Ministry With: Wooden It Be Lovely
Root causes of poverty are vast and diverse. Too often, solutions for economic injustice lack depth and understanding of the complexity of the system that created such circumstances. Douglas Avenue United Methodist Church in Springfield, Illinois developed a creative approach to offering employment to those who need it most.
Root causes of poverty are vast and diverse. Too often, solutions for economic injustice lack depth and understanding of the complexity of the system that created such circumstances.
One such cause revolves around employment. Access to employment may be out of reach for many reasons. People who have experienced generational poverty, trauma, addiction, homelessness, and/or incarceration are only some those who face unique obstacles that may impede pathways to jobs.
One United Methodist Church in Springfield, Illinois developed a creative approach to offering employment to those who need it most. Amber Feezor, Senior Coordinator for Ministry With, spoke with leaders at the ministry, Wooden It Be Lovely, to learn more.
Tell us about the ministry.
Wooden It Be Lovely (WIBL), a ministry of Douglas Avenue United Methodist Church, offers hope and employment to women healing from lives of poverty, addiction, and abuse by providing transitional employment, mentoring, recovery tools, education, community networking, childcare, and a safe community. Our women are employed to refurbish and sell donated wooden furniture, pillows, and wall art alongside community volunteers while their young children are cared for onsite. This transitional employment empowers women to move towards economic stability and an enhanced wellbeing for themselves and their children.
What dream is the ministry pursuing?
Our dream is to see our women gain hope and confidence, graduate from our program, remain sober, and pursue their professional dreams. We have a dream to one day have a WIBL “House of Hope” where we can provide affordable housing to those women in our program who need transitional housing.
Is there a particular moment or memory that stands out for you?
There are many moments that stand out but one from this past year was at our graduation for three of the WIBL women. We didn’t know how many would show up for the graduation but we knew we wanted to celebrate and recognize these women for what they had accomplished. As the time drew closer to starting the ceremony, we looked inside the sanctuary to see it completely full of people. So many supporters from our church and our community had come to help us celebrate. The women were smiling ear to ear and the love that was shown to them that night is what we are all about.
What role have relationships played in the life of your ministry?
Relationships are very important to our ministry. We ask the women to trust us and have a high expectation that we can trust them as well. The women work alongside volunteers and build relationships with them. The women also work with community advocates who are helping them with things in their personal lives. All of these interactions require a relationship for it to be meaningful and powerful.
What have your neighbors (those utilizing services) taught you in doing this work?
We have learned so much from the WIBL women. It’s not as simple as people think to “stay clean” or get your life back on track. We have learned that our women have incredible resilience and untapped talent. We have learned that when you offer to help someone help themselves, it gives them the hope and confidence they need to thrive.
What challenges have you encountered, and how have you adapted?
We’re adapting all the time to the challenges we face. Challenges, such as space to house our furniture pieces, funding for the program, volunteers, and not being able to hire every women that comes to us, are our main challenges. We recently held our first ever “Little Black Dress Gala,” a women’s only fundraiser and it was a huge success. The decision to hold that event is one way we’ve adapted to the funding challenge. We had 215 women attend the event, celebrating our WIBL women with us, and were able to raise a substantial amount to go toward our operating budget.
What advice would you give to others who are working to be in ministry with?
There will be days when you question if you’re making a difference, but don’t give in to that voice. We are all called to serve and love God’s people. When your passion lines up with a need, God can do amazing things. Stay hopeful. Love wildly. The joy far outweighs the stress. If our focus stays centered on Jesus, we are promised peace beyond understanding.