Local Partnerships Provide Key Support

January 25, 2016

Unity Bank’s Janice Bolomey and family at Box City.

One of the features that make Family Promise extraordinary is our ability to reach out into the community and engage a wide range of support for the families we serve. Congregations, corporations, agencies, schools—our Affiliates create a diverse group of stakeholders working to promote change at the local level. These community partnerships are vital to helping Affiliates not just develop, but flourish.

Family Promise of Hunterdon County (NJ) has been growing their partnership with Unity Bank for years. Executive Director Colleen Duerr considers them a perfect fit. “When we look at prospective partnerships, we always look at community businesses first. We want the connection to be immediate and we want it to be from the heart. Unity truly is a community bank, committed to local relationships.”

Unity has been the title sponsor of their Box City for the past five years—last year, their Chief Administrative Officer and her family even slept overnight at the event. This year, the event raised $26,000 for the Affiliate.

Unity also sponsors an annual classic car show fundraiser, with the proceeds split between the Hunterdon and Warren County Affiliates. It’s a completely employee-driven event: Unity collects the registration fees, recruits sponsors and supplies all the food.

Rosemary Fellner, VP and Marketing Director for Unity Bank said, “Family Promise is rooted in the community and committed to making lasting change, which aligns with our core values as a community bank. When I ask for volunteers, I always have an overwhelming response from our employees. It’s rewarding to see our company bond with the organization and give back to our community.”

Carolyn Gordon, Executive Director, Family Promise of Northern New Castle County (DE), developed their partnership with Fox & Roach Realtors through Jennifer Idell, a local realtor and coordinator at one of their host congregations.

Fox & Roach building a playground.

Fox & Roach building a playground.

There had always been a synergy between Family Promise and Fox & Roach– some of the company’s managers actually attended one of the Affiliate’s first fundraising events to help with the startup. It seemed like a no-brainer to use Idell’s connections to grow the relationship. She recruited her office team to visit Family Promise twice during their annual Community Service Days—once to build a playground at their Day Center and once to paint and refurbish their offices.

They also worked together to create a furniture donation program. Idell said, “I deal a lot with elderly who are downsizing, mostly to retirement communities. Having Family Promise to donate to and help with the pickup of items makes my clients feel good about letting go of their stuff and the families benefit from beds, dressers, tables, chairs and other household necessities.”

The Affiliate also uses the furniture initiative for capacity building. They focus, not only on keeping the furniture donors connected with Family Promise, but also on using the partnership to engage new support. They provide Fox & Roach with information to share with new clients moving into the community, introducing them to Family Promise.

Gordon feels strongly about engaging the community. “Developing and maintaining relationships with community businesses is critical. Funding is secondary on a local level—the relationship is primary. Everyone should be at the table for ending homelessness.”

McLane Elementary School Ambassadors - Copy

The McLane 4th graders spreading holiday cheer.

Partnerships needn’t be limited to businesses. Family Promise of Washington County (WI) has developed an innovative relationship with the West Bend School District aimed at helping educators understand the challenges facing homeless children in the classroom.

Family Promise attends the district’s leadership training meetings, sharing a message of empathy, compassion and community service. They’ve worked together to devise a plan for the school year to best accommodate students’ needs.

Fisher says, “The value of this partnership relates directly to our kids. If we can instill in them a desire to learn and to do the very best they can, that will translate into success in school. It makes such a difference when the children we serve go to school and receive compassion and love.”

In the last month and a half alone, 250 teachers have visited Washington County’s offices for presentations, workshops and tours of the facilities. The teachers have responded. They’re providing volunteer tutors to work with kids of all ages after school. And they’ve made financial and in-kind donations, from paper products and households goods to feminine products and cleaning supplies.

The district students have become involved, as well. The McLane Crusaders 4th grade leadership team decided to make the holidays special last year. They planned, organized and threw a Christmas party for guest families, complete with food, carols and gifts.

Ted Neitzke, West Bend School District Superintendent, said, “Our relationship with Family Promise is something that runs deep with us. One of the main, overarching strategies of our district is to create teacher leaders and students that are service-minded. Family Promise’s core mission to support the community and our families directly benefits us here in the West Bend School District and, as a result, we will do everything we can to help.”

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