Harvesting Mission Vans from Soup Labels

( [email protected] ) Jan 19, 2004 01:39 PM EST

Over 1.25 million Campbell’s Soup labels were collected for the Red Bird Mission group in 2003, enabling the Christian educational group to buy items to support their ministry through the Campbell’s Labels for Education program.

While the ministry exists mainly through the direct support of churches of various denominations, other programs such as Campbells help fill in the gap. Since its inception in 1974, the mission earned seven minivans, 15 passenger vans and various school supplies, thanks to the “label” donations of Christians around the nation.

“The fact that people from at least 35 states, are mailing us their Campbell’s labels illustrates the power of the connectional church,” said Brian Barker, director of mission giving for Red Bird Mission. “A bunch of people joined together to do a simple thing to make a huge difference in our community.

“The labels allow us to buy items we would otherwise not be able to afford; and frees us to use financial donations for community outreach, such as food, clothing and shelter,” Barker continued.

Each van, which costs between 1-1.5 million labels, is used for school-related trips for the church-sponsored Red Bird Mission School. Then, the vans are used to provide transportation for those who can’t drive or have no vehicle, for volunteers to deliver meals to senior citizens and for medical caregivers. In addition, the vans transport crafts made by Red Bird residents to raise money for the mission or to transport supplies for volunteers to use when repairing homes or serving Red Bird residents in various capacities.

Tracy Nolan, director of community outreach for Red Bird since 1999, explained, “Most people don’t realize how critical these vans are to us. Without the vans, we would have no means to conduct most of our ministries. In just home delivery of meals alone, we must drive 160 miles each day; and that’s only a fraction of what we use them for.”

“Each time someone sends in a label,” she says, “he or she is helping provide transportation for a meal to a family, a homeless person to receive shelter, a sick person to see a doctor or pick up medications, an adult to get to GED classes, or a shut-in to find friendships at a senior center.

While the 250 students who go to Red Bird Mission School pay on a sliding scale ranging from $8 a month to $51 a month, the school has an operating budget of $1.5 million a year. Red Bird relies heavily on financial donations for day-to-day upkeep of the school. More than half of the adults in the mission do not have a high school education and 50 percent of the labor force is unemployed.

Everyday, one to ten volunteers sort, count and prepare the labels for redemption at the Red Bird Clinic. Once a year in the spring the labels are boxed in groups of 70,000 and placed on wrapped pallets. Red Bird Mission then pays between $300 and $500 to freight the labels to the redemption center.

In addition to Campbell labels, Red Bird Mission collects General Mills box tops and Tyson Foods’ Project A+ labels. If you would like to support this ministry, please mail all certificates and labels to: Red Bird Mission, Attn.: Fran Woodworth, HC 69 Box 700, Beverly, Kentucky 40913.