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Matt Beem
President, Kinetic Companies, Inc.

It’s about the work, not glory

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<SATURDAY, B 2008Saturday, July 25, 2009

Glenwood Park United Methodist Church in northwest Independence knows a thing or two about philanthropy.

First the disclaimers: My sister-in-law, the Rev. Sarah Schofield Wimberley, is the church’s pastor. And my wife, Kate, suggested the church’s neighborhood feeding and enrichment program as a timely topic for this column.

Project Feed and Read ensures children maintain their academic skills and nutrition in the six-week period between summer school and fall classes. The program, which provides a balanced lunch and reading time with an adult, operates from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. – and later if kids are still there – Monday through Friday at the church.

“In March, I decided we needed to feed the kids in the neighborhood because 85 percent are on a free or reduced school lunch,” said Wimberley. “I checked around, and no other program like it existed.”

So Wimberley and Cindy Fillpot, an active parishioner and professional grant writer, got down to business. They developed and distributed fliers, created menus and identified potential project donors to whom Fillpot, the program administrator, submitted proposals.

“It has seemed to be meant to be,” Wimberley said. “We had three kids coming in the beginning, and now we average eight a day.”

She’s proud of the stats and has high hopes for the program, which is modeled after one she encountered last year in Omaha while chaperoning a youth mission trip. It averaged 15 kids a day by the end of its first year and, ten years later, serves 100 kids daily.

Wimberley, a crusader for the underdog, is quick to credit others for her program’s success. Christ United Methodist Church in eastern Independence made a gift to Project Feed and Read through its mission fund, and she hopes to receive support soon from the Missouri United Methodist Conference Heartland Central District. Members of her congregation volunteer each day preparing and serving meals and reading to or with kids.

“They’re not getting any credit except a star in heaven,” she said. “But they’re not doing it for recognition.”

The Glenwood Park United Methodist Church story reminds me of a framed sentiment on the wall of the Kinetic Companies office: “There is no end to the good you can do if you don’t care who gets the credit.”

Wimberley and her congregation understand the sentiment well. They’re focused on helping others, not themselves. The result is a new social service that’s making a real difference.

The genesis of Project Feed and Read illustrates the power of philanthropy. One person had an idea, others joined in to bring it to fruition and good things began to happen.

It’s nice to learn about cool programs like Project Feed and Read. Just knowing they’re out there makes us feel better.

What’s even neater is mobilizing the ideas and insights they stimulate in our own lives. Perhaps you’ve had an idea for an outreach project in your neighborhood that you’ve never moved forward. Or you’re aware of another who’s doing good things and could use a helping hand.

Wherever you are, let examples of good things in your community percolate in your life and influence how you interact with and on behalf of others.

If you do – and if you don’t care who gets the credit – there’s no telling how much good you’ll accomplish.

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