By Jim Davis

Our goal at the Life Enrichment Center is to help people transform their lives. We want to help people recover from addiction, improve their health and self-esteem, build a sense of community, learn skills that will help them find jobs, and find God’s purpose in their lives. That’s why we’ve invested so much effort on building the Pathways to Growth, so that we have the right set of services to help our neighbors meet those goals.

But not everyone who comes through our doors is prepared to make a commitment to transform their life. Change isn’t necessarily easy or quick: if people are going to succeed at it, they need to be prepared to invest the time and effort to make it happen. Some people simply aren’t ready to make that investment and risk losing their chance to reach their full potential. They need an incentive to convince them to begin their journey down the Pathways to Growth and to stick with it until they reach their goal.

That’s why the LEC introduced the concept of exchange charity. Exchange charity rewards people by providing them with something of value when they attend one of our classes or participate in certain events. Instead of simply giving people groceries or other “free” services, we require them to earn their reward by making an investment in themselves. Each time a person attends a class or participates in a service or event, they earn points towards a shopping trip in our Choice Pantry or LEC Mart.

Obviously, the rewards we offer need to be worthy of the investment that we’re asking people to make. That’s why we developed The Choice Pantry and the LEC Mart. The Choice Pantry stocks items similar to what you would find at a convenience store, minus the soft drinks, alcohol, and cigarettes. It includes cleaning items, paper goods, canned goods, cereal, fresh fruits and vegetables, and some frozen and refrigerated food. The LEC Mart, on the other hand, carries small household goods, like pots and pans, as well as small kitchen appliances, like toasters and crockpots. This gives neighbors the choice to choose their own reward by deciding whether to redeem their points for either groceries or home goods.

The power of exchange charity is that instead of getting “something for nothing,” participants receive “something for something.” It allows us to reinforce a person’s commitment to the Pathways to Growth by rewarding them as they travel down their personal path. The Choice Pantry and LEC Mart have plenty of options, which gives neighbors the flexibility to choose rewards that are meaningful to them. And it improves people’s self-esteem by rewarding their accomplishments along their Pathway to Growth. In these ways, it is a powerful tool for motivating people to invest in their future.

“Because Everyone Has Value”

Jim Davis has been a volunteer with the Life Enrichment Center since 2019. His grandparents lived in East Dayton and he has many fond memories of what the area was like when he was growing up.