When the six members of the Joseph family decided to start selling Lights of Hope — home-painted bottles to benefit local charities — they never expected the outpouring of community support that they have received.
Now, more than a year later, parents Rich and Vera, and children Richie, Juliana, Jessica and Jenna have raised a total of $15,200 to donate to nine local charities, and they are currently raising money for a tenth.
"I think it's just really important because — and I know I speak for all of us when I say — we find it really important to give back to the city and give back to all the people who are doing all those great things for the community," said 17-year-old Richie, the oldest of his siblings. "Meeting all of these people makes me very appreciative of all the people who devote so much time and work to these great organizations in town."
Richie said that their effort started on a dare between him and his mom. Vera saw a photo of a painted bottle on the internet and suggested they paint and sell their own bottles, to which Richie replied, "Yes, that would be a really cool idea, but I doubt that would ever actually happen."
"Now here we are a year later, still doing this," Richie said.
Around the same time that Vera saw the bottles on the internet, Richie said that several people the family knew were diagnosed with cancer.
"We were just thinking about how awful we felt and how we could help these people," Richie said. "So then we decided to sell the bottles and donate the money to cancer research."
After doing more research of their own, the family opted to instead donate the money to local charities, Richie said. This way, they could make more of an impact, see what a difference it makes in their own community and meet some great people along the way.
"That's really what we get back from it, is getting to meet these amazing people and getting to learn about the services they provided and the good they're doing," Vera said. "It's just very rewarding to know of them and what they do."
Fifteen-year-old Juliana said that the family spends a large amount of time gathering bottles from the recycling center — some people donate bottles — and taking them home to be cleaned.
"We have to take the bottles and take all the labels off and scrub them," she said. "Clean them as much as we can to know that they're sanitized completely, and then dry them."
Then the family sits down together to paint the bottles, Juliana said. They are lit within by string lights that are connected to a battery.
"We get to be together and share this wonderful experience," Vera added. "It's priceless."
After the bottles are painted, they are brought to one of several possible locations, Vera said. They are always available at The Brace Place, 1701 W. 26th St., which is owned by Rich Joseph.
The Brace Place sponsors the cost of materials for the bottles, which means the family is able to donate 100 percent of proceeds earned from bottle sales.
"We ask people to write the check directly to the charity when they buy a bottle," Vera said.
The charity changes around every two months, Vera said. Most recently, the family made a $1,560 donation to Turnaround Ranch, a residential treatment home for children ages 10 through 18.
"With every charity, we ask them if they have businesses that support them and their mission and if they're willing to display the lights and sell them for us," Vera said. "So the location changes with the charity."
The group is currently raising money to help rebuild and restock the shed at the Will Norton Miracle Field, which is where the Joplin Miracle League plays baseball. In October, the shed was damaged by a fire and the equipment inside was destroyed.
Currently, bottles also can be purchased at Carmine's Wood Fired Pizza, 524 S. Joplin Ave., and at Lillian James & Co., 149 Third St. in Carthage.
The family said that making and selling the lighted bottles has been an incredible learning experience, and they have enjoyed supporting the community as well as the individuals who buy the bottles.
"I think to me, the bottles mean hope and love," 10-year-old Jenna said. "If you're feeling hopeless, if you turn them on the room fills up with hope, and I think it's love because we're helping our loved ones."
To keep up to date on where Lights of Hope are being sold and which charity their sales will go to, visit the group's Facebook page, Lights of Hope JOMO. Each bottle costs $20 regardless of size or design.