“This is actually our very first fundraiser,” said Daryl Gessner, media manager for Family Promise of Bartow County and project manager for its online auction. “We spent over a year getting organized, locating and building a coalition of churches. … We’ve got 11 churches so far. We’ve got two more we need to [secure] before we go fully operational.
“… We’re about to get a day center and part of the funds will be used toward renovating it, adding showers, things like that,” he said, adding the proceeds also would help fund the salary of the center’s future full-time director.
Once the groundwork is laid — 13 churches and a day center are secured and a full-time director is hired — the national organization’s Bartow affiliate will be fully operational. Homeless families will rotate between the churches that each will serve as a lodging site for one week, four times a year.
While the lodging location will change, the Family Promise’s day center will be a permanent location, providing various services to participants ranging from preparing resumes to shower facilities. After sleeping at the host church, individuals will arrive at the day center in the morning where children will be transported to school and adults will research job opportunities.
While two more churches are needed, 11 already have made a commitment to serve as host sites, including First Baptist of Cartersville, First Presbyterian of Cartersville, The Bridge United Methodist Church, Faith United Methodist, Grace Baptist, Pine Log United Methodist, Sam Jones Memorial United Methodist, Trinity Baptist, Heritage Baptist, Church at The Well and NorthPointe Church. In addition, Episcopal Church of the Ascension, Oakland Heights Baptist Church and New Hope Baptist Church will provide support.
“The Good Neighbor [Homeless] Shelter right now unfortunately reaches full capacity every month for the homeless families with children,” Gessner said. “… So what we’re trying to do is maybe offer an alternative to the overflow. ... We’re only going to be able to handle [or] process four families at a time. So it’s not going to solve the problem, but it might alleviate it a little bit.
“… The goal is at the end of 12 weeks is that we’ve set them up where they can have a permanent residence. We want to help them acquire that so when they graduate from the program they’ll have that to go into. The success rate overall for Family Promise [is approximately a] 90 percent average. So 90 percent of the families that enroll through the program will be permanently residing once they finish the program.”
Already familiar with Family Promise, Good Neighbor Executive Director Jessica Mitcham is looking forward to the nonprofit being fully operational in Bartow.
“We speak to about 40 to 60 families every month that we’re unable to serve and it’s entirely because of lack of space,” Mitcham said. “We track how many individuals are in those families and on average we talk to 150 to 200 total people in those families that don’t have anywhere to go. They’re generally single moms with multiple children. We could serve them. They could do our program, except we just don’t have enough beds for them.
“I have known about Family Promise for a really long time. About a decade ago, I was a youth minister at a church in Waco, Texas, and we were a part of a Family Promise network. … It is an extremely cost-effective way to care for families. It’s using resources that already exist, like Sunday school buildings, church volunteers.”
She continued, “It’s very inexpensive. [It] just requires really a full-time director to make that program work. So I’m thrilled to find a really cost-effective way to serve some of these families and then also allow folks at local churches to be really involved in helping care for these families, helping them find employment, helping them find new homes. I think that’s an amazing way to bring together a lot of available resources.”
For more information about Family Promise and its upcoming auction, visit the nonprofit’s Facebook page or website, www.familypromisebartow.com.