Our vision at ELM is to break the cycle of generational poverty. Even though we have been doing this work since 2012, we have found that the traditional ways of addressing poverty are not working. The gap keeps getting wider despite more and more anti-poverty programs. So we started looking for new approaches to take people from crisis to prosperity.

 We recently learned about a national initiative called True Charity that works with faith-based organizations and nonprofits to change the way communities address poverty and have become a member of the True Charity network.

 True Charity offers a new approach to compassion that focuses on how to help without creating long term dependence. In addition to considering new ways to approach charitable giving and compassion, it also emphasizes personal accountability and responsibility. It was founded by Watered Gardens CEO James Whitford and is based on the  7 Marks of Effective Compassion as outlined in Dr. Marvin Olasky’s ground breaking book The Tragedy of American Compassion,

The principles at the heart of relational responsible True Charity are:

·        Affiliation –Who is most responsible to help a person in need? Key relationships in a person’s life are critical as they journey toward self-sufficiency.

·        Bonding –What is the role of relationship between charity staff/volunteers and the person in need? Strong social networks are vital and can becomegame-changing relationships that lead to accountability.

·        Categorization –Well-executed charity operates from the understanding that different situations call for different charitable responses, and that one-size-fits-all approaches are rarely the solution. And that understanding of individual needs leads to corresponding and appropriate charitable responses.

·        Discernment –You’ve heard the quote “knowledge is power.” Charity is no exception! Prudent action, rooted in accurate information brought about by observation, investigation, and communication, is essential to effective charity.

·        Exchange –The duty to honor a person’s dignity and capacity is as delicate as it is vital. The "earn-it” model of charity can awaken a person’s sense of self-worth and set them on a path toward flourishing. ELM's Little Miracles grant program was featured as a model of the exchange principle in a True Charity blog post. https://www.truecharity.us/expecting-little-miracles-how-one-scholarship-program-encourages-hard-work-self-sufficiency-and-service/

·        Freedom –Can charity be enslaving? Yes, for both the helper and the helped– misguided charity can produce paternalism for the former and dependence for the latter. True Charity can preserve a person’s vital freedom rather than diminish it.

·      God –Research demonstrates the crucial difference that faith makes in a person’s journey out of poverty, on the part of both the helper and the helped.

To learn more about True Charity, join us for a Foundations of True Charity Workshop

  • Date: Tuesday and Wednesday, November 9-10, 2021
  • Time: 8 a.m. – 4:30 p.m.; 9 a.m. – 12 p.m.
  • Location: Student Center at First Baptist Church, 600 Governors Drive, Huntsville, AL. Please use entrance #7 to access the building for this event.
  • Cost: $20 for lunch on Nov 9 and all materials

Register for the workshop online at:        


For more information, contact Missy Hanks missy@elmhsv.org 256-217-7141

by Jennie Robinson

Board Secretary & ELM Administrator

“There are two ways to live your life. You can live as if nothing is a miracle. Or you can live as if everything is a miracle.” - Albert Einstein