By Stanley Campbell
It’s kind of a miracle, JustGoods Fair Trade Store. Rockford Urban Ministries (for which I work) did not expect to go into retail marketing as a mission. But one is often led to places the Spirit wants. RUM (as Rockford Urban Ministries is affectionately known) has focused its meager resources on the Seventh Street neighborhood since 1991.
The United Methodist Churches, the majority of the RUM Council, designated the area as a “Shalom Zone” in hopes of bringing God’s peace to the neighborhood. We’d already seen the wonderful work of the Lutheran community through Zion Development and thought we could piggyback on their good graces. Zion rehabbed many of the houses that sorely needed tender, loving care and good families. Their idea of a mixed-income neighborhood was attractive as well.
After 15 years in the 600 block of Seventh Street, we’d helped shut down some of the worst bars in the neighborhood, brought in volunteers to do rehab and repairs, and tried to establish drug counseling outreach to the street sex providers. We were encouraged to move from that dilapidated Queen Anne building up the street, and I guess we got out just before the foundation cracked.
Through the love and support of the Schreiner family and friends, RUM leased and rehabbed the building at 201 Seventh St., our present home. I remember sitting in the middle of the construction wondering where the next donation was coming from, and “me of little faith” saw miracles occur as volunteers walked through the door to offer their assistance. For example, a contractor sent four skilled carpenters to work three weeks in our building. All we had to do was provide materials, which we purchased through interest-free loans from our friends. We hope to pay off those loans at the beginning of 2012.
I heard the story of fair trade: support the individual producer of our many goods made overseas, ensuring they receive a fair wage and no environmental fallout. The items in the store, JustGoods, had to be procured through more loans. Our benefactors came through, and now we have a five-year-old gift shop that’s renowned in the Midwest and is a beacon of hope here on Seventh Street. This is a true Christmas miracle here on Seventh Street. I want to thank God and the community for bringing this about, and I have been humbled to have played a part during its creation.
Stanley Campbell is executive director of Rockford Urban Ministries and spokesman for Rockford Peace & Justice.
From the Dec. 21-27, 2011, issue