Salt & Light
1512 W Anthony Dr
Champaign, IL 61821
Phone: 217 355 5654
The Inside Story.
See how God used this once-in-a-lifetime event to change our ministry. For good.
In 2010, there were more than 8,000 children in poverty in our county.
The 2010 Federal Poverty Threshold defines $17,374 as the threshold for poverty for a family of three. However, the Self-Sufficiency Standard shows that it takes $45,598 for a family of three (adult, preschooler, school-age child) to make ends meet in Champaign County
Between 1999 and 2010, the number of people living in extreme poverty in Champaign County has increased nearly 60%.
Try as you might, there's just no way to prepare yourself for the shock of seeing Ty Pennington walk into your warehouse. With a megaphone in his hand. And a production team in his wings. But that's exactly what we encountered on August 19, 2009 at 10 a.m. in the morning.
Everything that was done for Salt & Light during that week was a tremendous blessing, and we can never thank everyone enough for their involvement. Probably the more lasting effect, however, is the awareness that the show created about the work that we do and the many ways that people can partner with us in our ministry. We could have literally spent decades laboring in our neighborhoods and still not created the level of awareness that now exists as the product of one extraordinary week. For this increased exposure we are forever grateful!
Leading up to that incredible morning when Ty, Michael, Johnny, and Didi showed up, we'd discussed the potential impact the show might have, but it wasn't long before we realized we had underestimated just how big it would be. The facelift they gave to the building itself was amazing! From new light fixtures, a much-needed paint job, and new freezers and refrigeration in the warehouse to a completely refurbished office, waiting area and the multi-purpose room where we hold our services; everything had a completely different feel when you walked through the doors.
And the physical changes were really just the beginning. Through the combined efforts of the show, the builder Brady Homes, and the rest of the community, multiple semi loads of food were collected to be distributed through our food pantry, and over $50,000 was raised to further our work. All of that was done while they were building our new home, which, along with the "family story," is typically the focal point of the show. After learning about the work being done at Salt & Light, Extreme Makeover: Home Edition quickly realized they wanted to increase their focus on the ministry.
Sure, everyone's nice for the cameras. But what's everyone really like when the cameras aren't rolling? And what the heck do they do with all of your stuff? From demo to construction and all points in between, it takes a lot of work to pull off each Extreme transformation. But according to Nathan, it's all handled from start to finish by an amazing team.
"Everyone we dealt with was incredible," says Nathan. "From all of the crew members to the cast, they were all pretty awesome. I was honestly surprised. It's television, so you always wonder how real everyone is. It was very authentic."
In fact, Nathan had nothing bad to say about anyone, from the family producer who coordinated their interaction with the show to the ABC and Disney reps who took care of them on their trip. If anything, they treated them too well. "My kids will never be able to have a normal vacation again," laughs Montgomery, after enjoying a vacation that would be hard for any parent to top. For four days, they stayed in the nicest suite in the newest Disney hotel with a two-story window facing the Magic Kingdom Castle. The entire time, they never waited more than ten minutes for a ride, and they even got to ride some of the park's most popular attractions before the park was even open.
Meanwhile, back in Illinois, their possessions were in good hands. Nearly everything they owned was gathered, packed, and put in storage. Some of it arrived at their new home in better shape than when it left, according to Nathan. "All of our clothes were dry cleaned and hanging in our closets with some new stuff mixed in." But that wasn't the only surprise. For weeks, the family would find fun surprises in the new home, left by a thoughtful production team. "You'd open a drawer and there would be an iPod Nano or a camcorder," says Nathan. "It was weeks before I found an iHome entertainment center that they'd left under our bed."
On their return, Nathan asked the show to deliver most of their belongings to Salt & Light, so they could clear things out and decide what they wanted to keep and what they could share with others. "They said it would be a good opportunity to clear things out, and it was."
While the Montgomery's love their new house. It took them a little while to get used to. Especially during the first month, when they literally had to keep their home under wraps. "They don't want you to ruin the surprise of the reveal on TV, so you have to keep plastic over the windows until the show airs. It was weird to be home at night and see light bulbs flashing through the windows."
Nathan says the entire experience was very positive, from the great staff, to the amazing trip to the overwhelming love and support they had from the community around them. "They told me that, for most of these builds, they'll get 2,000 to 2,5000 people who will sign up to volunteer. We had over 5,000 volunteer to build." It was an overwhelming show of support for Nathan and his family, for which he says they feel extremely fortunate and incredibly blessed.
"This whole experience has raised awareness, not just about the work we do, but about the great need that exists," says Nathan. "With the help of Extreme Makeover: Home Edition, Brady Homes, and the wonderful volunteers from our community, the page has been turned on our work at Salt & Light. Now, it is up to us, to each of us, to write the next chapter."
"The show really opened doors for us," says Nathan. Overnight, they transformed from a ministry that no one had heard of to someone that everyone wanted to talk to. Curiosity about the show made it a lot easier for the Salt & Light team to get meetings and raise the funds desperately needed to help local families. Which is a good thing, because the same show that opened the doors, also opened the floodgates.
Prior to the show's first broadcast on October 26, 2009, the Salt & Light food pantry served an average of 240 families. After the show, that number climbed more than 60%. But with increased awareness, Salt & Light has been able to meet those needs and expand its operations to serve more people, with more needs, better than before.