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Churches team up to help homeless
Group to offer families in need shelter, food, support starting May 1
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Family Promise of Hall County Car City Fundraiser

What: Live music, dinner, "Decorate your wheels" contest and light breakfast

Where: First Baptist Church of Gainesville, 751 Green St., Gainesville

When: 5:30 p.m. April 27 to 7 a.m. April 28

Contact: dawnfwood@yahoo.com

Gainesville churches have teamed up to help homeless families get back on their feet.

After more than a year of organizing and gathering support, Family Promise of Hall County plans to accept its first family May 1.

Family Promise has networks across the nation that provide shelter, food and support to homeless families with children.

Hall County Family Promise will provide for about 14 people when they open. The families will sleep on mobile beds at a host church, where they also will receive dinner and breakfast for a week. Every week a new church will host the families. After the morning meal the families will be transported in a 15-passenger van, donated by Milton Martin Toyota, to the Family Promise day center.

"The day center is the hub of the program. That's where they will do case management and finding a job and nutrition and consumer counseling," Family Promise volunteer Lindsey McCamy said. "We'll really invest a lot of time with people at the day center."

The day center was donated to the group and once served as a day care.

"We are really happy to have that and be able to use and not have to pay rent," McCamy said.

The program will run on a relatively small budget of $100,000 a year. Since families will sleep in the churches at night and be provided most of their meals, the costs will be minimal.

The program requires 13 churches to participate. So far, 10 have signed up.

"Honestly, it's moving very quickly. Everybody has embraced the idea of coming together to work on this project," Dawn Wood, vice president of the board, said.

Board member Mark Brown said the program is a great way for churches to make use of their space that stays empty during most nights of the week.

"It's more than just providing shelter. It's providing friendship and an emotional bond. It's good for them but it's also good for us," Brown said.

McCamy said the average age of those in the program nationally is five. Children who are not yet old enough to go to school will be able to stay in the day center while their parents look for employment and housing. School buses will be routed to pick up children who are in school.

Wood said Family Promise is a great volunteer opportunity for people of all ages. Her two children have already expressed an interest in volunteering with the group.

"It's really made them aware that there are people in their very own school and they didn't know it," Wood said.

Brown shares the same enthusiasm for the program and its volunteering opportunities.

"This sounds like exactly the type of thing Jesus would do when he was here," Brown said.

The national success rates for families in the program is 80 percent. Typically the families remain in the program for two months before they move into their own home.

Upon completion of the programs, families will have a place to live and they'll have money saved up while they were part of the program.

Wood said she would define a successful outcome as giving people back their independence.

"Our goal would be to follow up with these people and make sure they are doing well and are still on track," Wood said

The group will have a fundraiser April 27 called "Car City" at the First Baptist Church of Gainesville. Participants will sleep in their cars for a night to raise awareness of homelessness and funds for Family Promise of Hall County.

Congregations that are interested in learning more about Family Promise can visit www.familypromisehall.org. Donations can be made on the website through PayPal.

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