Urban Mission in midst of Campaign for Goodness

STEUBENVILLE – Urban Mission Ministries’ second-annual “Campaign for Goodness” is an opportunity for area residents to help the hungry, extend kindness and “spread goodness” now through the end of April.

Last year’s effort resulted in the collection of 825 pounds of canned goods; the receipt of more than $34,000 in donations toward the annual Feinstein proportional match; and the distribution of more than 300 “goodie boxes” to unsuspecting “do-gooders.”

The Rev. Ashley Steele, the mission’s executive director, said the effort to feed the hungry is one that is not likely to diminish, given one out of five people in Jefferson County go to bed hungry every night.

“The statistic is not improving,” said Steele, who explained there are several ways area residents, organizations, business and churches can partner with the mission to help make a difference.

They include:

“Spread goodness” with a monetary donation to help feed the hungry. All donations from March 1 through April 30 marked “for hunger” or “Feinstein” will be eligible to be proportionately matched through the Feinstein Foundation.

A $25 donation will provide food for two families, for example, while $50 helps four families and $100 will help eight families.

“The Feinstein, that’s just a proportional match – it helps us raise more money so we can then buy more food,” Steele said, explaining that beyond that, the mission’s buying power has increased this year.

“This year we found out that whatever we receive, and not necessarily through Feinstein, but all of our donations that we would receive really this whole year, for every dollar now we can purchase $11 dollars worth of food at Mid-Ohio Food Bank,” Steele said. “It jumped from $4 (for every $1) to $11 (for every $1).”

Individuals, churches, organizations or businesses can host a “for good” event or fundraiser in March or April. It could include, for example, a canned food drive; an event that would raise funds for a mission program of the organizer’s choice such as hunger; or a collection of socks, bath soaps, nail clippers, etc., for distribution at the mission’s second-annual “Soul to Sole” foot-washing event at the mission. It will be held from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. on April 17, Maundy Thursday.

With a gift of $20 or more, for an additional $5, mission staff will anonymously deliver a goodie box to a public servant or a complete stranger. Participants can choose from a category such as a veteran, teacher, waiter, mail carrier, cashier, elected official, pastor, etc. Another option is for individuals to pick up a goodie box and share it with a special person or friend.

With emphasis on feeding the hungry, the mission is continuing to move closer to launching its Client Choice Pantry this summer, according to Steele, who anticipates a July 1 opening.

“We’re really excited about that. It’s going to be a big undertaking,” Steele said.

The pantry will be located in the refurbished first floor of the mission and will be “a shop-through pantry where you choose the foods that you want as opposed to just getting a big bag that we give to people now.”

Steele said qualifying registered recipients will be divided into groups to “shop” with assistance of volunteers who might make meal suggestions and offer assistance.

It will replace the current food distribution system.

“It will definitely cut down on waste, and the other thing is giving people a choice because right now they get whatever is in the bag. Some things they may not like,” Steele said.

“It will cut down on the huge lines we have,” Steele said in citing another benefit of the Client Choice Pantry, the brainchild of Linda Smith, program director. “More people will be coming more often, so every week we will be open Tuesday through Thursday and people can come in on set weeks. We will have to divide it up because 1,800 families signed up for food this year,” Steele said.

Families will be able to choose so many fruits and vegetables, meats and grains, according to Steele, who said the ultimate goal is to maybe schedule an evening shopping time or one on Saturday, for example.

“It really is Linda Smith’s (idea),” Steele said. “It has been on her heart for many years and for whatever reasons, it didn’t get started, and we said we need to do this.”

The warehouse renovation in preparation for that has been under way for about a year.

Although the new system will eliminate packing bags, it won’t eliminate the need for volunteers, according to Steele.

“We’ll need volunteers every week to come in and walk along side people when shopping to maybe teach some nutrition type things, give them meal suggestions,” Steele said of the new system that will bring experimentation and tweaking along the way.

“It’ll be different,” Steele said.

“I think it will be beneficial for everyone.”

(Kiaski can be contacted at jkiaski@heraldstaronline.com.)