By Lynn Colburn
Roger McClintock has always had a calling to teach and help others. For 39 years, before retirement, that calling was as a math teacher at both Jacksonville High School and Lincoln Land Community College.
Education is his passion and he feels that it was a natural extension of his teaching when, in 2000, he began volunteering at the newly formed Midwest Mission Distribution Center. In 2019 alone the workshop that he leads disbursed 180 desks in an outreach that allowed 540 students to have a place to sit and learn at school.
The Midwest Mission Distribution Center (MMDC), located in Pawnee, IL, works to meet the basic human needs around the world and the corner. Midwest Mission distributes its kits, resources and supplies after receiving a request. The supplies are given free of charge regardless of gender, race, or religion under the four main categories in which projects are placed: health, education, micro-business and disaster response. It is one of 10 cooperating depots in the United Methodist Committee on Relief (UMCOR) Supply Network and distributes supplies in response to disasters within the United States. It also partners with the Salvation Army, the Lutheran Church, Christians in Mission, Food for the Poor, Franciscan Mission Warehouse, U.S. Southern Command and more.
“We are a separate 401(c)3 than the Methodist Church, so we can work with anybody. Approximately 95% of our funding and in-kind donations come from people inside the United Methodist Church, but our network is growing every day and we are beginning to get more donations from other groups as well,” says Midwest Mission’s Executive Director Chantel Corrie.
In 2019 Midwest Mission had 230 Mission Teams and 1,712 missionaries. When the coronavirus pandemic isn’t keeping people sheltered in place, 20-30 mission volunteers are in the building per day.
Another Jacksonville Missionary, Lois Herbs, says, “Among other projects, volunteers in our group help with our bicycle repair, assembling personal dignity kits, loading and unloading desks, tracing patterns and writing thank you notes. I’m touched by how jobs are available for every volunteer, regardless of their talents or limitations. We have visually impaired helpers who sort and count items for the kits. For those with mobility limitations, plenty of jobs can be done while seated. Some ladies sew items at home and we deliver them, and of our circles at Grace sometimes sew projects at our meetings.”
McClintock works as the workshop leader three days per week and was named 2019 Missionary of the Year, donating 978 hours and becoming the missionary with the most hours.
“I started going over once a week and when I retired it became more, says McClintock. “I really miss being there (during the coronavirus pandemic). My job is to teach other volunteers how to make desks that can seat three to four children. My father was a very skillful woodworker and I learned the skills from him. It is such a rewarding experience. I get more out of it than I put into it knowing that what we do is helping kids all over the world.”
“Our main source of lumber for the desks has been from old wood bleachers that schools are replacing with new fiberglass ones,” explains McClintock. “It is great wood and thanks to the donations, desks costs are limited to the price of the screws and bolts that go into them. It takes a lot of labor, but that is all volunteer. Because they need to hold up in the hot climates of the developing countries where they go, we put two to four coats on polyurethane on each desk to make them as durable as possible.”
Director Corrie says, “One of our pastors did a mission trip to Liberia. When touring a school that had just been built and there was a young boy at the front of the classroom squatting doing his work. He wondered why. When the tour finished, and the boy was still there, he asked the teacher ‘is he in trouble?’ The teacher said, “No, he’s not in trouble, he just really wants to be here, and I don’t have enough seats. He only has one uniform, so he can’t get his pants dirty.’ That’s the difference a desk can make. Sometimes we just take it for granted that we have a place to sit and multiple clothes to wear,” says Corrie.
Herbst and her husband John have been volunteering for a long time. Lois says she usually works on sewing projects, like the school kit bags and children’s outfits. Although, she says, “My favorite sewing project is mending sheets and blankets that area hospitals donate when they can no longer use them. I find it satisfying to turn bedding that would otherwise be discarded into much-needed donations for struggling medical facilities.”
Other Jacksonville volunteers include Louise Corder, Sara Corder, Janice Gregory, Ruth McClintock, Becky McGinnis, Rick McGinnis, Ken Rothdeutsch, Martha Vache and Brenda Lane. Herbst says many of these volunteers from Grace United Methodist Church, Centenary United Methodist Church and Wesley Chapel help at Midwest Mission on the third Monday of each month.
“Dan Moy used to drive us over in the Grace bus,” says Herbst, “but since his passing we generally carpool. We enjoy the time together on the way there and back, as well as while we work.”
And it’s contagious (in a good way) says Herbst, “Two of our grandsons really enjoy volunteering at Midwest and their younger brother keeps asking us when he will be able to volunteer. We tell him that he has to be 11 years old. He will have his 11th birthday next month. I hope MMDC will be able to open again soon. It’s great to see the next generation of volunteers sharing our enthusiasm for this mission!”
There are only six staff members at MMDC, so all the work is done by mission volunteers. “For that reason,” Corrie says, “for every dollar donated to Midwest Mission in 2019, $6.33 of in-kind supplies left our building. It doesn’t make sense, it’s called ‘God math’ because things come in donated in-kind and if we weren’t there to process things and move things from one place to another they’d end up in the trash or would never get donated and sent out.”
To volunteer, visit midwestmission.org and go to Mission Journey. People can sign up on the calenrdar online. “There is a fee to sign up to come to our place,” explains Corrie, “but that is how we keep our facility running and we consider it a Mission experience, not a volunteer experience. We try to make it that way too, so when people come, they have a snack time and we talk to them about where things are going, making it an educational experience besides just a hands-on mission experience. It’s an international mission experience without ever having to leave central Illinois.”
Besides on-site volunteering, how can people help?
Corrie says, “Right now, we are doing a big push for home mission projects. People can go to our website and go to kits and projects and there are a lot of different patterns for opportunities to do at home whether it’s sewing, knitting, crocheting, cutting … there are lots of different opportunities to engage in work at home at this time. Staying busy helps with anxiety and serving others puts the focus on others. We are doing curbside pick-up, or we can mail things like fabric if they want to pay for the shipping. We can send all the things home with them including the patterns, materials, thread, etc. that they will need for the project.”
Midwest Mission takes many donations, so if people or businesses have something to share, contact them at 217-483.7911 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Corrie notes, “We take donations of bikes, sewing machines, wooden bleachers, old countertops or other large pieces of reusable wood, wheelchairs, walkers, crutches, canes, fabric or other items that belong in our different kits (Personal Dignity, Tornado, Student, Layette, Birthing, Feminine Hygiene and Rice Meal). To find the mission’s current needs go to www.midwestmission.org/donate/current-needs. If a business or individual finds they have a lot of something, whether that is sheets, mattresses or whatever, just give us them a call, if they don’t have a home for it, they know of other non-profits that can make it work. We are kind of a lynchpin in the way we bring organizations together. Last year we did a one-stop Christmas shop where we helped bring together a bunch of non-profits throughout the community to put on a Christmas event, this way organizations weren’t overlapping services and all of us were able to serve more families.”
“When a business, group, or church donates supplies or do a kit building project with us, we let them know the whole way through where everything went – when it arrives in the country and the organization it helped,” explains Corrie. “That is transparency that a lot of other non-profits can’t offer. We want to make it a more personal/relational/connectional thing. Every kit that leaves our building has a little bookmark in it and it says it’s from Midwest Mission and then it has a verse on the back. We say that everything that leaves our Mission is a gift from us, but more importantly, it’s a gift from God. And when you give a gift, you give a card, so that is why the card is enclosed and then we have people sign those cards, so that when somebody receives it on the other side they know it was packed with love.”