This year we’ve highlighted a variety of terms connected with poverty and development work. We thought it might be helpful to take a moment and recap what we’ve learned. January highlighted adverse childhood experiences (ACE) which are potentially stressful or traumatic events in childhood, such as abuse or neglect. ACEs impact children’s development, physical health, and ability to form healthy and stable relationships. ACESs are preventable through actions that strengthen economic support to families, promote social norms that protect against violence, connecting youth to caring adults, and more. February covered social capital, or the functioning of social groups through interpersonal relationships, shared sense of identity and understanding, and shared trust and cooperation. Social capital is a positive asset that every community has and can be used to strengthen resources and opportunities. These two terms reflect the different impacts relationships can have on our well-being and way we live and work in society.
In March we discussed housing cost burden, which is when someone spends more than 30% of their income on housing costs. If they spend more than 50% of income, that person is severely cost burdened. This is important in Missouri because of the number of households renting (33.2% of Missouri households) with an average rental cost on a 2-bedroom apartment ranging from $646-953. In April we reviewed asset poverty, or a household’s inability to access wealth resources that are sufficient to provide for basic needs for a period of three months. And then in May we defined living wage as the minimum income necessary for a worker to meet their basic needs (needs include food, housing, and other essentials such as clothing). If we think about the relationship of concepts like housing cost burden, asset poverty, and living wage, we start to uncover the complexities of poverty that make it challenging to overcome.
We hope that through reviewing definitions and concepts, we can start to recognize connections and opportunities to make a difference in our communities.
Founded in 1910 by United Methodist Women, InterServ has been serving the St. Joseph area for 111 years. First as a response to lack of nutrition in immigrants working in packing plants, the women opened a milk pantry which has evolved into the food pantry they have today. They also noticed a lot of women were working in packing plants, so they opened a daycare, which remains today. Staff member, Stacy, says that through the years InterServ has been looked at as an agency able to make change. They can look at the community, see what the need is, and fill the gaps. Along with the food pantry and daycare, InterServ also provides services such as in home and nutrition services for seniors, counseling, budget management, and youth after school programs.
In 2019 we encouraged United Methodist churches in Missouri to bring pieces of fleece to our Annual Conference meeting in Springfield. We had a mountain of fleece by the time the weekend was over. This was such a blessing for the rest of the year. We had a group of youth come in and prep the fleece- align two pieces, trim, roll, and bag them- to go to the Sharefests. At the Sharefests, small groups of people gathered around tables to finish the blankets by cutting and tying the fringe. This project was adored by many as it could be done while sitting down, didn't require heavy lifting, and offered the chance for people to have conversation while they were making something meaningful.
We still have groups and individuals who like making the fleece blankets, and we say go for it! The requests for blankets from agencies usually surpasses what we are able to collect. If you're looking for a relatively easy project you can do at home or in a small group, fleece blankets might be a good option for you. Below are some directions on how to make the blankets. Feel free to send us pictures or tag us on Facebook while you're making one!
This month we’re spotlighting Helping Hands Outreach Center of Gasconade County, located in Owensville. They distribute food three days a week, provide a mobile market monthly, support Backpack Buddies for around 40 students weekly, and host a special Operation Christmas distribution yearly. They accomplish this all entirely with volunteers. Board Vice President, Andrew, says it is rewarding to help people and to see the camaraderie between the volunteers from the area churches. About a year and a half ago they were able to move to a bigger facility with walk in coolers.
Festival of Sharing has participated in the Best Choice Save-a-Label program for many years. The program helps nonprofits raise money by awarding $.03 for each Best Choice UPC label redeemed. This is a great (and easy!) opportunity to support Festival of Sharing from your home all year-long.
Here is how you participate: Buy Best Choice brand products in your local grocery store. Cut the entire UPC barcode label off the packaging. Collect as many as you can! When it is time to turn them in, count them and place them in a Ziploc bag. Please make sure to label on the outside how many you have collected! You can even register your church as an agency to help us get a bonus coupon each year. More information at https://bestchoicebrand.com/save-a-label/.
Once we receive all donations, we will combine them into bundles of 1,000 and send them off for redemption. The money earned is used towards hunger projects throughout the year.
February is often revered as the month of love. Jesus poured out his love for us and in turn we show His love to the world through our words and actions. We thought this would be a great month to highlight our Backpacks of Love and their accompanying blankets. Our backpacks are a small token of love that we put together for children around Missouri who might be in a situation where they can’t access their belongings or need a few basic necessities.
It all starts with a backpack. Did you ever get to pick out your school bag at the beginning of the year? That feeling of excitement in getting to decide what color or design you would sport that year is the same excitement you can spark in a child by giving them a bag that can belong to just them. Once you have picked out the perfect backpack, you get to pick out the matching contents for inside. If you are planning to do a young boy’s backpack, you would get a children’s medium t-shirt, a small pair of socks, and 3 pair of small or medium underpants (ones with cartoon characters are always fun!). Then you can add a small stuffed animal/toy, like a dinosaur, a child sized toothbrush and flavored toothpaste, and finally a narrow tooth comb.
We know these items can add up quick, so it is never a problem to visit a good sale or clearance rack. We have even found backpacks at Wal-Mart for about $5 after all the hustle and bustle of back-to-school time. We do appreciate when the items are new and unused as it shows we care about the child’s comfort and dignity.
Once your backpack is stuffed, you can send it to a Sharefest event. After all the events, a group will come help us sort them by size and gender. At that time we will add the blanket of love. These are traditionally handmade blankets that are about 36x45 inches in size. It is always fun to find a blanket to match the theme or colors of the backpack!
After the backpacks are all sorted and counted, they get distributed to agencies such as the Columbia Foster and Adoption Program, Great Circle, God’s Helping Hands (STL), and various CASA programs across the state. The agency representatives who pick them up are always so grateful for the gifts and excited to share them with the children they serve. This reminds us how important it is to share God’s love with children in our communities.
Located in Brunswick, MO
Established by the Ministerial Alliance, the Chariton County Cupboard aims to help relieve hunger and other basic needs to people in the county and surrounding area. Their services have remained active throughout the pandemic as they were able to make adjustments such as requiring masks and limiting the number of clients at one time. They’ve even had a few extra sets of hands from the Missouri National Guard to assist with loading vehicles on distribution days, which they are thankful for. They really appreciate the student dental packs they receive from Festival!
A leisurely drive down Highway 24 can provide beautiful rural scenery and a variety of agriculture. As you reach the communities of Waverly or Lexington you may notice several fruit orchards lining the highway. This area of land, just south of the Missouri River, is favorable for growing fruit such as apples and peaches. As you drive by the rows of trees, you might start to wish you had a glass of cider or a warm apple pie to enjoy. You might be able to fulfill your fall desires at one of the roadside stands or shops.
To have the fresh produce, of course, land, trees, and equipment are needed. Workers are also needed to pick, wash, sort, and pack the fruit. Some of the larger apple orchards in this area depend on the labor of migrant and seasonal farmworkers to prepare the fruit for consumers. Each July, a few hundred workers travel to the Lexington area to begin work in the apple orchards and will stay until the season winds down in late October. The Migrant Farmworkers Assistance Fund (MFAF) in Lexington has been serving and empowering these workers for over 36 years and has been a long-time partner of Festival of Sharing. Items such as rice, hygiene kits, and this year, blankets, are important resources for the workers who must travel lightly and have limited access to transportation.
The MFAF staff greet the farmworkers upon arrival and work with them to determine eligibility for public benefits, arrange medical and dental services, and complete school enrollment forms for children. These services, along with others such as food distributions, preschool, medical case management, youth leadership opportunities, and more, are offered throughout the season. Some resources are maintained year-round for the farmworkers who settle in the area.
Suzanne Gladney, immigration attorney, founded MFAF in 1984 when she discovered that many of her clients in the area experienced needs beyond immigration applications. Rural residents already face difficulty in accessing healthcare and educational resources, but the challenges compound when there are language and transportation barriers. "The workers and families are far away from their home, in areas of poor internet and cell service to connect with friends and family, working long days and weeks through the harvest, living in isolated labor camps .... and they are cheerful, grateful and easy to serve," shares Suzanne.
There are many ways to support the MFAF. You can send monetary and physical donations of food or clothing, but I would encourage you to take a step further. To learn and grow and become relational. To do as the great social justice leader, Bryan Stevenson, encourages: get proximate. Suzanne and the MFAF staff are welcoming of visitors who are interested in building relationships with the farmworkers and their families. You can gather a small group of friends and help at one of their food distributions (currently in a drive-thru format) or go with the staff to the orchards on a weeknight to visit and play games with the families. You can lead a women’s activity group on topics of cooking or crafting. The opportunities for connection, which can open the door to understanding, are there and ripe for the picking.
To find out more about the MFAF, visit http://www.migrantfarmworkersaf.org/.
Until we can visit again, I would like to encourage us all to keep the women in the WERDCC, and individuals incarcerated across the state, in our prayers. Pray that God is with them during their joys and concerns. That they feel comfort and love from their support network and that the facilities and staff can stay safe and healthy. May they still join in the awe and wonder of Jesus’ birth during this season.
We will be making a delivery of about 230 women’s hygiene kits to the WERDCC in early December. These kits will not support all 2,076 women who are housed there, but they can provide some relief and comfort to the women who may not have as many resources. There is a little store inside the WERDCC with higher quality hygiene items the women can purchase. To do so, one must have money in their account, which can be added to by friends and family. When someone doesn’t have funds, Chaplain Barnhart will help them access one of our hygiene kits, a small way we can share God’s love with them.
There are a few ways to join the support of prison ministries. As mentioned previously you can pray for the women, men, and youth who are incarcerated. You can send money to the Festival of Sharing designated for women’s prison kits. Sometimes facilities have other needs such as books for their library. The facility’s Chaplain would be a great person to start that connection with.
In its early years, Festival of Sharing was called the Bishop’s Convocation. It was planned by United Methodists in Missouri and held at the University of Missouri-Columbia’s Trowbridge Livestock arena. The day involved the gathering of various kits and food for the hungry and the distribution of live animals and blankets to outside organizations such as Heifer Project International (Now Heifer International) and Church World Service.
One year, the convocation welcomed a unique guest speaker. American country comedian, Sarah Ophelia Colley Cannon, more professionally known as Minnie Pearl, performed and spoke for the 1,500 attendees. Wearing her infamous yellow straw hat, Minnie Pearl spoke of Grinders Switch, the mythical place where she lived and where there was no sickness, poverty, and where you mostly worried about what you were going to wear to the church social. After her performance, Sarah stepped out of the persona to share the story of her career, faith in God, and concern for those less fortunate in the world. Her time and travel for the performance that day was donated as charity. She spoke of being a Methodist herself and the importance for people in show business to pay their dues through charity performances. Later in the day, attendees took up a collection and purchased a heifer to be named Minnie Pearl and donated in her honor.
Having an iconic performer join the Bishop’s Convocation (later known as Festival of Sharing), both in terms of entertainment and as a witness of faith, is a special moment in our program’s history. Sarah was respected by communities in and out of country music and was instrumental in the history of Music City U.S.A. (Nashville, TN) and the Grand Ole Opry. We appreciate her acts as a United Methodist laywoman and celebrate the trail she blazed for female entertainers.
Drummond, B. (n.d.). Minnie Pearl tells of simple pleasures. Columbia Missourian.
Moore, B. (2019, September 13). Meet Minnie Pearl: Legendary and unifying force. The Boot, https://theboot.com/who-is-minnie-pearl/
Exploring the past and the present of Festival of Sharing.