It might have been her studies to become a social worker that first attracted her to Family Promise years ago, but today Sue Bottoroff is as dedicated as ever to serving families in need.
“Family Promise helped me learn about things like housing issues, transportation needs, all the inequities we know exist but can’t always be involved in solving,” Bottoroff says.
A Westfield, NJ, resident who still maintains a private practice, she has found creative ways to serve families in crisis during the COVID-19 pandemic. When shelter-in-place mandates were initially enforced, she became more aware of families’ need for food. Her church, a Family Promise shelter site, established a no-contact food drop-off station, and when someone inquired about providing fresh produce Bottoroff recognized a niche to be filled.
“We asked the community to donate fresh produce and worked out a schedule for drop-off and delivery to the day center at Family Promise Union County [FPUC] so families could have regular access to fresh food,” she explains.
She says families look forward to deliveries every Monday, a day they’ve designated “Fresh Produce Day,” and notes volunteers have been very generous. Since families are temporarily living in apartments, an arrangement FPUC worked out with local landlords, they’re able to prepare their own meals, so Bottoroff says volunteers take requests for items beyond traditional fruits and vegetables – “things like fresh ginger and garlic to use for cooking.” She says her church has a garden (it’s cultivated in large part by Bottoroff’s husband, Dan) and soon hopes to contribute home-grown items.
Bottoroff would like to think the ongoing produce drive brings people closer to the workings of Family Promise and the people they’re helping. She regularly updates volunteers so they know they’re making a difference.
“Sometimes it can feel a little remote if you’re not helping in person. This is a way to bring things closer to people,” she explains.
In her years with Family Promise, Bottoroff has seen the organization grow and appreciates its multifaceted approach to fighting family homelessness.
“I’m nearing the end of my career, but this is something I can always do,” she says of her volunteer work with Family Promise.