“We are here this morning not just to be INSPIRED but to be EMPOWERED. Inspired by the people you will meet today and empowered to make a difference.”
With his opening remarks, Family Promise board member Martin Wise welcomed nearly 225 volunteers, supporters, and new friends to our annual Our Promise to Children breakfast at Canoe Brook Country Club in Summit, New Jersey. Besides illustrating how Family Promise is a national organization that served more than 67,000 people last year, the breakfast highlighted that Family Promise provides a holistic solution. Attendees learned about the 1,500 initiatives the organization has created nationally that focus on both the prevention of homelessness and the stabilization of families when they regain housing, in addition to the core rotational program addressing the immediate need for families who are homeless.
And, perhaps most importantly, the event offered visitors the opportunity to learn how Family Promise transforms people’s lives, from board members to volunteers to families experiencing the tragedy of losing their homes.
People like Amalia Tobias, a senior at Summit High School and founder of the Family Promise Club. The club began in 2013 as a small group of students playing with the children of guest families in the program and has grown into a fundraising and capacity-building organization with chapters in schools nationwide. Amalia spoke of how the experience has changed her:
“When I realized that the club I began could become a national template, I developed a stronger sense of purpose. I changed. I was no longer a girl just having fun with kids at a shelter, but a person having a real impact on the world. Transformations can be gradual and incremental, and mine has been both. But it is the families who are helped by Family Promise who have been the catalyst; knowing them and the hardships and struggles they have experienced, has inspired me.”
Attendees also heard from former guest Hope Johnson, who generously shared her story, as she continues to give back to the organization she first encountered seven years ago, at a time when she was in desperate straits. Unable to drive due to a severe eye infection, she couldn’t work and was evicted from her home. Scared and alone, Hope and her young daughter, Olivia, found themselves on the street.
Fortunately for Hope, a woman introduced her to Family Promise. Over her five-month stay in the program, Hope worked hard to build a future. She secured a good job. The staff helped her develop a savings plan. They found her a counselor who worked with Hope to ease the pain she was feeling for all she had lost. They provided her a security deposit and furniture when she was ready to move into a new home.
Seven years later, Hope spoke movingly about the journey she has made:
“Do you know what can happen in 7 years? I lost my home; I re-established an entire life for my daughter and myself. I am now a solutions manager of a corporate Verizon store. I went from driving a car with no heat or air conditioning to purchasing a new car. I went from having absolutely no one, to having friends who I call family. I just had another baby, James. Olivia loves being a big sister. I am blessed. I never thought that in seven years I could have such an amazing life. I owe it to all the people who volunteered and supported the organization. People who help Family Promise not only change lives, but helped change mine and I couldn’t be more grateful.”
Stories like Hope’s are far from unique—they take place every day at Family Promise’s 206 Affiliates from Alaska to Florida.
Here in Summit, the Our Promise to Children breakfast raised nearly $100,000 while continuing to build support for our mission. Cara Bradshaw, Director of Development says:
“Our Promise to Children is such a wonderful chance to introduce ourselves to new friends. This year’s event saw a record number of first-time attendees—nearly 70%. We offer opportunities for their families to engage with our program through meaningful volunteer activities, and for our supporters to create a community-based response to the national crisis of family homelessness.”
Family Promise thanks its breakfast sponsors and corporate partners: