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Rev. Robert Southard, a Tallgrass Creek Resident, Uses Global Trade to Create Income for People Living in Poverty

May 6, 2013

OVERLAND PARK, KS (May 6, 2013) -- Rev. Robert Southard, D. Min., a retired pastor who lives at Tallgrass Creek retirement community,  travels worldwide in search of third world country crafts to bring to market in the United States. He owns Unique Finds Gifts, a  shop in downtown Overland Park, KS, that specializes in selling crafts by artists from as far away as China, Thailand and Puerto Rico.
Southard got the idea for his shop after having spent many years traveling overseas on youth mission trips where he obtained unique handmade items. He always had a fondness for the craftwork and wanted to help third world country artists make a living.  His shop today accepts works by area artists on consignment as long as they agree to donate 10 percent of their sales to a charity.
The goal of Unique Finds, according to Southard,  is to create new streams of income for people living in poverty and for Christian ministry and missionary efforts through global trade of products. His shop promotes:
-- Economic Development, especially for the poorest, helping balance the playing field.
-- Global Mission Education/Awareness, especially through Christian missionaries and their ministries and partnerships.
-- Missions Support for Christian churches, individuals and mission efforts around the world.  
"Many of the prices in our store include support to a Christian ministry organization or missionary," said Southard, who is a past Moderator for the East Central Area of the American Baptist Churches of the Central Region.
Unique Finds Gifts helps artisans by offering unique, handmade items from communities of faith around the world. "Just as Paul made tents to make a living, we sell the 'tents' made by many Christians diligently living out their faith and trusting God for finances to sustain them," said Southard.  We're something like your own church's bazaar, but our products come from the church universal. So the mix is more varied as Christians of different cultures bring their wares to the internet through Unique Finds."
"I hope this area becomes a fair trade district," said Southard, who once  worked as a middle man, selling the pieces at Christian conventions and directing the funds to the artists. "I want to support economic justice."
Many of the products have stories to tell. Shawls are hand-loomed by women from the remote region of Manipur, India  Hand painted items made by women from earthquake victims in Haiti and products made by Burmese refugees fleeing persecution in Thai Refugee Camps.
"The products and stories behind them, in small ways and big, help us see Christ at work in a global context," said Southard.
Southard's commitment to his mission is longstanding. In 2001 he began serving an inner city pastorate where he found that a second stream of income for individuals in deep poverty could help meet their basic needs, strengthen the church's ministry and generally stimulate the economic environment. Also before this as a youth minister for 23 years, he took youth on mission trips and saw missionaries working closely with the world's most severe poverty. Out of these experiences, this new ministry was born.
Southard has been president of Ottawa University's and Central Baptist Theological Seminary's Alumnae/iAssociations. But he considers his top honors to be his repeated nominations by elementary students as "Kindest Kansas Citizen."