Goodbyes are never easy, but I retire as President of Family Promise with a heart filled with joy. Joy that, even after all these years, the premise upon which Family Promise was built – that people are compassionate and want to make a difference – remains true today and will carry Family Promise into the future.
I vividly remember when one of our first guests left our first host week of the program at Christ Church in Summit, NJ, to move on to the next host congregation. This wonderful twelve-year old girl ran over to the coordinator, gave her a big hug, and said, “I’m leaving now but I want you to know Christ Church will always be my home.” She left with hope, instilled in her by the caring volunteers who had become her family. I have seen this so many times over the years, and saw it again just two nights ago when I volunteered at Ohr Shalom in Summit. There, I met Vanessa, who told me, “This is a place where people really care, they build you up and they are truly like a family. Because of them, I feel like I have hope for the future.”
So, while we as an organization have grown, the compassionate, caring community that is Family Promise remains the same. This is the hallmark of who we are and it changes lives in ways that I never could have imagined.
I never could have imagined that congregations of all faiths, 6,000 and counting, would open their doors and hearts to provide food and shelter.
I never could have imagined that more than 170,000 volunteers would not only prepare meals, offer compassionate assistance, stay overnight, and read to kids, but would go above and beyond by helping guests write resumes, find jobs, and find housing.
I never could have imagined that our nearly 200 Affiliates would go on to create hundreds of additional programs, including job training, clothing and furniture donation programs, transitional housing, parenting classes and after-school tutoring, all tailored to meet local needs.
And, I never could have imagined more than 700,000 family members, mostly children, would benefit from our services.
I know Family Promise will continue to change lives under the leadership of Claas Ehlers. I have worked closely with Claas for 14 years. I know he is deeply committed to our mission and to the families we serve. Not only that, he has the skills and strategic vision to lead Family Promise into the future.
I will miss Family Promise, especially the staff here in Summit with whom I work every day. But, I will stay involved by speaking at Affiliate events and congregations and volunteering here in Union County.
When I look back on all that has been accomplished since that day I met Millie in New York City, I am amazed at this caring community we have built. I look forward to watching Family Promise continue to grow and change lives.