The Union Church in Waban, Massachusetts, extended its first 1K Churches loan in October, 2017 to Sandra Okiror-Njoroge, owner of Wham’s Café in Lowell, MA. The loan was needed to expand the restaurant’s food prep area, repair equipment, purchase new equipment, and boost marketing. The Union Church’s1K Committee member Alison McCarty shared that story in the 1K Churches Newsletter one year ago. In this update, she tells us how that business and the relationships are flourishing as a result of this loan. Further on you will read her account of another loan and a business that struggled, but the church continues to reach out in relationship. It’s all about relationships – with the business owners, within the congregation, and with the wider 1K community!
Sandra’s loan repayments began in January 2018, when Sandra and her family came to church to celebrate with us. The first 12 months of repayment on the two-year loan have been received on time. The church has continued to invest in our relationship with Sandra and her business. During the course of the spring of 2018, four groups of congregants drove to Wham’s Café to share fellowship and a meal. Last spring the church also hosted a donation drive to benefit Stella’s Wish Bus, an effort Sandra and her family initiated to support school children with disabilities in Kenya. In the fall, members of the church bought prepared food from Wham’s Café to serve at a reception hour. At the holidays members of the congregation were invited to purchase Wham’s Café gift cards. This ongoing and deepening connection between the church and Wham’s Café has been vital.
This month our church is launching “Mini-Missions” with our pre-K through grade 5 church-schoolers. “Mini-Missions” were introduced two years ago as a way to engage our youngest children in service to others in accessible and meaningful ways. Children are offered a choice among a small number of non-profit organizations and then spend time researching the work of the organizations, designing and implementing a donation drive, and, ultimately, providing direct service to the organization. Wham’s Café and Stella’s Wish Bus have been selected as one of three organizations that will benefit from the 2019 “Mini Missions.” The children made their choices this week with a large number opting to participate in the Wham’s Café/Stella’s Wish Bus project. Over the coming months the children will learn more about the challenges students with disabilities face in gaining access to education, they will collect school supplies and clothing, pack the donations for shipment to Kenya, and conclude with a visit to Wham’s Café to learn about Kenyan culture and the Kenyan community in the city of Lowell.
For its part, Wham’s Cafe is doing well and is now considering another expansion. Café owner Sandra reports: “So far, through the help of the 1K mission, whamscafe.com is functional, requiring only a few tweaks every now and then. One of the two part time staff that joined our team, celebrated her 1st anniversary in January. Another joined us in May and recently switched her shift to mornings. That means I will soon need an afternoon helper.” Sandra provides financial reports on Café operations, which reveal that Wham’s Café revenues have more than doubled since Sandra received her 1K loan. Expanding her hours of operation is next on her agenda.
In December of 2017 our 1K Committee identified a second borrower, and we extended our second loan of $2,500 to a woodworking artisan with payments scheduled to begin in April 2017. The loan was needed to replace a table saw so that the woodworking shop could fill orders. The first loan repayment was made, but the second was not. In following up, we discovered that the artisan had been unable to purchase a table saw for the price he originally expected. The price had increased by $500. He shared with us some very difficult circumstances that had left him in financial straits and necessitated him looking for a full-time job. This left the woodworking business as a “sideline” rather than a full time venture and revenue dwindled accordingly. Much of this was beyond our borrower’s control and he is working very hard to gain financial stability. The 1K Committee has not pressed the borrower to maintain the agreed-upon repayment schedule, but instead has extended the time and continued to reach out in prayer and concern.
The 1K Committee has stepped back from plans for extending further loans this year while we wait for our fund to recover more fully. It is our hope that by January 2020 the Wham’s Café loan to Sandra Okiror-Njoroge will be repaid in full and at that time we will be in a position to seek another borrower.
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