Clergy Corner, Sept. 14, 2018

Clergy Corner, Sept. 14, 2018

GEORGETOWN — It's not unusual for Marcia Keys to anonymously pay for someone's tank of gas; buy 15 watermelons at the grocery store, then find people to give them to; or whip up a two-skillet meal and seek out a family member, friend or church member who needs a warm, home-cooked supper.

"My entire life, I have given back to people who were in need," said the 60-year-old Georgetown woman, a retired food-service administrator with the Illinois Department of Corrections and member of New Life Church of Faith in Danville.

Now, five years into retirement, Keys has launched a new faith-based nonprofit organization geared toward helping others, especially those "truly in need."

Over the Rainbow Ministries qualified earlier this year for its 501(c)(3) nonprofit status and certification as a community-development entity. That distinction, determined by the U.S. Department of the Treasury, allows Keys' organization to act as "an intermediary vehicle for the provision of loans, investments or financial counseling in low-income communities.

Keys is executive director of Over the Rainbow, whose mission is "to provide financial incentives and extraordinary opportunities, education and mentorship to families and individuals to enhance their quality of life."

Keys is focusing on helping others throughout Vermilion County, but hopes to expand to projects in Champaign County, too.

Since April, Over the Rainbow has helped about 600 people in some way.

Keys' first outreach effort was providing cold water and snacks on a hot, humid day to the 300 people waiting in line outside St. James United Methodist's food pantry in Danville, and then inviting them to pray along with her sister, Charlene Randle, a minister at New Life Church of Faith.

"It's about what God is doing through me," Keys said, emphasizing that the organization and its faith-based outreach are not about her. "I want people to know that what I'm doing is what's been given to me in the spirit by God. So basically, what I am doing is carrying out God's love."

One of eight children, Keys said she and all of her siblings give to others, something they learned from their mother. The legacy of the late Loretta G. Randle is clearly the driving force behind the ministry.

"She was a giver," Keys said, "who was known for her giving, her honesty and compassion for other people."

Her mother loved the song "Over the Rainbow," which is where Keys came up with the idea for the organization's name.

"There's love at the end rather than a pot of gold," Keys said.

For help getting the nonprofit off the ground, she turned to a friend — the Rev. Eugene Barnes, executive director of Metanoia Inc., a faith-based nonprofit he started in the Bristol Place neighborhood. Barnes mentored her through the formation of Over the Rainbow.

"He's been awesome," said Keys, who also thanked New Life Pastor Thomas Miller.

She's had support at home, too — namely from husband Richard, with whom she will celebrate 25 years of marriage next year.

"My husband is definitely my backbone that keeps me centered. ... He allows me to go and be free and do things for people," she said.

Keys said it was a great benefit in her life decades ago, as a single working mother in her 20s, to be able to afford a house of her own through a Farmer's Home Administration loan. Now, she said, she's equally grateful for the chance to help others in the same way, focusing on serving the needs of the poor and working class within urban and low-income rural communities.

Many of these citizens are underserved or ignored by traditional commercial banks and lending processes, she said. Her goal: to help them become financially self-sufficient, allowing them to increase their contribution to national economic growth and to rebuild run-down communities.

"I want to leave people better than I found them, and I'm asking God to lead me to those people," she said. "What motivates me is people in need. ... I get so much gratification from giving. It honestly makes me happy. I get joy."

Keys is planning a website, but for now, anyone can donate, she said, by sending checks to Over the Rainbow Ministries, 305 West Ninth St., Georgetown, IL 61846.

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