Q: Name and current job title?
A: Jeanne Wallace, director of music ministries at Richmond Hill United Methodist Church.
Q: What is your role with Family Promise of Bryan County?
A: I serve on the Congregational Relations Committee, which is tasked with keeping all of our host and support churches informed about the process and progress of our affiliate. I am also the Communications Liaison for RHUMC. Finally, I am a co-organizer for the upcoming Family of Faith Christian Music Festival, an event to raise funds and community awareness.
Q: What are the greatest obstacles right now in providing services to those in need?
A: In my opinion, our greatest obstacle right now is lack of community awareness. The perception of homelessness is the stereotypical “man under a bridge,” but families with children make up 40 percent of the people in this country who experience homelessness. It is difficult for people to believe that there are children in Bryan County Schools who go home to a car or to a motel room shared with two or three other people. In the 2014-15 school year, Bryan County had 68 children who were identified as homeless. Because statistics show that about half of all homeless children are under age 6, it is likely that there are another 60-70 uncounted preschool-age children in Bryan County who are experiencing homelessness. I believe that if our community were more aware of the plight of local homeless and low-income families and more aware of how Family Promise can address this situation, then we could easily surmount the other hurdles to opening our doors and reaching these families who so desperately need a hand up.
Q: How can the community contribute to make sure families are getting what they need to thrive?
A: First, see the need! Get to know about the parts of your community outside your normal sphere of influence. Second, get involved. There are a number of local organizations that currently help families in need, including United Way, Bryan County Family Connection and church-run food pantries, to mention a few. These organizations are always in need of both monetary contributions and hands-on volunteers. Third, be an advocate. Support local, state and national initiatives that bring about good-paying jobs, affordable child care and housing, fair practices in hiring and lending, and assistance with job training and higher education.
Q: Why are the fundraising initiatives and online campaigns so important for Family Promise?
A: By using existing community resources and having volunteers as the core of our program, Family Promise provides comprehensive services to families at a fraction of the cost of government programs. However, our annual budget is $150,000, which will cover the salary for our director, general administrative expenses and costs associated with our Day Center building and vehicles. We need to have our first year’s budget in hand, or at least committed, before we can open our doors.
Q: What would having a building provide for Family Promise?
A: The Day Center building will be the office for our director; where guests will receive case-management services such as help with résumés, financial planning and the search for jobs and housing. This is where our guests will be able to take showers and do laundry. It will be a space where preschool-age children will be with their parents during the day and where school-age children may receive tutoring and complete homework after school. Most important, the Day Center provides a physical address that guests can use in their search for a job, housing or education. In addition to being the hub of our program, a building will help with community recognition of FPBC as a viable organization, which will bring about greater support and involvement.
Q: Currently, what role do churches in the community play?
A: Our 11 committed host churches and three committed support churches provide the bulk of our volunteer force. All of our fundraising efforts, the search for a vehicle, the search for a Day Center building, all of our meetings and our quest for community involvement have been channeled through our congregations. When we begin serving families directly, members of these congregations will be hands-on volunteers who work directly with our guests, sharing hospitality and compassion as a way to help lift these families out poverty and put them on the road to sustainable independence.
Q: How can other churches get involved?
A: Churches and individuals who would like to get involved are invited to attend our general meetings, held on the third Tuesday of each month at 7 p.m. To facilitate involvement on both ends of our geographically separated county, we alternate meeting locations. Even-numbered months, we meet at Richmond Hill UMC, and odd-numbered months, we meet at Ellabell UMC. We can also be contacted via our website or our Facebook page. If a group would like to know more about our program, we would love to meet with them and give a presentation of how FP works and how they can help.
Q: What is Family Promise’s greatest need at this time?
A: A building for our Day Center is one of our greatest needs, along with two more host congregations. And volunteers ... we always need more volunteers.
Q: How have you seen Family Promise impact lives?
A: Family Promise not only impacts the lives of guests, but can also be life-changing for volunteers as well. We have heard how FP helped Candice, and I have read and heard the stories of dozens of other families for whom FP has meant a new life of stability and independence. But I have also seen FP impact lives as I have watched this group of concerned and compassionate people give of their time and other resources to help make this organization a reality in our community. Once you have seen the problem, you can’t unsee it. Family Promise has already helped our community by opening our eyes not only to the problem, but to the potential we have to change things for the better.