Embrace pastor’s nonprofit adds app connecting donors with recipients

By Erin Mairose, for SiouxFalls.Business

A nonprofit founded by a teaching pastor at Embrace Church is putting a technological twist on giving.

Clothe Your Neighbor As Yourself, or CYNY, supports children in developing countries by giving them school uniforms and other resources.

Now with a recently launched app called Neighborly, supporters can track the effect of their donations.

Students in the areas that are helped can go to school free until eighth grade but must have a uniform, organizational coordinator Kelly Lantz said. A donation of $27 equips one child with a uniform. Donating $75 also gives the student books and a health checkup to test for problems such as vision impairment.

“We realized that in developing countries if you’re not educated, what kind of job are you going to get if you can’t read, write, do basic math, and it’s not required by law like it is here?” Lantz explained.

With the Neighborly app, people can enter the coordinates received after making a donation to track their effect. This includes getting a 360-degree view of the classroom with the children who received uniforms, along with the ability to send them notes, view a map of the community and receive updates.

Lantz said there are few, if any, charities that are integrating technology like this.

“When we say it (the app) reimagines charity, we do think it’s because no one has done this before — physically put your direct impact with direct connections into the palm of your hand,” she said. “Not everyone gets to go to the country we focus on, but why can’t we bring that country a little bit closer to where you are?”

Although clothing remains at the heart of CYNY’s mission, its approach to giving has evolved over time.

CYNY was founded by Florida native James Barnett, now a teaching pastor at Embrace. Barnett was inspired to start a clothing brand as a method to help empower the homeless.

“You used to have to get something to give something, such as buying a T-shirt or a wallet from the Clothe Your Neighbor store before that proceed was given to help someone else in need,” Lantz said.

Selling CYNY products still remains important to the charity’s mission as that money goes toward operational costs. This allows 100 percent of donations made at cyny.org to go directly to school uniforms and helping kids attend school.

CYNY products can be purchased at cyny.org or at J.Ella Boutique on 5019 S. Western Ave. Co-owner Jael Thorpe said since discovering the charity on social media in its early days, “I have been inspired not only by their mission and heart for service but the simple message put forth: to love and clothe your neighbor.”

J.Ella is the only store where CYNY merchandise can be purchased in Sioux Falls. All of the products are made sweatshop-free, ethnically made and provide a living wage to the people who help make them.

“So it’s still a conscious choice to empower people,” Lantz said.

CYNY’s current campaign benefits the community of Chembulet, Kenya. So far, enough money has been raised for about 230 school uniforms. The goal is to reach 750 by the end of September.

Every three months, the campaign changes to a new community. The idea behind rotating between countries and communities is to promote sustainability so that eventually outside help isn’t needed.

“I don’t see it as changing often,” Lantz said. “I see it as let’s equip as many communities as possible for sustainable living.”

So far, the charity has worked with schools in Haiti and Kenya but plans to expand beyond those countries. With the new digital connection between donors and those they are helping, Lantz sees exciting potential for increased giving.

“I think when people know more … they’re more connected and willing to help.”

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Embrace pastor’s nonprofit adds app connecting donors with recipients

A nonprofit founded by a teaching pastor at Embrace Church is putting a technological twist on giving.

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