Family Promise’s vast impact changes countless lives in the community

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Family Promise

A photo representing a family that Family Promise aims to care for.

One in eighteen will touch the homelessness system before third grade.

Over 120 families are experiencing homelessness in Kent County tonight. 

These statistics, both shocking and heartbreaking, are very true realities of our community. Oftentimes, individuals feel hopeless in situations that feel bigger than themselves; however, there is a very accessible way to help combat these statistics—donating to Family Promise.

This outstanding charity focuses on serving families experiencing homelessness; almost 85% are single-mother-led, and roughly 50% of children within the families are under the age of five. By utilizing prevention services to keep families in safe living situations, providing emergency shelters, giving basic necessities, putting stabilization services in effect, and much more, Family Promise is making a huge impact.

With a mission as inspiring as that, and a leadership team that absolutely blew her away with their kindness, Lily Fossel, FHC alumna and Community Development Manager for Family Promise, immediately knew that the organization was a good fit for her. With a passion for helping others, she plays a huge role in reaching the community with Family Promise’s message. 

“Anyone out in the community,” Fossel said, “whether an individual, group, workplace, or potential partner, who says ‘hey, I wanna be a part of this mission,’ comes through me, and we say ‘hey, what’s going to be the best fit for how you want to engage with this mission?’ My role, and privilege, is that I get to help people get connected to the right place.”

This engagement with Family Promise’s mission can look like creating ‘thank you crafts,’ making baked goods for families in emergency shelters, or even knitting groups coming together to make blankets for babies experiencing homelessness. 

At FHC, students and staff alike come together on an annual basis to fundraise for the incredible organization. With the money that FHC raises, Family Promise can fund its holiday store. This incredible event allows families experiencing homelessness to select holiday gifts purchased by the collections from the fundraiser. The impact of FHC’s fundraising, however, can also go to many other admiral causes. 

“[In 2020, FHC] did a banner job [fundraising],” Fossel said. “[FHC] raised over $20,000, and it costs about $10,000 dollars to fund all the toys for the Christmas store event to happen. So, when [FHC] exceeded [$10,000] by that much, what [FHC] wound up doing was funding a mobile home for a family moving home from a shelter.”

An opportunity created with their homeownership program, Partners in Housing, saw through that this family lived in this home for a year and then gifted them with the deed to their home. In this story and many more, having the opportunity to fundraise and be any part of this family’s housing journey is a gift and a privilege for FHC. 

However, donating money isn’t the only way to get involved. Student Executive Board President, senior Caroline Logan, has interacted with Family Promise since her freshman year, not only donating money but also dedicating time. 

“Freshman year, I [volunteered] in the Christmas store,” Caroline said. “They have a huge room filled with household necessities that parents might need but also just really fun gifts for kids. The parents would get [to shop] for about an hour, and [we would] watch their kids. It was a lot of fun, and everyone was really happy. It feels really long ago now, but it was a really fun experience.”

This opportunity helped Caroline gain a lot of perspective, and with the unfortunate limitations that COVID-19 provided by preventing the store from being at its full potential the last two years, Caroline recommends getting involved in the event now more than ever. 

If you have the ability to [volunteer], I say [do it]. It’s fun, it’s Christmas; you get some cookies out of it, and it’s a fun experience. If you’re looking for something to do, I think it’s a really good way to spend your time.”

— Caroline Logan

“If you have the ability to [volunteer],” Caroline said, “I say [do it]. It’s fun, it’s Christmas; you get some cookies out of it, and it’s a fun experience. If you’re looking for something to do, I think it’s a really good way to spend your time.”

The holiday store is a unique and well-thought-out event that has been perfected throughout the years. FHC Family Promise Advisor Patricia Richardson has played a part in participating with Family Promise for her fifteen years of teaching at FHC, and she believes the system set up by the charity to be incredibly attentive. 

“What family promise found,” Richardson said, “[is that] the families didn’t want to just be given things. As a parent, you want to buy what you know your kid wants and have that ownership of ‘I bought this for you’ versus ‘I was given this to give to you,’ which then [inspired] the Holiday Store.”

The evolution of the Holiday Store from previous structures such as Adopt-a-Family has made the experience much more inclusive and hands-on for everyone involved. Richardson believes that this dignified approach to helping others impacts everyone in a positive way.

“Students who [volunteer] get to go to the [Holiday store] this year,” Richardson said. “The families that come in and shop, the parents [especially], are so happy to be there, and their kids are super excited, [because] they bring their kids to the holiday store too and our students become ‘Santa’s helpers.’ It’s a great opportunity [for everyone].”

Family Promise influences the lives of hundreds of families, its volunteers, and the community as a whole, and they’re still constantly making an effort to expand their influence.

Each family’s individual experience is highly valued by the individuals working with Family Promise, so much so that Fossel can recall a specific family’s story of perseverance. After a single mom lost her job in the process of getting her son life-saving dialysis for his kidney condition, Family Promise stepped in. 

Fossel will never forget the video received from this family, showing the son eating chocolate in the home they now own after his health improved and dietary restrictions were lifted. This inspiring story resonates with her incredibly and provides an excellent representation of why donating, volunteering, and education are not only encouraged but vital to the community. 

“To watch that family come to fruition,” Fossel said, “see their story come full circle, [knowing] that they were able to get back on their feet, he was getting healthy, they were looking forward, and they now had this home that belonged to them, those are the moments that we do this for.”