Charity issue: Crossing the bridge


Ella Sottile

LifeBridge charity is based in the basement of KUMC at 201 West Adams Ave.

LifeBridge isn’t your typical charity. Its organizers look to change the way people do charity with the help of the Kirkwood community, including KHS students and staff. They’re starting small, but planning big.

Kirkwood United Methodist Church (KUMC) does work in their church and the Kirkwood community. Even before COVID-19 they were putting their money and labor into helping people.

“Every year there’s a canned food drive [our church] does, ” Lucy Seibert, sophomore and KUMC member said. “Every summer, we [also] go on a mission trip with the choir and serve people in different states [to] help out.”

[Food drives weren’t] transforming lives, we wanted to do more.

— Julie Sherwood

According to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics, during COVID-19, unemployment tripled in the second quarter of 2020 from 3.6% to 13%. KUMC worked to help the increased job loss in their community with charity work. 

“Over the past year, the church has done a lot of large food distributions,” Reverend Kyle Butler, LifeBridge executive director said. “During COVID-19, we probably had 200 to 300 cars coming through that we would give boxes of food to. We had people set up ‘the COVID fund,’ people could call and if they needed help, we would try to meet it.”

While KUMC felt they were doing a good job getting help out to people, they also wondered how they could get people more help. It felt like someone would show up for a box of food, but would never come back for more help.

“In the years leading up to the pandemic we were really good at collecting things and giving out backpacks [of] food,” Julie Sherwood, Director of Missions said. “That wasn’t transforming their lives, [so] we wanted to do more. Through [LifeBridge], we will be able to develop deeper relationships and hopefully transform lives.” 

LifeBridge is KUMCs new non-profit which looks to follow the model of Lifewise in St. Louis city. Lifewise was created in 1902 and has developed over many years into a holistic approach, which is focusing on helping the entire person, not just their empty stomach. According to Lifewise’s website, they have a goal of  “help[ing] individuals and families achieve economic well-being by providing high-impact, relationship-based programming and by addressing systemic barriers to their success.” 

Just like Lifewise, LifeBridge will have a multi-pronged approach. One element that they will have is a food pantry. 

The future food market of LifeBridge in the building process (Ella Sottile )

“We will offer [food] at a reduced cost,” Sherwood said. “[This Allows] for someone to walk into the market and be able to choose what they want for their family, and pay an affordable price for the items [and] have the satisfaction of knowing they are providing for their own family.” 

They will also have entrance into KUMC child care program at a reduced cost, classes on finance and a social worker to allow there members to get one on one help.  With a framework in place LifeBridge opened their first program on Oct. 20, 2021.

“Our first class is 11 people that we really want to invest heavily in, to see them a lot and get to know them well,” Rev. Butler said. “[We want to] get them through this program [and] offer each of them one on one coaching. Then as we move forward, we want to continue to expand to serve more people, [while] also expanding what we can do.” 

LifeBridge is starting out small so they can create a personal relationship with every member in their charity, they said. But, as LifeBridge expands they think it will be harder to have those types of relationships. So as they grow, they want more people to get involved so every person can get a personal plan. This could include Kirkwood students helping out. 

“There’s gonna be plenty of opportunities to volunteer,” Sherwood said. “With childcare, before or after school. With the market either by shopping for items, delivering items, stocking the shelves, working with shoppers one on one, or taking inventory, all that kind of stuff.” 

If you have questions about volunteering or getting help from the charity, go to the KUMC website, email [email protected] or call 314-966-8167.