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Starfish and making a difference

Updated: 2013-10-16T02:15:01Z

By ELAINE ADAMS

The Kansas City Star

You know the story. On a shoreline full of beached starfish, a young boy heaves a few back into the ocean. Someone comes along and asks why he bothers. Too many starfish, for such a weak effort to matter.

But the boy picks up another starfishes, tosses it into the waves and says, “It matters to this one.”

My husband does the same thing with worms that land in the middle of the street after a hard rain. The lucky ones get tossed into the grass, and perhaps they think my husband must be divine.

Today, the worms are nothing more than a family joke, but the starfish story has become very personal to three Kansas City area women whose earlier volunteer work exposed them to generational poverty. They wanted to make a bigger impact, and now, through a mentoring program called Starfish Ministry, they are trying to make a difference, family by family.

This ministry is the subject of this week’s beautifully told — and honest — cover story.

As you will learn, the founders’ initial idealism has been tempered by the enormity of their undertaking. After an urgent financial crisis is resolved, longstanding patterns remain. Without the connections and informal mentoring that many of us take for granted, it’s difficult for poor people to get ahead. It takes time, understanding and solid relationships to make a long-term difference.

But these dedicated women are in it for the long haul. Perhaps their story wil touch you as deeply as it did me.

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