Nearly 23 years ago, Candice Stewart-Fife gave birth to her first daughter in the Family Promise program. In what could have been her darkest hour, Candice encountered overwhelming tenderness, and was not alone. Today, the native of Union County is offering new life for families experiencing homelessness as the Director of Family Promise of Bryan County (GA), opening this fall.
“I never felt that I was a victim. Or that I was powerless,” Candice said of her time as a guest. “Many people think ‘I’m homeless so I’m helpless,’ but that wasn’t the reality for me.” Candice attributes this outlook to her role models, Family Promise Founder Karen Olson and longtime director Barbara Aaronoff, who she says gave her “more time and kindness than she could ever repay.”
Family Promise volunteers threw Candice three baby showers, determined to make sure she had everything she needed for the baby’s arrival. They asked about her cravings and prepared meals accordingly. Candice built connections with these volunteers, strengthened her resume, and gained the confidence to apply to her first associate’s program.
An avid learner with a mindset for numbers and operations, Candice went on to obtain five degrees in finance and accounting, including an MBA and a Masters in Management and Leadership. Family Promise made this uniquely possible, she says. “It’s what I needed to create a stable life. Family Promise is so much more than a bed and a meal in that way.”
Candice had two more children and is proudly watching them go off to college and into exciting careers. Her eldest, born a tiny guest of Family Promise, will graduate this year with a degree in Sociology. “She likes helping people, too,” Candice notes. Her son is planning to own his own business and her youngest daughter is studying to become a pharmacist.
With her family well on its way in the world, Candice has turned her efforts to the Affiliate in Bryan County, where “homelessness is unseen and everywhere,” and Family Promise is the only shelter program. Working with a board of thirteen and growing a staff, Candice will offer a unique perspective to the guests she encounters.
“Families look at me and think: ‘You don’t know where we’re coming from; you don’t know what we’re going through.’ But I do.
And in that way, I can really reach them,” Candice says. “If my story will help the next person experiencing this, then it’s all worth it.”
Going forward, Candice plans to focus on financial literacy for the families she serves and has a goal to see at least 10 transitional housing units built in Bryan County. “I’m partnering with the right agencies to get done what needs to be done in our community. And it’s working.”
Candice exemplifies the adage that life is a gift—it offers us the privilege, opportunity, and responsibility to give something back by improving ourselves. “I know I was meant to come back to Family Promise this way. I’m paying forward all the time given to me, all the kind conversations and love. It’s just a small thank you.”
Note: Candice will be speaking about her experience with Family Promise at the Fall Fling on Friday November 4, 2016 in Summit. The event is national’s major fundraiser and this year’s inspirational program will be honoring our founder, Karen Olson.