Guest speaker Charlene Dart said the Unity of Community group developed out of the Trunk or Treat activity at the First United Methodist Church last Halloween. Five church groups, composed primarily of lay people, produced an event that drew 2,000 people.
In January, organizers got together again with an eye toward taking on more joint projects. Seventy people from eight churches attended the meeting. Ideas were shared on projects that could be taken on either separately or together, but at least jointly promoted.
The name "Unity of Community" was mentioned at a meeting Dart attended in Jefferson City, where she talked about the local initiative. Others in the alliance embraced the term as a group name.
Dart said several ideas for projects have been advanced. Six churches will be jointly holding a Vacation Bible School in July. Four other churches are holding sessions on two different weeks. Dart said all would be promoted, giving the public options on times and providing an outreach to children who otherwise may not attend any church.
Representatives from the Monett Youth Board are meeting with the Unity of Community alliance. They have reported the youth center planned to operate at Bob and Debbie Berger's Mocha Jo's building on Broadway hopes to open a program in June for middle and high school students. Volunteers for running the youth center will be welcome.
Plans have started for a "Praisestock," a Christian music concert of praise bands, coinciding with the 35th anniversary of the beginning of rock festivals at Woodstock. A similar undertaking is already scheduled in Wheaton. Dart said if insight on how to run such an event can be gained, and bands can be signed, Monett could have its own Praisestock in September.
Seven churches are planning to participate in the 2009 Trunk or Treat event. An even greater turnout is anticipated in October, Dart said. The Monett Area YMCA has made plans to designate its Boo-Bash funds for a separate event to help support Trunk or Treat instead.
Several churches combined efforts in April to work on the Healthy Kids Day at Monett's South Park. Several had booths to promote specific programs.
Food for Thought, the program providing food in back packs for children who otherwise might not have enough to eat over weekends, is another effort where Unity of Community is trying to get other churches involved. A commitment by more than the original sponsor, First Christian Church, will enable more children to be added to the program, Dart added.
Several churches have expressed an interest in adding to the community's Fourth of July celebration by having a moment of silence before the fireworks to remember the troops deployed worldwide, Dart said.
The most ambitious plan considered by the Unity of Community is establishment of a health clinic for the Monett area. According to Dart, a delegation has been following the progress of the Faith Community Health Center in Branson, geared at under-insured and non-insured working people. Clinic representative Sue Head has detailed for the Monett group how the clinic idea is modeled after one in Memphis, Tenn.
The Branson group plans to open in June, offering medical, dental and pharmaceutical programs, as well as wellness and spiritual counseling. Patients would be accountable to doctors. Thus those who did not agree to follow doctor's directions, such as losing weight, could be turned away.
The clinic will be run be volunteers on a "good Samaritan" basis, exempting the staff from legal liabilities, according to a Branson doctor.
The idea of targeting the working poor, Dart said, presumed patients may already be getting some government assistance. If not, Dart said guidelines for whom to serve would be set locally, broadening who to help if necessary.
According to Greg Johnson, Cox Monett Hospital administrator, the Monett hospital has budgeted writing off $3.7 million in bad debt in 2009, much in acute care. Dart said many people are not going for help until they are so sick they need acute care.
The clinic, she said, could cut down on drain on healthcare costs. Statistics show that as of last September, 21 percent of Lawrence County residents and 23 percent of Barry County residents had no health insurance.
"The churches long ago took care of people," Dart said. "Then the government took over. It's time churches got together to say, 'We're here to take care of our people."
Unity of Community meets on the fourth Tuesday every other month. The next meeting will be at 7 p.m. on June 23 at the Church of the Nazarene. Dart invited anyone interested to attend.
Gordon Brown was the program chairman for the meeting. Kiwanis President Lisa Balmas presided. Balmas passed around sign-up sheets for Peanut Day on May 15 and a pancake dinner for the public from 5 to 7:30 p.m. on May 28 at the Legion Home in Monett. Cost will be $3 for adults and $2 for children.
The Monett Kiwanis Club meets at noon on Tuesdays for lunch and a program at the Happy House restaurant.