Ministry offers opportunities in urban neighborhood

Stanley Campbell has a smile on his face whenever he enters the store. The smell of fresh coffee and baked goods reminds him of how sweet his ministry is.

Campbell directs Rockford Urban Ministries (RUM), a ministry of 16 United Methodist churches in the Rockford, Illinois, area. JustGoods store is one of several projects that the organization worked hard to establish.

"We tried to clean up the neighborhood," said Campbell. "We shut down a liquor store and a pornographic book store." After the liquor store was shut down, RUM used the building and established the JustGoods Fair Trade store located on Seventh Street in Rockford.

RUM, founded in 1962, has help from many United Methodist volunteers, including some from neighboring Centennial United Methodist Church. "One of my members is an officer" with the ministry, said the Rev. Fabiola Grandon-Mayer. Many other members also volunteer and help stock shelves with coffee, candy, soap, paper products, pottery, jewelry, cheese and other items imported from different parts of the world.

"It's amazing how the people enjoy the spirit of the store," said Campbell. "We are trying to share the love of Christ (with) those who could use a dose of love." He and others also educate people on investing in and purchasing environmentally friendly and fair-trade products. The store attracts customers from the neighborhood and outside of the city.

United Methodist volunteers also are involved in RUM's other projects, including the Shalom Zone on Seventh Street, work camps that renovate boarded-up houses, local church discussions about anti-racism and social justice programs and the CROP Hunger Walk. In 2014, they raised more than $52,000 for CROP, local food pantries and soup kitchens.

"They reach a lot of people in the community,"  said Grandon-Mayer. "We are happy to support their ministry."

AT A GLANCE Rockford Urban Ministries | 201 Seventh St., Rockford, IL 61104 | 815-964-7111 | rockfordurbanmin.org | Stanley Campbell, executive director | Northern Illinois Conference