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Poverty is inequality for many local residents

Rev. Kevan Franklin works with many people in poverty.

Ellen Pill

“It’s not poverty. It’s inequality. It creates this structure where some people are looked at differently,” said Rev. Kevan Franklin of Trinity United Church of Christ, who speaks from his vantage point of being eye to eye with those struggling with poverty in Wooster. “A big part of our whole problem is we have emphasized that the good things in life come from wealth instead of more spiritual values like education and community. We have emphasized that having things is the path of happiness.

Franklin explained that there are people in poverty that are concerned about whether or not they would be welcome at church. “I intend goodwill for everyone. It’s the most important thing we can do. A lot of people ask me, ‘Is it OK if I come to church on Sunday?’ How do you create a caring community for everyone?”

Every weekday morning Franklin is in the social hall in the basement of his church overseeing a free volunteer-run breakfast. “People come for the community as much as the food. It’s a safe space.”

Franklin often invites those who do not frequent the meal to join him and meet the people who come for breakfast. “It’s very difficult for me to get people to accept that invitation to coffee. There is a social barrier there.”

Franklin does much more than serve a hot breakfast to those who might otherwise not eat. He said, “When you’re in poverty, you don’t have anything.”

So Franklin keeps an inventory of any and every thing he can, storing everything from winter gear, to food, to furniture in the nooks and crannies of his church.

Franklin said he is always in need of beds to be donated. “I try to keep people off the floor. There was an elderly gentleman. He was in the hospital. They discharged him, so he went home, where he was sleeping on the floor.”

The reverend often encounters folks who have found housing but have no furniture. “You can do charity, or you can do justice,” Franklin said.

He explained that while charity may be about feeding people, justice involves going deeper and finding connection. “You talk to people. You get to know them. You find out the things that are keeping them in poverty. I see a dozen people daily who ask me about some poverty issue. Often I can’t help them because I don’t have the resources, but at least I can be kind about it. You just have that bottom line ... intending goodwill for people and letting them know that you will do whatever you can.”

Franklin shared what he believes to be his biggest strength. “My primary skill? Just hanging out. I just talk to people, and they start telling me these fantastic things. I believe in hanging out without a purpose. You don’t know what you’re going to get hanging out and talking to people. You develop trust by knowing people. You become fearful by not knowing people.”

Franklin is involved in a seemingly endless array of community activities and services that he works with or spearheads. “We have a car loan program that grew out of the breakfast program. We found out that transportation was a problem for people who want to work.”

Franklin also works extensively with students from the College of Wooster. “A couple of students have done their independent studies on the breakfast program. And we take students to Mexico, where they are working with families and hearing the struggles and reasons for immigration. That is life-changing.”

Franklin also is the chairman of the Wooster Area Interfaith Partnership, an interfaith group of local spiritual leaders.

“We come from all over the place,” Franklin said. “We have a lot of resources when we work together ... Whether we are in the breakfast program or building houses in Mexico, it’s all about community ... That’s a measure of society ... taking care of people.”

A free, hot breakfast is available every Monday through Friday from 8:30-9:30 a.m. at Trinity United Church of Christ, 150 E. North St. in Wooster. Everyone is welcome. The breakfast is supported entirely by community donations and contributions.

Anyone wishing to volunteer with the church’s daily breakfasts, donate to the breakfast program, join on a mission trip or offer any items to donate may call Franklin at 330-264-9250 or email docksf@aol.com.

Published: February 15, 2017
New Article ID: 2017702159999