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Green trees, cool water, a gentle breeze...the perfect place to sit at the feet of the Master and learn. Jesus taught so often on the shoreline, and He's still speaking today.

This is where I share the lessons He teaches me, often during the time I spend on the shores of a local lake. I don't have all the answers...and some days I don't have any. But I go here when I need to draw near to Him in a tangible way. Come with me...

Saturday, June 30, 2012

Adventures in Community Outreach: Part 2 - Planning a Free Market

In  Part 1 of this trilogy, I explained the concept of a Free Market and mentioned it was 5 months in the planning.  Part 2 will concentrate on those steps.

First, let's take a look at the goal.  It was our desire to reach our neighborhood and surrounding community with Christ's love in a tangible way, no strings attached.  As our pastor put it, "We are blessed to be a blessing".  It was similar to the gleaning process mentioned in the previous post.  To take from our best and share with others.  We have done a lot of work with the homeless, however, this particular outreach was to those who had housing but were living at, or near, the poverty level.

Logistics were huge so tasks to be accomplished were broken down:
  • Leadership team.  We developed a team to be over the following areas:  Outreach, Logistics, Volunteers, Operations, Design, Communications, Sub Teams, Donation/Collection, and Social Services Connection.
  • Timeline: Deadlines throughout helped us to stay on task and accommodate time needed for printing, agency processing, etc.
  • Location:  The model for this outreach was held in a local park because many of those served had no transportation.  We're directly across from a public transportation bus stop and have a large piece of property so having it on site cut costs and simplified logistics.
  • Theme:  We not only had the giveaway, but created a carnival atmosphere with fun activities and foods.  Our logo reflected that.feel.  We also chose a verse to convey our goal...1 John 4:19...We love, because He first loved us!
  • Budget: Our model had a budget of $10,000 but we had less than half that amount.  We saved hundreds on rentals for festival food machines, generators, and various smaller items because of team members who secured them through employer connections. Still, funds were needed to rent 2 storage pods (for donations), a 20 x 40 tent to cover the shopping area, and 2 inflatables,.  We also needed to purchase face painting supplies, feed approximately 300 attendees and 100 volunteers,
The planning for our June 23rd event began in February when we met to discuss much of the above.  By March we had our team identified, a job description for each outlined and a working timeline.  We also investigated needed permits from the township and county.  April brought a logo design, research on rental items and updates from the individual leaders on how their areas were progressing.  By May, each area was estimating their volunteer needs for the day of, and the more minute details were being looked at and dealt with - there were a ton of them!  We also contacted the agencies who would identify the people to invite and gave them a timeline for distributing invitations and gathering headcounts. 

By June, we hit our stride.

  • Our pastor began his preaching series "The Blessed Life", to start casting the vision to the congregation.  
  • Prayer had been a key ongoing factor, but a prayer team that would pray for the event as it was taking place was sought. 
  • We signed up volunteers and explained the donation process.  We handed out sheets with job descriptions and hours as well as types of items being collected.  Our designer had created a tee shirt that all volunteers would wear the day of the event to create unity and make those serving easily identifiable to those we served.  Our supplier pre-printed enough for the team, and that first Sunday, we wore them to help create a buzz and to identify leadership for those who had questions. 
  • We designated 4 donation collection days.  Items were checked upon arrival.  If they were broken, faded or in some way did not meet the standard of "gently used", they were tossed.  All other items were given a 'value' from 1 to 8 and a sticker reflecting that value was affixed to the item..  Items were then boxed according to "department" (kitchenware, electronics, home decor, etc.) and stacked in one of the two on site storage pods we rented.  
  • We used a web site called "Volunteer spot" and entered the names and contact information of volunteers.  This web site allowed volunteers to view or change their commitments and also sent out automatic reminders via email.
  • A press release was sent to several media outlets, and one local paper did in fact run the story.
The week of the event we picked up rentals (inflatables and carnival food machines were delivered day of), set up the tent, and walked the property to confirm layout and generator/electrical needs. Food was purchased, RSVPs were confirmed, and even more last minute details were ironed out.

We marveled at all that God had done.  We had never attempted anything like this before, yet over 100 people signed on to help.  People were not only donating goods, but encouraged neighbors, friends, family members and co-workers to do the same.  A church neighbor came over one collection day to see what all the hubbub was about.  She was so excited by what was going on she came back three different times with items to donate and brought another neighbor with her.  We started by renting one pod and it quickly became evident that not only was a second pod needed, but we had to rearrange things in the church garage to accommodate larger items like furniture including a dining room set and youth bed, tons of TVs, baby items, bikes and more.  The parable of the five loaves and two fish was often quoted as we watched things multiply by leaps and bounds!

From agency responses, we were preparing for approximately 300 people.  Things were reaching a fever pitch.  It was so exciting!

The last installment of this series is all about Free Market event day!!

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