Church members from various Christian denominations in May formed a Facebook group known as Uplift Mid-Mo to help support community members in poverty and Mexico churches. By August, the Facebook group was an official nonprofit.

"It was a grassroots movement from the people within the churches. It came about separate from church leadership itself," Uplift Board President Kate Shaw said. "[We're] interested in taking the Christian faith outside the walls of the church."

The group supports local missions as well as conducts evangelism and stewardship to the community members it serves.

"We were designed to unify local believers. Audrain County is about as far out as we go to do local missions and outreach work," Shaw said.

The organization works to provide basic family necessities, whether that is hygiene products or dental products. The outreach projects also allows the group to encourage those they serve to either attend or return to attending church.

When people come to Uplift, they fill out an intake form and a question on that form asks if they are looking for a church home. If so, Uplift also helps that person or family find a church to attend. They aren't told to go to a specific church, but are given information on the various Mexico churches so that person or family can choose a church home.

"We're trying to make sure we're identifying [community needs] and meeting whatever needs that are out there," Shaw said.

Individual churches in the community have received requests from community members seeking assistance, but don't always have all the resources available. That is one reason why Uplift was founded, Shaw said.

"[The churches] send some of their requests to us to meet those needs, so they're not as burdened. We're also keeping track of who [uses] the assistance we might offer," she said.

Uplift is working with multiple local and corporate sponsors, including Unilever, which donated hygiene and dental products for the Trunk-or-Treat event on Halloween. Products also were distributed at a booth during the Soybean Festival.

Uplift hopes to expand its services through continued and new corporate sponsorships next year. It also is working to implement a request system so social service agencies can work with Uplift to provide products and other services to clients.

"[We want to] work with other nonprofits in town, so that we're not duplicating any efforts," Shaw said.

Uplift is based in Mexico and most of its assistance activities are locally focused. There currently are around 245 active members of Uplift helping with the mission of the nonprofit. This includes hosting Bible studies and volunteer coordination.

The community has a real need for more assistance organizations as Mexico's poverty level is higher than the national average, Shaw said. Nearly 20% of Mexico citizens are impoverished, according to DataUSA. The national poverty rate is 12.3%. Poverty thresholds are based on number of people in a household. A family of four with two children under the age of 18 are considered impoverished if household annual income is $24,339 or less, according to the University of California Davis Center for Poverty Research.

"We noticed that a lot of churches have folks that want to help, but they're not sure how and they're not sure where to start, as far as locally," Shaw said, adding churches still are doing great things already. "We want to get more people engaged, more people involved and give them an outlet to do that."

Uplift, as a multi-denominational organization, has that ability to unify church efforts, Shaw said.

Uplift uses core Christian beliefs — people reach heaven through Jesus, God's son. The organization completes its mission of helping the community through those beliefs and through its secular partnerships with local and corporate entities.

"Any churches we partner with will obviously have to be aligned with our core values as well," Shaw said.

There are many ways in which people can meet the needs of the community to break the cycle of poverty, but the efforts still need to focus on faith in Jesus, she said. "People who have come out of a bad situation have really benefited from being a part of a church community, when they really put their life into it," she said.

The organization wants to function as an addition to the nonprofits in the community conducting similar programs, Shaw said. "We don't want to replace those things, but we want to add that faith element into helping these folks out," she said.

cdunlap@gatehousemedia.com