In the upcoming weeks, you’ll learn about how our headquarters building used to be a bowling supply warehouse, how one of our founders walked from Kansas City to Chile in his lifetime, and how the first sponsored person views the long-term impact of sponsorship.
This week, you’ll learn about the parish outreach program that was established out of our founders’ Catholic roots and continues today as a meaningful way to connect sponsors with children and elders who need their support and encouragement.
Fans of the holiday classic “It’s a Wonderful Life” know that every time a bell rings, an angel gets its wings. At Unbound, we have our own version of that. But every time a bell rings, children get sponsored. And, unlike the one angel per ring ratio of the movie, when you hear our bell you know that many lives are about to change for the better.
The bells are heard in the northeast corner of the second floor at Unbound’s Kansas City headquarters. That’s where our parish outreach team spends their days calling Catholic churches across the country and visiting with pastors. The bell is rung only when a parish invites one of our priests to come for a visit.
When that happens, those within earshot cheer because they know how precious those invitations are and how hard the callers work to get them. But, more importantly, they know that one parish visit likely means that many more children and elders will soon be sponsored — and that just as many members of Catholic faith communities will soon discover the Christ who dwells in a special way within and among the poor of the world.
Vicki Grindstaff manages the team that contacts the parishes. Like the other seven callers, she views her work as more than a job.
“I feel like I’m doing something to make a difference for God’s kingdom and helping the poor that he loves,” she said. “It’s challenging and it’s never boring. It’s also great fun to talk to secretaries and pastors from all over the country that also have a heart for the poor.”
That attitude is important in getting the callers through the inevitable dry spells. So is the support they receive from each other.
“It really helps that we work in close quarters,” Vicki said, “because when you do this you deal with a lot of rejection. You need encouragement from the other team members.”
This year marks the 25th anniversary of the Unbound preacher program. It was the brainchild of our late co-founder, Jim Hentzen, who first envisioned the mutual blessings that could come from sharing Unbound’s message from the pulpit. He invited priests, many of whom were retired pastors, to travel on our behalf and use their preaching gifts in the service of God’s beloved poor.
Vicki spoke of the dedication of the 40 priests who now work with Unbound.
“I’m amazed at our preachers because most of them are retired, so that puts them at an age when a lot of people start taking it easy. But instead, these guys fly all over the country sharing about Unbound and sharing about the poor to get more children and elderly sponsored.”
Clearly, Jim Hentzen’s idea worked. Through the gifts of our priests, thousands of Catholic parishioners have found a dynamic way to put their faith into action while doing real and lasting good in the life of another person.
During this anniversary year, as we reflect on the numerous things for which our community is grateful, we thank our parish outreach team as well as our preachers. We also thank the pastors who have welcomed those priests to their parishes over the past 25 years and the parishioners who have become sponsors.
Most of these people will never know that we celebrate their generosity by ringing a bell in one corner of a refurbished warehouse in Kansas City, Kansas. But we know. And we’ll keep right on ringing that bell with joy and gratitude.
Click here to learn more about inviting Unbound to your parish!