Families Helping Families

December 12, 2018

Family Promise graduates often    have a special bond with    the people – staff, volunteers, and other families – who    saw    them through a critical time.    For Family Promise of Lawrence (KS) graduates Sarah and Crystal, it was no different. They    came    with their families    to Family Promise around the same time and    journeyed back to independence side-by-side. 

Once the families secured    housing and began to feel truly stable, both moms agreed they wanted to maintain their    connection to    Family Promise. 

So, like many graduates,    they    became volunteers. They interacted    with families in situations    that were very familiar to them, and families gravitated toward the women who could relate to their circumstances and had valuable    insight    based on their    own    experiences. 

Sarah and her daughter Elizabeth

“I didn’t even realize what I was doing,” Crystal says of her    unofficial role as family mentor. 

The Affiliate    was already training    volunteers to be “community partners”    that helped families with smaller matters.    Noting    how    well    graduates     like Sarah and Crystal    related to families,    earlier this year    Family Promise    decided to    create part-time Peer    Advocate    staff    positions    based on the idea that    graduates    can easily    empathize with families and offer experience-based advice.  

“It    was already happening organically,” explains Executive Director Dana Ortiz. “About fifty percent of our    graduates    volunteer with us, and guests are drawn to them because of their shared experience. Those were such valuable relationships that we decided to formalize the role.” 

Sarah and Crystal were two of the first    hires. 

“I might    conduct intake orientations, attend meetings with a family, or    help with paperwork or goal setting.    Or    I might    just    be there to talk,” Sarah    says. “Families appreciate that I’ve been in their shoes.” 

Ortiz    remembers    a recent guest who gave birth while in    Family Promise’s    emergency shelter program. 

“The family called their Peer Advocate first!” she recalls,    adding,    “It’s such a natural relationship. I wish we’d thought of this years ago!” 

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