JoMC 711 – Writing for Digital Media

November 12, 2006

Module 12 Assignment

Filed under: Uncategorized — by cinranker @ 10:51 pm

Draft a press release on behalf of your organization.

FOR MORE INFORMATION CONTACT:

Cindy Ranker
Grateful for Grace Lutheran Church
1-800-555-1000
cinranker@comcast.net

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

LUTHERAN CHURCH OPENS FAIR TRADE STORE IN TIME FOR HOLIDAYS

Grateful for Grace Lutheran Church opens unique store

Carroll City, MD, November 12 – The Reverend Kathy Miller, pastor of Grateful for Grace Lutheran Church, unlocked the door of 125 Main Street this morning amid cheers from her congregation.  It signaled the first day of business for Grateful Gifts, a church-sponsored store that sells fair trade items such as handicrafts, candy and coffee.  It is the only place in the community where fair trade products will be available for sale.

Grateful Gifts is located next to the church and will be staffed by volunteers from the congregation on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. and Saturdays from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.  Miller is excited about the timing of the opening, “We weren’t sure we would be able to open in time for the holidays, so opening this early in the season is a real joy.”

The day began with a worship service at the church and continued with a blessing of the store before Miller opened the door.  Many community leaders, as well as congregation members, enjoyed free samples of the candy and coffee.

Asked about how unusual it is for a church to open a store like this, Miller said, “Recently the congregation became interested in how they could help stop the cylce of poverty in developing countries.”  A group of  members researched several organizations and decided to recommend to the congregation that it participate in a fair trade program.  “Once that decision was made, the idea took off,”  Miller commented.

The church is trying to be diligent in keeping costs at a minimum.  Michael Rison, a member of the congregation, owns the property where the store is located and offered to let the church use it at no cost.  Congregation members and local businesses donated paint and furnishings to help spruce up the store before the opening.  Since volunteers will also staff it, it is estimated that all proceeds will be used to benefit the fair trade programs.

Grateful Gifts will specialize in selling fair trade products in cooperation with Lutheran World Relief (LWR).  LWR is a non-profit agency based in Baltimore and is sponsored by the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America and the Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod.  The agency began during WWII, addressing the needs of countries devastated by the war.  Since then it has grown to provide relief services to those affected by natural disasters around the world and to help provide long-term solutions to poverty.

One of the ways the agency has decided to tackle poverty issues is by partnering with Equal Exchange and SERVV International to provide fair trade products.  Currently there are three available through LWR: handicrafts, coffee and candy.  By purchasing fair trade products at Grateful Gifts, customers are participating in a system that is trying to combat poverty by promoting fair wages, environmental rights and women’s rights.

According to LWR, the fair trade products are traded under internationally accepted fair trade standards and are monitored by organizations such as TransFair USA.

“The food products we sell are really quite good,” said Greg Jones, congregation president, “and the handicrafts that are sold are very unique and reasonably priced.  We hope the community will think about purchasing some of their Christmas gifts here and help fight poverty at the same time.”

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Module 12 Assignment

Filed under: Uncategorized — by cinranker @ 12:20 am

Revise Module 10 Assignment

Congregation Asked to Participate in Fair Trade Program

Members of Grateful for Grace Lutheran Church have contributed to many worthy causes and now the congregation is being asked to participate in Lutheran World Relief’s (LWR) Fair Trade programs.  These three programs give the members an opportunity to live out their faith by making consumer choices which ultimately help improve the economic conditions of third world producers.lwr_logo.jpg

Lutheran World Relief is a non-profit agency supported by both the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA) and the Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod (LCMS).  The agency was formed during WWII to help European countries recover from the devastation of war.  It has since developed into an organization that helps those in need all over the world.

LWR often responds to emergencies like the tsunami in December of 2004.  It also tries to provide long-term solutions to poverty.  The agency developed the fair trade programs to help address poverty issues in third world countries.

The fair trade movement is an international movement

The fair trade movement also grew out of the devastation caused by WWII.  Churches were instrumental in beginning the movement in Europe. In order to help the ravaged communities recover, the churches sold the artisan’s handicrafts.  By the 1970’s Alternative Trade Organizations (ATO) were importing and selling small quantities of handicrafts to churches and social organizations.  In the 1980’s the fair trade label Max Havelaar expanded its products to include food items such as coffee and chocolate.

In order for the fair trade concept to work, there has to be a connection between the artisans and farmers of developing countries and the large markets in North America and Western Europe.  International certification organizations oversee compliance to fair trade standards.  These standards not only help to ensure that a fairer price is paid for products, but also address other issues including the following:

  • Reasonable credit programs for farmers and craftspeople     lutheran-world-relief.jpg                            
  • Environmentally sound guidelines for production
  • Equal rights for women in the workforce

Several different organizations oversee compliance to fair trade standards.  Two are associated with the LWR products:

  • The Fairtrade Labelling Organization (FLO), on an international level, sets standards and certifies that producers follow those standards.  According to FLO, in 2005 its Fairtrade system helped 1 million people in 58 countries.
  • TransFair USA, a non-profit organization in the United States, certifies fair trade products for the consumer.

Kattie Somerfeld, LWR’s Fair Trade Products Coordinator, explained that the Fair Trade Labelling Organization deals with producers, while TransFair USA deals with the companies and organizations which sell the products in the United States.

Somerfeld also indicated that on a basic level, consuming fair trade products helps those in developing countries by cutting out the middlemen, providing fairer wages, and enabling farmers and artisans to reinvest money into their businesses and communities.

LWR offers three fair trade products

Fair Trade Coffee was the first fair trade program advocated by LWR.  The program began as a result of a discussion concerning what LWR could do to make a bigger impact in the world.  In 1996 LWR partnered with Equal Exchange to provide an easy way for congregations to obtain the fair trade coffee.

LWR receives 20 cents for each pound of coffee sold and uses that money to help improve coffee farming conditions.  In 2003 LWR challenged Lutheran congregations and organizations to purchase 90 tons of coffee that year.  That challenge was met.  In 2005 there were more than 3,000 participants in the Fair Trade Coffee program and all 50 states were represented.

lwr-handcraft.jpgIn 1999 the Fair Trade Handcraft program was introduced in partnership with SERVV International.  Items can be ordered through a catalog or at a Fair Trade Fair at the congregation.  LWR receives between 7.5 percent and 10 percent of all sales.  Somerfeld said last year’s sales in The Handcraft program doubled, even though there was very little promotion.

Fair Trade Chocolate was introduced in 2003.  LWR once again partnered with SERVV International to sell Divine Chocolate from the Day Chocolate Company, a company owned by the farmers themselves.  As with the Handcraft program, LWR receives 7.5 percent to 10 percent of chocolate sales.  This fair trade product provides an additional opportunity for churches because the congregation can sell the candy bars as a local fundraiser.

Why should Grateful for Grace consider Fair Trade?

Participating in LWR’s Fair Trade programs provides Grateful for Grace three ways to help others by providing:

  • a fairer wage to those in third-world countries
  • a percentage of sales that LWR reinvests in communities of developing countries
  • an opportunity to raise funds for the congregation

What is the next step?

Encouraging the leaders of the church to participate in LWR’s Fair Trade programs is the most important thing for you to do now.  After the programs are established you are asked to support them financially by buying the fair trade coffee, chocolate and handcrafts. 

When asked what she thinks is most important to remember, Somerfeld said the Fair Trade programs are “a concrete way for people – especially people of faith – to take an active role in making a difference in the world.”

Pictures were obtained from the LWR web site and are reproduced with permission from LWR.

November 5, 2006

Module 11 Assignment

Filed under: Uncategorized — by cinranker @ 5:07 pm

 FreeRide 2006

Friday Afternoon

After months of planning, I’m heading to FreeRide, a retreat for middle school-aged youth.  The Delaware-Maryland Synod (District) of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA) sponsors it every year.  This year I was on the planning team.  It was a lot of hard work and I’m just hoping that the kids have a great time and it goes fairly smoothly.  It’s being held at the YMCA Camp Letts, near Annapolis, Maryland so it takes me about an hour to get there.

Friday Evening

I got to Camp Letts just in time to watch a beautiful sunset over the West River.  Sunset at Camp LettsThe water is framed by woods – and the trees are striking because of the brightly colored leaves.  It is a great setting, but it is cold!  After the sunset I realize there is an almost-full moon.

The youth start arriving at about 6:30pm.  I am helping with registration.  There are about 13 different churches here with a total of 70 youth, 15 adult chaperones and 20 adult volunteers.  Seventy highly excited middle schoolers converged in one room!  Chaos reigns for a little while, but then they had to get settled in their cabins and meet in the main hall.

There’s always high energy at the beginning of the retreat and that proved true tonight.  The youth were reasonably behaved, though.  The Chaplain for the event is also the musician (I love low budgets!), but the kids seem to connect with him.   It might help that he looks like he’s about 20 years old.

The Chaplain introduces the theme for the week end, “Walk the Talk, Following in the Footsteps of Jesus.”  Sounds catchy, but what they are really going to learn about is service and compassion.  There are speakers and a couple of service projects scheduled during the week end. 

Saturday Morning

There is still high energy in the main room this morning.  I’m surprised everyone made it to breakfast by 8am, but I hear from the chaperones that not much sleeping went on in their cabins last night.  Usually I’m the one who is bringing a group of youth from my church to these events, but not so this time.  Instead, I got a fairly good night’s sleep.

A full day is planned between small groups, large gatherings, games, a ropes course, and service projects.

Large gatherings:  There are speakers who tell their stories – stories of disabilities, poverty, illness – and how the love of God (coming by way of family and friends) has gotten them through it.

All of them were good, but Mandy especially held everyone’s attention.  She talked about being born with spina bifida and about the 79 surgeries she has had to endure in 30 years.  She is upbeat most of the time, but gets a little teary when she talks about the last time she walked, when she was 14 years old (she is now 30).  She said, “I remember the very last time I walked.  I came off the plane from the Dallas National Youth Gathering.”  The kids are mesmerized.

At the end of her talk, she asks for volunteers.  Two youth had to sit in chairs and try to put pants on without getting out of the chair – not an easy task.  Mandy then sent one youngster to the bathroom in a wheelchair to see if it was handicapped accessible.  Guess what?  It wasn’t. 

Saturday afternoon

The adults were definitely dragging by mid afternoon, but the kids were ready to go.  All of the youth participated in a ropes course, a service project, and an outside game.

The service project was one sponsored by the Lutheran Mission Society in Baltimore.  I never saw a group of 11 to 13 year-olds sit so quietly while they learned how to sort clothes: summer, winter, recycle and fold.  And sort they did, bags and bags of donated clothing.

My job at this point is to go to each of the activities, to make sure everything is going all right and to take a few pictures.  I do, but I am cold and tired, so I don’t spend much time outside.  I go inside to talk with some of the adult chaperones, but end up falling asleep at one of the dining room tables!  Having had my power nap, I’m ready for the evening activities.

The only incident of the afternoon involved a sprained ankle, thanks to a game of dodge ball.  The ankle was badly bruised and swollen, so we had to call the mother to come and get her daughter.  Neither of them were happy about that.

Saturday night

More singing and more speakers and the youth seem to be enjoying it, still

Small groups continued, but I wasn’t allowed in the sessions.  Each group consisted of about 8-10 youth with one group leader.  Each group had the same curriculum to follow, which reinforced the theme of the week end.  Until tonight the small groups were going well.  When we gathered for worship at 9pm I heard many complaints from leaders that several children were rowdy during group time.

Despite that, there were no behavior problems during worship.  It might be because it was only 30 minutes long and there was no sermon, just quiet time.  The youth were actually quiet at the appropriate times.

Saturday night ended with a movie – “Over the Hedge.”  The children were allowed to change into their pajamas.  Popcorn and candy added to the “movie theater” atmosphere.  Not many fell asleep during the movie, but they were ready for bed when it ended at about 11:30pm.

 Waiting to bat

Sunday morning

I can’t believe it’s the last day of the retreat and it has gone so smoothly.  I heard many conversations between the youth that indicated even they knew it was coming to an end. “Take my picture with Valerie before we leave.”  Thankfully, I knew some of them had formed friendships with others their age who they had never known before.  With email and instant messaging these friendships might last a while.

Final Worship and good-byes

The final worship also went well with each small group giving a short presentation about what they learned during the week end.  The high energy at the beginning of the retreat had definitely dissipated.  We were ready to head home and to our own beds.

The surprise of the week end came at the very end when one of the small group leaders jumped into the river.  I can’t imagine how cold that was!

The extensive planning had paid off.  I think the youth had a good time and actually learned something.  I feel good about the event, and also relieved!

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