Monday, November 14, 2016 Voices of Family Promise
Our Community Blog: Gabie Vicens, Volunteer, “Spreading Cheer”
I first found out about Family Promise when I was in Middle School working towards my Girl Scouts Silver Award. I had an idea of helping homeless children and families, but wasn’t sure exactly how. When I visited Family Promise, I was put in touch with the Executive Director of the Union County program, Geleen Donovan. She suggested I spend an afternoon with the kids in the shelter to understand what kind of work Family Promise does and the people they help. I love playing with younger kids and had a great time with them. I’ll never forget how happy and enthusiastic Xavier, Omari and Steven were despite their circumstance. Every time I’ve been to the shelter, the kids are always so happy to see new faces and want nothing more than time to play with them.
I met with Ms. Donovan again and she suggested that some of the families needed help when they first move back into their own home from the shelter, and that cleaning supplies are always needed. I happen to be a neat freak so lots of ideas came to mind. I began to raise awareness at my school by showing a Family Promise video, inviting Karen Olson, Founder of Family Promise, to speak to our Middle School, and putting on a skit about how my classmates could get involved. I held a collection for cleaning supplies, and then put together care packages. Each package contained a bucket full of sponges, gloves, paper towels, mops, brooms and soaps. I called them “Buckets of Cheer”. As it turned out the “Buckets of Cheer” were a big hit and all seven buckets went home with Family Promise families within a few months. I held another collection in my neighborhood and made five more care packages. I was so happy to learn that so many families found permanent homes and that I could offer something to help them to get settled.
Now, I am just getting started on a project to help with a new program that offers therapy for families staying with Family Promise. Ms. Donovan has started a program with volunteer Doctoral Counselors to offer therapy for each family member. I will make over a room to provide a calm, soothing space where
therapy sessions will take place, and make a Traveling Therapy Kit of toys and games for the counselors to use with the children.
When I spend time with children at Family Promise, I always go away imagining what I would do if my family were homeless. I think of what it would take to get back on my feet and on track. I just hope that the little I do for these families can make some difference to help them through a very hard time.