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posted Dec 1, 2010, 8:58 PM by 6:8 Making Service Personal

Inspiring volunteers: A new charity seeks to involve more people in community service

By Jeremiah Tucker, Sauk Prairie Eagle | Posted: Wednesday, December 1, 2010 7:56 am | (0) Comments

buy this photoJohn and Sarah Ramthun stand outside their home at 485 Prairie Street, which also doubles as the headquarters for 6:8, the charity they started in May. To find out more about 6:8 visit www.makingservicepersonal.org or call the Ramthuns at 658-4700.Photo by Jeremiah Tucker / Sauk Prairie Eagle

Earlier this year John and Sarah Ramthun quit their day jobs to go into business for others.

Employed at St. Aloysius Catholic Church directing religious education and youth ministries, the couple resigned in May to begin 6:8, a charity aimed at involving more people in community service.

"We felt god was calling us to focus on serving more," Sarah said. "We felt we couldn't do that and do our job, too."

The motto of 6:8 - which is named after four Bible verses about serving others and living simply - is, "Transforming communities by making service personal." The couple said that means breaking down the formal barriers between giver and receiver and focusing equally on people serving and the people being served.

"As much as we want to provide food for the hungry, we want those who have food to be aware of their blessing to share," said John.

One of 6:8's first initiatives was to institute a silver cord program at Sauk Prairie High School. Under the program, students who complete 160 hours of community service by the time they graduate will receive a silver cord to wear during graduation, similar to the gold honor cord for students with high grade point averages.

Joyce Schoepp, who along with her middle-school-age daughter has volunteered for some 6:8 projects, said she thinks the new program is great.

"They're trying to get the youth and community to volunteer and do things right here, which is a great thing to teach our youth," Schoepp said. "If you teach them these things at a young age, it carries through, which is great because I think it's a me, me, me world right now."

John said 6:8 will log the students' hours and verify their service projects, therefore relieving the school district of costly administrative duties. Eventually the Ramthuns said they'd like 6:8 to be a clearinghouse for local volunteer opportunities and are in the process of networking with local charities.

The Ramthuns said that while some 6:8 projects will have a religious component - such as the mission trips they're planning for middle school and high school students - many of them, like the silver cord program, will not.

Recently, 6:8 has been raising money to provide families with school-age children enough food during Thanksgiving, Christmas and spring breaks when kids are out of school and not guaranteed breakfast and lunch by the school food program.

Being a new charity, the Ramthuns scrambled to raise the necessary money for the program, contacting friends and family through e-mail, Facebook and phone calls.

They raised $875, enough to feed 35 families for one week, and are hoping to raise more to meet their goal for Christmas break.

So far, they said much of their time has been devoted to the kind of busy work it takes getting a non-profit off the ground: setting up a website, establishing not-for-profit status and creating a board of directors.

Both the Ramthuns said starting 6:8 has required change. They run the charity out of their home at 485 Prairie Street in Prairie du Sac.

John now waits tables part time at Green Acres in Sauk City, and Sarah is teaching violin lessons to make ends meet. John said he's sewn two patches on his favorite pants instead of buying a new pair, and Sarah said date night is popcorn and a movie checked out from the library.

Both, however, said they've always lived simply - most of their furniture's heyday looks to have been in the late ‘70s - and the charity is a reflection of their belief that living simply afford them less of a need for money and more time for service.

Sarah said people helping each other is "what makes us human; it's what connects us to one another."

Posted in Local on Wednesday, December 1, 2010 7:56 am 6:8