Family Promise Affiliates celebrated our 5th Annual Family Promise Week October 22-29. While the work in support of the families we serve continued unabated, Affiliates took time to recognize the efforts of their congregations, volunteers, boards, and staff. Without their generous contributions of time, compassion, and resources, there would be no national organization serving nearly 70,000 family members each year.
Family Promise Week is not just a time to recognize our stakeholders—it’s also an opportunity for Affiliates to shine the light on their accomplishments locally; to reach out to media and public officials, old friends and newcomers, and spread awareness of the critical issue of family homelessness.
Affiliates celebrated this year in a variety of ways, from targeted fundraisers to volunteer appreciation events to proclamations from local officials. Here is one great from our Grand Rapids, Michigan Affiliate:
Family Promise of Grand Rapids (MI) took a different approach to Family Promise Week. Rather than scheduling a full slate of events, they concentrated on maximizing their impact with just one initiative. On October 23, they
launched The Hidden Face of Homelessness to generate awareness and support for children experiencing homelessness in their county. Morning commuters throughout Grand Rapids were greeted at expressway exit ramps and busy intersections by life-sized cardboard cutouts of a child holding a card proclaiming, “I don’t have a place to call home.” The cutouts also shared homelessness statistics and directed readers to the Affiliate’s website.
“We’ve noticed that when we’re talking to people in the community about homelessness, they think of a guy panhandling on a corner or sleeping under a bridge,” said Kate O’Keefe, FP of Grand Rapids Community Relations and Development Manager. “But that’s not the face of family homelessness. We felt the time was right to challenge those perceptions.”
Board members and staff covered the city, placing nearly 100 posters in high-visibility locations. Their plan was to leave the posters in place for only one day, but to aggressively promote the campaign in advance. O’Keefe worked with a PR firm, learning the basics of running a successful campaign. They sent an embargoed press release to local television stations and newspapers. Seven media outlets in all ran the story, including three television stations visiting to do remote interviews. Website visits doubled for the entirety of Family Promise Week. The Affiliate also received 100 new Facebook likes and 50 new likes on Instagram. By any measure, they consider the campaign a great success.
“Our goal was to raise awareness and engagement in our community,” O’Keefe said. “We received at least ten calls with people saying, ‘I had no clue.’ I must have received ten emails myself asking, ‘How can we get involved?’ That’s the whole point of Family Promise Week—reaching people who didn’t realize family homelessness was such a critical issue because you can’t always see these families. We were able to pop that bubble for lots of folks here in Grand Rapids this week.”