Consider this. In West Virginia, one in three children lives in poverty. Almost 10% of babies are born with low birth weight. In our schools, 55% of students are approved for a free or reduced lunch. Over half of all fourth graders in West Virginia cannot read at what is considered a proficient level. Children who lived in poverty are more likely to have children outside of marriage, to be arrested, and to have severe health problems. What can we do about this kind of darkness?
The churches of the Taylor County Cooperative Parish are witnesses to the effects of these statistics. Taylor County has the second highest high school drop-out rate in West Virginia, and the judicial system has noticed a correlation between the drop-out rate and court appearances. United Methodists in the Parish began dreaming of a way to best help their community. They decided they would begin by providing financial help to young people in Taylor County with their education. Their hope is that this will bring positive change to the entire county.
To start the scholarship fund, members in the participating churches gave small amounts of money until their combined gifts were over $1,000. Kim Matthews from The Foundation met with the Scholarship Committee to discuss the benefits of a custodial account and the investment options The Foundation offers. After this, the Taylor County Cooperative Parish Scholarship Account was born. It continues to grow as church members make additional monthly contributions to the Parish for the scholarship account.
A few years later,after the charge learned about endowments, the group came up with the seed money to start The Taylor County Cooperative Parish Scholarship Endowment Fund. Unlike the earlier account they started, the Endowment Fund will be invested as a permanent fund, and the annual net income will be available to use for scholarships. We have found that individuals are likely to make larger gifts, and in particular gifts from their estate, when there is an endowment. They can give their accumulated resources knowing that it will be a permanent investment.
We also suggested to the Parish that once the Endowment was started, they needed to make sure people knew about it, and we could help them market it in their community. Already, we have been advised by one person who has changed their will to include the Endowment in their estate plans.
United Methodists in the Taylor County Cooperative Parish see the needs in their county, but they are also witnesses to the light of Jesus Christ, and they are shining that light in the darkness.