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Warm Spirit of a Butterfly - A Social Concerns Giving Grant Project by our 3rd and 4th graders

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Warm Spirit of a Butterfly 

Last spring the Social Concerns Committee invited our church to get creative. They used the image of a butterfly, and challenged us to consider how the gentle flutter of a pair of wings might have a ripple effect larger than we could imagine.  It was a challenge rooted in faith.  They offered what they called, butterfly grants—small grants of money to individuals or groups focused on effecting “ripples” of change. 

The second and third grade Church School class was up for the challenge.  They started with a familiar place—school. Late last spring they learned about a need at the Family Resource Center (FRC) at Lowell Elementary School. The FRC offers a clothing closet to students at the school and the coordinator reported that it was difficult to keep the closet supplied with shoes and socks. The kids requested $100 from the Butterfly Grant program to use as leverage money at a local department store in order to get the store to donate to the cause. 

In October the children, now third and fourth graders, learned that their grant request had been funded, but not for $100 but for $300 instead. The ripples had already begun.  Two of the girls went to Lowell School to meet with the FRC coordinator and learn more about their clothing closet needs.  They got a tour of the closet and learned about the current needs which included shoes and socks, but also boys’ and girls’ pants, gloves and underwear. 

After church one Sunday the group of kids gathered and discussed how they would move forward, meeting with the managers at Kohl’s.  They decided on a name—the Warm Spirit Project.  They gathered at Kohl’s one day after school the following week, with a sprinkling of parents in tow.  The group of kids had grown, siblings wanted to be involved too.  This was a real project and it was cool. Just inside the automatic doors they congregated and practiced their talking points: 

  • We are from the Warm Spirit Project at Holy Spirit Episcopal Church;
  • Kids need clothes at the FRC clothing closet;
  • We need different styles and colors and sizes of clothes;
  • We have $300 to spend;
  • We want a good deal to get as much as we can for that money. 

The managers knew the kids were coming, but they really had no idea what they were in for.  The kids stood up as a group and went through their talking points. They shared examples of friends who wore clothing to school that was too big, clothing that most likely belonged to a parent.  They talked about how bad it would feel if all the clothing from the clothing closest was exactly the same and other kids could identify where it came from.  They talked about needing a good deal and wanting help to get the most out of their money. The managers were impressed, so were the parents! Kohl’s agreed to give the kids 30% off all of their purchases and also provided clerks to help the kids shop and find items that were on sale.  In the end the kids came away with $900 worth of clothing for $300.  There were ripples everywhere impacting the managers, the parents, clerks and of course the kids.  All this before the clothing even gets to the kids who need it. 

In addition, Kohl’s told the kids about an outreach program.  If the kids could organize a volunteer event related to supporting children, Kohl’s could provide employees to volunteer for the event and would then also donate $500 to the cause.  The ripples just kept getting bigger.  Now the kids are planning a brainstorming session for how they might take the next steps and use Kohl’s volunteers and donation money. 

This whole thing started with vision.  The Social Concerns Committee believed things were possible, BIG THINGS.  They shared that faith with us and inspired us and empowered us to think beyond ourselves. This Christmas season as we are all focused on giving, how might we learn from this experience?  How can our gifting be given with an eye toward further impact?  How can we “plant seeds”?  How can we include others in our giving experience and watch the gifts grow exponentially? 

Grace and peace,

Gretchen Strohmaier, Director of Spiritual Formation