Family Promise of Barry County will intake its first homeless family this week. Executive Director Martha Gibbons said it marks years of effort to achieve its goal; through local churches and volunteers, provide a place for a homeless family to have a safe, secure place to get their lives back together.
It gives parents a chance to look for employment and for children to be children.
A former teacher for 17 years, 11 of it in the Hastings Area School System, with stints in China and Chicago, Gibbons is excited about counseling families, listening to them, helping them get back on their feet.
She said the Family Promise name has two meanings; “It promises the community will support them and every family has promise.” The nationwide program brings shelter, meals and support services to homeless families in more than 200 affiliates in 47 states.
The Barry County branch was the dream of Steven Larghi who, “saw a problem and the need and led the charge for two years,” Gibbons said. “He led the charge in fundraising too, he was a blessing.” Unfortunately, Larghi died before the facility had its Grand Opening this week, but his wife Sue Larghi in on the Promise board.
The hosting of homeless families rotates weekly among 12 Host Congregation area churches in the Network, where families are provided lodging, three meals a day and caring hospitality three or four times a year, she said.
Volunteers provide a wide range of services like cooking and serving meals, playing with children or helping them with homework, interacting with guests with respect and compassion and providing overnight security.
The Day Center is the entire second floor of Hope United Methodist Church at the intersection of M-79 and M-37 south of Hastings. It serves as a kind of home base for families from 7:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. every day; families return to their host church for the evening and overnight.
The Center gives families a mailing address and a base for looking for housing and employment searches. Gibbons provides case management services. Guests look for employment, tend pre-school children, shower and do laundry. Guests set weekly goals and receive personalized coaching on ways to become financially stable and much more.
There are bathrooms with showers, a laundry room, relaxing and watching TV, area, a toy room for kids, conference room, even a quiet space for babies. A room for an office with computer will be ready soon and the outdoor, fenced in playground is open now. Some decorative touches remain, but the second floor area is ready for families.
“Hope United Methodist has been so generous,” Gibbons said. “We’ve been overwhelmed by the support we have received.”
The entrance to Family Promise Day Center is on the north side of the church by the play area; signs will be added soon. For much more information on Family Promise, visit www.familypromisebarrycounty.org. To contact them, e-mail email@example.com.
Photos: (upper left) Executive Director Martha Gibbons in her office at the Family Promise Day Center.
(upper right) The combination conference room and quite space for babies.
(middle left) One of two bathrooms at the Day Center in the Hope Methodist Church.
(middle right) The toy room, just for kids at Family Promise Day Center..
(lower left) A family room will help homeless families relax
(lower right) ExecutiveDirector Matha Gibbons displays the plaque honoring Steven Larghi, who was the inspiration for Family Promise of Barry County.
(below) Celebrants at the ribbon cutting and Grand Opening of Family Promise of Barry County this week. (Photo courtesy of Barry County Chamber of Commerce)