Building a little dignity

Everence members help build homes for neighbors

Beloved Community Village resident shakes hand with Denver Mayor

Beloved Community Village resident But I Got Hair (right) shakes hands with Denver Mayor Michael Hancock after the mayor did some volunteer construction work on the tiny house project. But I Got Hair is the resident’s street name, which he prefers to use because some of his friends and family members aren’t aware that he’s been living out of his car. Photo by Mark Osler.

Every night in Denver, Colorado, some ten thousand people face another night, homeless. A small group of people decided to do something about it.

Under the direction of Denver Homeless Out Loud, this coalition of partners – including Beloved Community Mennonite Church, the Interfaith Alliance of Colorado, and the Alternative Solutions Advocacy Project – came together to try new ways to walk alongside their neighbors experiencing homelessness.

And find a new way they did. In 2017, the group partnered with Mennonite Disaster Service and Everence to build a village made up of 11 100-square-foot tiny homes on an overgrown vacant lot at the corner of 38th and Walnut. The Beloved Community Village also includes two community spaces: a food-preparation and meeting area, and a bath house with two off-grid showers and two sinks. And, there are portable toilets that will be cleaned every week.

More than 100 people and four Mennonite congregations volunteered to plan and build – including 13 of the village’s soon-to-be residents. Five other partners helped make the vacant lot dream come true.

Together, the partnership didn’t just build houses – it built a community.

“The great strength of the project is the diverse community of collaborators who came together to make this happen,” says Vern Rempel, pastor of Beloved Community Mennonite Church. “Diversity creates immense resilience and strength – especially when it is offered with generosity and goodwill.”

“We are standing on holy ground as we do this work,” adds Cole Chandler, Beloved Community Mennonite Church pastor and Colorado Village Collaborative staff member. “Beneath our feet, a web of love is weaving together advocates of all kinds, business owners, neighbors, donors, architects, general contractors, and most importantly, our economically disenfranchised friends who sleep on the street.”

Everence chapter grants, such as the one that aided the tiny houses project in Denver, are one way you and others are helping local organizations and causes. To learn more, contact your Everence Stewardship Consultant.

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Student pushes ahead after brain tumor surgery

A future filled with hope

Sara Solis and her mother, Carmen Raya, share a laugh
Sara Solis and her mother, Carmen Raya, share a laugh. Photo by Paul Colletti.

Sara Solis of Rock Island, Illinois, has no intention of letting a brain tumor stop her from earning her college degree and starting her career.

The summer after graduating from high school in 2015, Sara’s severe headaches led to an MRI, which revealed the tumor.

Surgeons removed most of the tumor and shrank the rest of it with daily radiation treatments. Taking out the whole tumor could have cost Sara the vision in her right eye.

Sara’s mother, Carmen Raya, took significant time off from work to care for Sara. A Sharing Fund grant from Everence matched a donation from their home congregation to help with expenses.

Sara earned a scholarship from Augustana College, where she currently is pursuing her degree. She hopes for a career in international business after graduating.

When you buy an Everence product, you become part of a community that provides financial support to those in need through the Everence Sharing Fund.  

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When disaster strikes

Helping communities get back on their feet

Hurricane damage

Two powerful hurricanes left significant damage.

When powerful disasters brought devastation around the country, the Caribbean, Mexico and other places around the world in 2017, Everence members stepped up to help our neighbors in need.

In the wake of Hurricanes Harvey, Irma and Maria, for example, Everence provided $14,500 in grants to assist Everence-affiliated church members in the United States and Puerto Rico who suffered loss due to the violent storms. The hurricane assistance was in addition to the Everence Sharing Fund program.

“Last year’s hurricanes were particularly destructive,” says Kenda Mishler, Everence Member Benefits Manager. “This grant funding was just one way we could help individuals and families get back on their feet and return to a sense of normalcy after all they’ve been through.”

Everence members who also invest in our mutual fund family are also helping, through community development investments* in micro-lenders, housing and community redevelopment organizations and social enterprises that are leading revitalization and rebuilding efforts in hurricane-affected areas.

“Often, the people and neighbors most affected by disasters are communities in disadvantaged areas, where accessing capital and resources to rebuild can be difficult,” says Mark Regier, Everence Vice President of Stewardship Investing. “That’s why we dedicate more than 1 percent of our mutual fund family assets to community development investing.”

*Everence channels investment dollars as loans to underserved communities through community development investing options integrated into our investment portfolios and funds.

A new way to help our neighbors

MyNeighbor helps charitable contributions add up

Customer paying with the MyNeighbor card

A MyNeighbor credit card generates donations with each purchase.

Supporting our neighbors and communities isn’t a one-and-done sort of thing. It’s something that Everence members do each and every day, through their work, their volunteer efforts – and even their normal shopping routines.

Launched in April of 2017, the MyNeighbor credit card program from Everence Federal Credit Union offers individuals, businesses and congregations the unique ability to generate donations for their favorite charitable organizations, every time they use the card.

The concept was simple for Rafael Barahona, Everence member and small business owner in Goshen, Indiana.

“I love that the MyNeighbor card gives me the flexibility to choose who I want to support through my everyday purchases,” says Barahona, who uses the card for everyday purchases – including those quick stops at the local coffee shop. For each of his purchases, Everence donates 1.50 percent of the transaction total to Rafael’s selected Neighbor.

And he’s not the only one to take advantage of this new way to help neighbors around the corner and around the world. Everence members across the country have used the card to help spread generosity. In fact, by the end of 2017, the MyNeighbor program had generated $205,337 in donations to 265 charitable organizations and congregations.

“The MyNeighbor card gives people a simple and effective way to support the charities dear to their hearts,” said Kent Hartzler, President and CEO of Everence Federal Credit Union. “As a cardholder, there’s nothing different about how I use the card for purchases, but what is different is I can watch my charitable contributions add up throughout the year.”

The program is just another example of how Everence works to provide services that fit the needs and values of our members.

Barahona and his family decided to move their banking from a large national bank to Everence Federal Credit Union to help them steward their finances in a better way. “Everence was the obvious choice,” says Barahona. “There’s no question in my mind that Everence is at the forefront of being a responsible, ethical and values-driven financial institution.”

To learn more about the MyNeighbor program, talk to your local Everence representative or visit everence.com/MyNeighbor.

Bridges of care

Donors step up to help neighbors in need

 

Over the course of the last 15 years, the number of natural disasters has quintupled – devastating communities and families in big and small ways.

It’s when those disasters strike that organizations like Mennonite Disaster Service take action, helping with clean up, repair and rebuilding efforts through their volunteer network of Anabaptist churches and individuals.

“We want to be our neighbor’s helper,” says Kevin King, Executive Director of MDS. “And [we’re] providing an opportunity for someone to help their neighbors in need.”

The work of MDS is made possible not only through the hands-on work of their volunteers, but also through the generous donations from supporters.

“I’ve grown up believing that the Lord owns it all, and He just entrusts us to manage it and it’s important that we manage it well,” says Ed Nissley, Everence member, who supports MDS through his Everence donor advised fund – a charitable giving tool that enables him to donate to MDS in a simple, streamlined and flexible way.

“It’s been a real godsend in many ways for me,” Nissley adds, regarding his donor advised fund. “It was on my heart to be able to be generous, and it gave me a vehicle to be able to do that more easily.”

And the partnership with Everence helps MDS, as well.

“When a donor calls and says, ‘I have a truckload of grain I want to give,’ or “I’d like to consider MDS in my estate plan,’ I say, ‘I’ll put you together with... my friends at Everence,” says King. “They help us in many other ways with estate planning, investment resources. I can connect you with someone that can help you make a difference with MDS.’”

When generous people and generous organizations come together, they can build bridges that connect all of us to a stronger shared tomorrow.

To learn more about how we might partner with you, your congregation or your nonprofit to build bridges of care, visit everence.com/charitable-services or call us at (800) 348-7468.

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