Marketplace works to redefine charity and create healthy community – Salisbury Post – Salisbury Post

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Marketplace works to redefine charity and create healthy community

Published 12:10 am Thursday, May 2, 2024

The second in a series of Focus on Food Security events, presented by Actions in Faith & Justice, was held April 23 at the Rowan Public Library’s main branch on West Fisher Street.

Susan Lee Sharpe, co-chair of Actions in Faith and Justice, welcomed everyone and said this was the second follow up to their Annual National Day of Racial Healing held first at the Reach Church.

“We made a pledge to the community and to ourselves that it wouldn’t be a one only event but we would do some follow-up events,” she said.

And community members came to hear what was being shared.

William Coleman, who serves as vice president for the Paul Laurence Dunbar Group, came hoping to learn what is done there and “maybe incorporate it in East Spencer.”

Betty Mickle and her husband Bud had heard her speak a little bit about it before, but wanted to learn more.

“It seems so much more thoughtful than some of the programs,” she said. 

Betty Jo Hardy, a founding member of Actions in Faith and Justice, introduced the speaker, Hope Oliphant, executive director of the Main Street Marketplace and Meeting Place, a nonprofit in China Grove, who shared about redefining charity for long-term impact.

Oliphant began her presentation with a story about helping the vulnerable using an analogy of someone having a full bucket of water and sharing with others whose buckets are empty. After years of sharing from that full bucket and enlisting others to join in the cause and expanding the reach of giving, the question was posed as to why those who receive help still have empty buckets and the giver still has a full one.

“The reality is when we jump in a crisis situation and we want to help,” Oliphant said, “we don’t realize that if we aren’t careful we can end up providing for someone chronically and they can become dependent.”

Oliphant told how her own thinking was changed about how to better help people after a mission trip to Honduras, which is where she met Ann Corriher, and they began a Getting Ahead program at Main Street Mission.

“We wanted to make certain we were making lasting change,” and therefore began the program, which is a 15-week class, in both English and Spanish, to help people move to a more stable life. 

She pointed out that in crisis situations people must step in and help and food pantries are needed for those times; however, we must ask deeper questions and get to the root of the problem and find out why one can’t afford food or other necessities.

Part of the Getting Ahead Program, Oliphant said, deals with looking at the four causes of poverty — individual behavior and choices; political and economic conditions; community conditions and predators/exploitation, which prey on the poor when in crisis.

Once the causes were explored, she shared the gap that exists between the federal poverty guidelines and living wages, revealing a big difference.

Statistics for a family of three, one mother and two children, revealed that in order for them to qualify for government services, she must make less than $12.42 per hour, which equals $25,813/yearly. However, if she makes $1 over, they can no longer receive government assistance and so there is a gap because their living wage in Rowan County is $42.26 per hour for a family of three which equals to $88,940/yearly. 

Oliphant said they began considering how they could help as most of their program participants were working two jobs but still not making a living wage.

They wanted to help people in that demographic so they “don’t slip back down into poverty, we wanted to provide a market that will provide access to fresh produce and meats but also allow them to purchase them at a price they can afford,” Oliphant said.

Taking what she learned at a conference in Atlanta, the marketplace uses a model they call the Responsible Charity Model.

First, she said, when helping, responsible charity needs to be mutual.

“They also need to have their input in it. It needs to be an exchange, that’s our really big thing.”

Secondly, Oliphant said, “we have to think about charity as everyone taking part in it. Everyone’s opinion matters. It has to be participatory.”

Thirdly, responsible charity should be holistic rather than simplistic. She said when people come to them, many times they are coming for help. But rather than just seeing the symptom and addressing it, she said, “we have to step back. We have to think holistically about helping someone more than just giving them food.”

The next principle focuses on it is just the heart or both heart and mind. While it may make you and the one you’re helping feel good for the moment, she asked, “what is this going to look like next year if I’m not able to come back and provide this?”

Lastly, she said, responsible charity is about impact, not activity. We can be busy but is it bringing about change for those you are trying to partner with. It’s about creating lasting change together.

At the marketplace, Oliphant said they have an equitable community market and partner with local farmers.

“Last year, we generated $31,000 that went to local farmers. I’m proud of that,” she said.

People can visit and shop based on their family’s size and income. They have three prices on each item, thus three tiers, green, yellow and blue with blue being retail, and when people shop that level, “are actually subsidizing the lower tier.”

The green tier is for those who have EBT cards and can thus make their card go farther, and “they are able to purchase produce in a dignified way.”

While the market was at one time run by volunteers, they have created 18 jobs with 60 percent of the staff being part of the Getting Ahead Program who can now purchase their own food, “which I think is pretty cool,” Oliphant said.

During the off season, when fresh produce is not available, they are able to purchase food from a wholesale provider; however, thanks to their hydroponic garden, they can have greens year-round.

“The idea behind this garden is to create enthusiasm around healthy eating, but also to hopefully, eventually subsidize the market,” she said. 

Others that spoke included Mandy Earnhart, community engagement coordinator, who coordinates the Getting Ahead program. She commented about childhood trauma and helping people through a class she teaches there to recognize the effects they often suffer into adulthood and how it impacts them.

Susan Blume, food pharmacy coordinator, spoke about the six-month food program being offered at the market. They have ten participants who are able to purchase food from seasonal menus, get recipes, exercise together and share with one another.

“It’s a wonderful program,” she said.

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