URBANA — Since expanding to Urbana in late 2017, Salt & Light has fallen into financial trouble and is turning to the community for help.
To dig out of the hole, the nonprofit Christian organization needs to raise $450,000 by the end of the year, according to Executive Director Nathan Montgomery.
“We know the community has been a big fan of what we do, and we just want them to know we need their help,” he said.
While Salt & Light covers 80 percent of its annual $2.5 million budget with its retail proceeds and community donations, it’s unable to get caught up from the initial outlay for the former County Market store at 1819 S. Philo Road that became its new Urbana facility, Montgomery said.
“It just kind of put everything behind,” he said.
Also contributing to Salt & Light’s financial plight is a lower-than-expected level of community shopping at its grocery and thrift stores, according to Montgomery.
“Our ability to undertake this kind of expansion rested on the belief we would be able to offset the expenses of the project with contributions as part of a capital campaign, and that revenue from the community shopping in our grocery and thrift stores would offset the increase in operating costs,” Lisa Sullivan, Salt & Light’s development director, said in a statement. “Though we have seen an increase in support from the community, neither of these has happened to the degree we needed them to.”
One mistaken assumption Salt & Light runs into all the time, Montgomery said, is that some people believe if they shop at its grocery and thrift stores, they’d be taking something away from low-income people. Actually, these operations are intended to serve everyone and help support Salt & Light’s expenses, he said.
Montgomery compared the 9,000-square-foot Urbana grocery space to an Aldi store. Prices are competitive, he said.
“We have a mix of name-brand and generic. We operate like any other small grocery,” he said.
Since opening the Urbana facility, Salt & Light has significantly expanded its impact, Montgomery said.
Households participating in the organization’s programs have grown from under 200 a month to 350. And since January 2018, participants working in the stores and earning credits to cover their store purchases have earned and spent nearly $420,000 worth of credits on groceries, clothing and household items, according to Sullivan.
Salt & Light has been reducing all noncritical operational expenses over the last year-and-a-half, but its current financial situation isn’t sustainable, Sullivan said.
Montgomery said the landlord for the Urbana building, Quincy-based Niemann Foods, and vendors have all been patient, but the organization needs $450,000 just to get caught up.
“One thing we’ve observed is we have a great deal of positive community support,” Montgomery said.
At the same time, he said, “I think by and large, the community has no idea how much we’ve been struggling. From the outside, things look great.”
Donations can be made online at saltandlightministry.org or by texting an amount to 217-600-2232. Donations by check can also be dropped off at the Urbana location.