t help themselves.
“Take my help. Hang back in line, take the food and we’ll see you later,” Milazzo said. “It fulfills our own agenda, too, because it feels good for the giver to do that, we feel like we helped.”
This endless cycle is part of a one-way giving model—standard food pantry operation. Salt & Light now performs with a two-way giving model.
“When you do for someone what they have the capacity to do for themselves, you disempower them and strip them of their dignity,” she said. “We believe everyone has gifts, talents and abilities.”
It’s all about using these abilities. And with that, the two-way model is in play. Participants have the opportunity to take computer training, job preparedness and financial literacy courses. Each participant is also encouraged to speak to a volunteer advocate in the hope a supportive relationship will form.
“We don’t want either side to feel like they have more power or less power. We just want the advocate to be a listener or a brainstormer. They aren’t there to fix anybody,” Milazzo said.
Salt & Light always needs volunteers, but specifically female advocates to work with the many women (often single moms) who use Salt & Light. Go to their website for volunteer information.
One of the biggest changes that comes with the two-way model is earning money by volunteering. Participants must volunteer their time at Salt & Light or ANY nonprofit. The volunteer hours are submitted and verified by Salt & Light staff then converted to dollars (roughly equivalent to minimum wage). These dollars can be used at Gleanings Food Co-op or Two Trees Thrift Store. Both the co-op and the new thrift store are located within Salt & Light at 1512 W. Anthony Dr. in Champaign. Just make sure to use the west entrance where you can also find donation bins.
Participants are not the only customers who can shop at Two Trees. Anyone can shop here Monday through Saturday from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. Two Trees sells inexpensive: clothing, shoes, home decor, furniture, linens, toys, blankets and many other donated items. All of the proceeds go back into the ministry, helping the families and individuals served by Salt & Light.
“We are solely dependent on the community for both financial support and the donation of goods that will be sold via Two Trees. Other than beds people can donate any items to Salt & Light,” Milazzo said.
Even with the programming changes, Salt & Light will allow a one-time emergency co-op use for each participant family. The nonprofit continues to be a resource for community disaster relief, too.
Milazzo said the response to the changes has been overwhelmingly positive by staff and participants. This year consider a resolution to do your part in helping end the cycle of poverty. Donation and volunteer needs are endless. Find what opportunity best suits you and your family.
Emily Harrington is a Chambana townie that left her 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. job to be a 24/7 mom to a dreamy son. Still interested in writing, Emily uses some of naptime to practice her passion and keep her mind right. Emily is a happy wife with a happy life because she fell for a fellow townie. Oh, and let’s not forget her other son, a degenerate canine named Heppenheimer.