Left Justified: Helping those who help

Fifty billion dollars of U.S. hurricane relief will be eaten up quickly. Hope the subcontractors of Bush’s friends don’t skim too much off the top. Even if they didn’t, we’ll need twice if not four times as much just to care for the refugees. But Katrina’s victims have lost a lot more than we can ever replace.

Be careful of giving. There are some scams that say “send me money for hurricane relief,” and the majority of it goes to their own bank account. Your money is going to a good cause when you send it through major churches and social service agencies. It’s just our tax dollars that are threatened by unscrupulous contractors.

I will be sending my donations through Church World Service. I like that organization. They work directly with religious congregations where the need is greatest, and they put money toward development as well as relief, and no, they do not proselytize. Only 10 percent is used for administrative and promotional materials.

Church World Service is hosting a CROP Walk here in Rockford on Sunday, Oct. 16, starting at 2 p.m. from the Riverfront Museum Park. If you know of a walker, please support them. If you would like to walk, please give me a call, and I’ll send you a sponsor card (815-964-7111).

If you remember the story of the Good Samaritan, Jesus was conveying the idea of us helping someone and not expecting anything in return. Groups that demand a religious conversion before someone can get a bowl of soup are not following Jesus’ suggestions.

Rockford Urban Ministries (for which I work) is moving our offices from 623 Seventh St. (the site of a former pornographic bookstore) to 201 Seventh St. (the site of a notorious liquor store). Seventh Street “Mayor” Bill Mohr gives us “six months” before he thinks our Fair Trade store goes belly up. The City Building Department is sitting on our requests for permits. If we do not fix and open our Fair Trade store by mid-October, we just might go belly up. Gift stores depend on the Christmas shopping season, and this Fair Trade gift shop will be selling items made and sent by mission groups from around the world. It is uniquely dependent on the Christian good will of the community.

I’m afraid the opposition to the Fair Trade store is mainly my fault. Some of my more outrageous statements and political stances have angered those in power. I ask their forgiveness for my loud-mouthed proclamations and beg them not to punish the ideals and mission of Fair Trade. I would even resign from this, my favorite job, to see the Fair Trade store open and be given a chance to share its wonderful stories.

I know the mission of our soon-to-be neighbor, the Total Health Awareness Team (THAT), is of concern as well, but the onus of the opposition appears to be directed against me. When THAT moves into a neighborhood, drug use and prostitution move out because THAT does not tolerate illicit enterprises within its neighborhood.

Often, people will blame poverty on those who are called to alleviate it. For example, some blame Carpenter’s Place (one of the best homeless programs in the city) for the many homeless people here on Seventh Street. They blame condom distribution on the number of prostitutes who are walking the street. And, of course, they blame the drug use activity on THAT outreach to IV users. It’s like blaming the Red Cross for New Orleans’ poor from the hurricane’s effects (yes, if you feed them, they will come).

The Fair Trade store will be opened shortly after we get permission to rehab the building at 201 Seventh St. The target date is mid-October (shortly before the CROP Hunger Walk). We would like to raise funds through the CROP Walk for hurricane relief, and we’d like to add our two cents to the improvement of Seventh Street and the community. Hope you can help us help.

Stanley Campbell is executive director of Rockford Urban Ministries and spokesman for Rockford Peace & Justice.

From the Sept. 21-27, 2005, issue

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