This past fall we invited Friends Journal readers to imagine what might happen if their meeting were to inherit one million dollars from the passing of a beloved member. As we were putting together the December issue on “Giving and Philanthropy,” Friends kept sharing stories of difficult discussions about—and sometimes painstakingly around—issues of money.
The contest grew out of an exercise used by Lisa Smith and Tom Kangas in their workshop at the 2016 Friends General Conference Gathering. We were also inspired by Philip Gulley’s recent novel A Lesson in Hope (reviewed in FJ Aug.), in which this same scenario plays out in the fictional Hope Friends Meeting in Hope, Ind.
Congratulations to Friends at Barnegat (N.J.) Meeting for their winning submission in our “Weathering the Windfall” contest. They’ll receive a $500 mini-windfall and copies of Gulley’s book.
Barnegat, a small meeting of 14 members, had big ideas for an expansion of its 1840s-era meetinghouse as a lever into greater outreach in the community, as well as funds to house and support refugee families.
The Barnegat (N.J.) Meeting is a small meeting of 14 members, 3 of those living out of state. We love our building, built (we think) in the 1840s, but we recognize that it’s lean-to bathroom and lack of kitchen and separate meeting rooms limits the way we can use the building for outreach into our community.
For this reason we had an architecturally sensitive addition designed. It is a clever design of a nearly identical (but modern and energy efficient) building that sits kitty-cornered behind the original building. They are connected by a shared covered porch. This ingeniously (yet attractively) avoids physically tying the buildings together which would require the original building to be brought up to current building codes. The new building contains adjustable meeting rooms, a kitchen and handicapped accessible bathrooms.
We cannot help but dream of the many uses we could find for the new building in ministering to our community. The improved facilities would undoubtedly assist us with “growing” the Meeting. We are anxious to offer a First-day school, something we currently cannot do as we simply have no where to put it. We could host social gatherings; music concerts, book and discussion groups. We would have meeting space to offer to outside organizations such as Alcoholics Anonymous and local peace and justice organizations. We would be able to participate as a hosting congregation with Interfaith Hospitality, an organization that helps homeless families by housing them in local churches, on a rotating basis for a week at a time. We currently serve as best we can, by offering support services at their local office (cleaning and clerical assistance.)
The architectural plans are drawn and paid for. The township has provisionally approved the design as to meeting historical appropriateness. Unfortunately our small meeting and correspondingly small building fund has made the realization of this plan just a dream. Were our Meeting to receive a windfall of one million dollars we would be able to immediately begin the construction of the addition and complete necessary repairs to the original building, historic cemetery, and surrounding stone wall.
We anticipate that these two expenditures (the new building and the repair of the original) would use up about $450,000 to $500,000 of the windfall.
We would love to use the remaining funds to purchase a house ($300,000) in the nearby county seat of Toms River, which we would use to house a refugee family. Toms River is most conveniently located near the services that the family would require; social services, transportation, etc.
We hope that we could enlist like-minded religious and secular groups to assist us in the ongoing support of the family, but would invest the remaining $200,000 as a cushion to guarantee meeting the financial requirement of supporting the family for 90 days as is required by the Federal government.
We would invest this remaining $200,000 with our other holdings in the PYM Green Fund, hoping that this additional capital investment would offset the loss of interest we experienced since transferring the entirety of our Friends Fiduciary monies to the Quaker Green Fund. The loss of interest income has necessitated scaling back the charitable contributions we have made in the past. We would hope that the increased investment would lead to an increase in interest income, enabling us to restore our contributions to prior levels and perhaps even increase them.
The “Weathering the Windfall” committee of Barnegat Monthly Meeting
Patricia Sherwin and Carolyn Shafer, Co-clerks of the Meeting
Joseph Fedock – Treasurer
Sherry Seeds – Recording Clerk
Friends Journal would like to thank to all who entered, as well as contest judges Gabriel Ehri, Philip Gulley, Shree Nath, and Lisa Smith for their time and discernment. Meet the contest judges:
Lisa Smith has served as the executive director of Enterprise for Equity since 1999, a nonprofit that helps people with limited incomes start small businesses and offers microloans up to $25,000 for start-ups. Lisa has facilitated discussions and events for groups of 50-300 people, presented at national and international conferences, and provided training and technical assistance for many organizations over the last 25 years. She is a member of Olympia (Wash.) Meeting.
Philip Gulley, heralded as the voice of small-town American life, is a Quaker pastor and author of 20 books that have sold over 1.2 million copies. He has received numerous awards, including the Christy Award for his acclaimed Harmony series and two Emmy Awards. Philip contributes to the Indianapolis Monthly and the Saturday Evening Post. He and his wife have two sons and a granddaughter and live in Danville, Ind.
Shree Nath has worked in the academic, governmental, and private industries (oil and gas, biopharma) and traveled the globe extensively. He was born and raised in Kenya, and then spent 15 years in Kerala, India, before making his way to Oregon to pursue twin PhDs in fisheries and bioresource engineering. He now lives and works in Olympia, Wash., and enjoys learning, assisting the personal development of young adults, and dealing with complex decision making involving multiple parties. He is active in Olympia (Wash.) Meeting. He is grateful for his wife, Meenu, their two children, Sitara and Hari, and a beloved Aussie Shepherd mix Hannah, who help to keep him grounded in the simplicities of daily life.
Gabriel Ehri has been the executive director of Friends Journal since 2011. A native of the Pacific Northwest, Gabe grew up attending University Friends Meeting in Seattle and is a member of Green Street Meeting in Philadelphia, Pa. After earning a degree in English from Haverford College, he spent time with an Internet startup before landing with the Journal in 2004. He’s an avid home cook and reader and enjoys Philadelphia’s vibrant restaurant and music scenes. He lives in the Bella Vista section of Philadelphia with his wife and two sons.