One of the things Nancy Caputo likes about volunteering with Family Promise Union County, NJ (FPUC), is the ripple effect it has on people’s desire to give back.
She recalls the time a volunteer purchased items to fill a school backpack and was surprised to see how quickly the charges added up. Nancy told the volunteer, “Now, imagine filling that backpack plus putting food on the table, buying clothes, and paying rent when you don’t have an income. How are struggling families supposed to do that?”
She says the volunteer immediately responded, “What else can I do to help?”
“When people realize what some families are facing, they want to do whatever they can to help,” Nancy says. “They realize what many of these families go through could happen to anyone, and they want to be there for them.”
Nancy is the director of religious education at Saint James the Apostle Church in Springfield, an FPUC shelter site. Her work with students includes involving them in community service, such as shelter preparation for Family Promise families, which Nancy says is particularly illuminating for the young volunteers.
“As the kids make up bedrooms for the families, they realize people are actually going to live in these spaces. It’s very eye-opening for them,” she notes, adding that the increased awareness often leads to greater engagement.
Over the past year, Nancy and the youth volunteers refused to let COVID limit their ability to serve families in crisis. They’ve organized frozen food collections, item drives, and holiday baskets for FPUC. When the school permanently closed, they donated desks to families whose children didn’t have adequate space at home for remote schooling.
Nancy believes awareness is key to solving family homelessness and says the more people know about this crisis, the better they can help.
“We need to make sure people know about Family Promise so we can continue to be there for each other,” she says.