Family Promise of Orange County is an interfaith hospitality network of congregations that provide emergency shelter, hospitality, and services to homeless families. The goal of this organization is to eliminate the homelessness of each family served and place families in homes of their own in about two months. Tustin Presbyterian Church has been among the founding congregations for the organization in Orange County.
Find out more about this organization at www.familypromiseorangecounty.org.
Read a newspaper article about Family Promise.
Our final hosting week for 2017 will be from December 17 – December 24. What a difficult time of the year for people to be experiencing homelessness! TPC has the opportunity to wrap our visiting guest families in the warm welcome and loving outreach we are known to extend to strangers. Lynn Petersen will be in the patio after the worship service to answer any questions and take sign-ups for volunteers to prepare and serve dinners, to launder linens at the end of the week and to spend the night (2 people per night) with the families during their visit. Thank you for the strong, dependable and loving support TPC provides to this ministry.
Family Promise Success Stories
A few days ago I was asked how some of the recent families TPC had hosted were getting along. After sharing happy and exciting updates on three families, I was encouraged to share their stories with you since we have been allowed to play a part in their lives.
Matthew, Jessica and their three children entered Family Promise after living in their car for two months. They were both employed and were working shifts that required the whole family to get up at 3:00 a.m. to take Matt to his job and allow Jessica to get their son to school the next morning before picking Matt up at work! Shortly after leaving TPC, they received housing, which has helped bring stability to the family. Even after their graduation, Matt and Jessica have continued to make use of the resources available to them through Family Promise, improving their financial situation and strengthening their family relationships.
When Nancy and her son, Zeke, entered Family Promise, she had a full-time job, but didn’t have a car, Although the Family Promise van got them to and from the day center and churches they were staying at, it was necessary for them to ride the bus from the day center to Zeke’s school and then Nancy walked to her job. In the evenings, she walked back to the school to pick up Zeke and then had to catch the bus to the center, often not returning to the hosting church until long after dinner was served. Nancy and Zeke are now living in a lovely condo where they feel secure, and Nancy was given a car through the National Auto Body Council’s Recycled Rides Program, which has made their daily life much more predictable. They also gave Zeke a bicycle painted the same blue color as his mother’s car!
The last story is about Pundy, Theresia and their two sons who were with us in February. They had been in California for only three weeks when they were referred to Family Promise and came to TPC. One night over dinner, which was provided by volunteers from Congregation B’nai Israel, Theresia was sharing where she was going for job interviews that week. A volunteer was familiar with one of the businesses and gave Theresia her card and said to mention her name, which she did and was hired! What a great reminder how God is at work through relationships and seemingly small acts of kindness and concern. This family has not yet found housing and is still in the program. Please keep them in prayer for Pundy to find work and for them to obtain housing.
I pray that these stories will be an encouragement and blessing to those who volunteer in so many ways to provide hope, warmth, support and love to people in crisis. Your words and actions make a difference in people’s lives.
To read about other success stories, go to familypromiseorangecounty.org and click on About Us and Success Stories. You can also see some pictures of TPC members at last year’s Gala and learn about this year’s Gala, which will be at the Angel Stadium of Anaheim.
- Lynn Petersen
Set-up Crew: 5 Volunteers needed per stay
Before our guests arrive, we turn our Youth Lounge into a “tent city” complete with air mattresses, linens, a side table, and a lamp. We need help the day the families arrive, right after the worship service, setting up tents, inflating air mattresses, putting sheets and comforters on the beds and placing side tables and lamps in each of the tents. **No experience is required.**
Dinner Host: 1 Volunteer needed per night per stay
Every night the families we have staying with us will arrive around 5:30 p.m., and we all have dinner together. As a dinner host, you prepare a healthy meal for 8-15 people and enjoy dinner with all of us. You may prepare your meal at home and bring it to the church, or you may bring groceries to the Fellowship Hall kitchen and prepare it there. Dinner is at 6:00 p.m. every night, and dinner hosts are informed the week before of 1) the number of people to cook for and 2) any allergies or food restrictions.
Overnight Host: 2 Volunteers needed per night per stay
One of the most fun and impactful things you can share with a family is your time. After dinner we head down to the Youth Lounge and hang out for a while. Often we will watch movies, talk about our days and, of course, play with the kids. Lights are out at 10:00 p.m. when the hosts go up to the church office to spend the night on a cot or a couch. The families get themselves up and out of the Youth Lounge bright and early each day, so at 7:00 a.m. the overnight hosts will check the doors and be on their way home. This is especially great for families to volunteer together; the Family Promise kids LOVE seeing other kids!
“It’s true that sleeping on a couch isn’t the same as sleeping in my bed at home, but I figure if our guest families have to sleep on air mattresses in strange churches every night for months, then one night on a couch isn’t much to ask of me” - Andy Riopka, on being an overnight host at TPC
Tear-down Crew: 5 Volunteers needed per stay
Our guests will leave before church on the following Sunday. After church the tear-down crew goes in and deflates all of the air mattresses, piles up the linens for the laundry hosts, takes down the tents and puts everything neatly away in the Family Promise closet in the Youth Lounge.
Laundry Host: 3 Volunteers needed per stay
Once the tents are all put away, our laundry hosts will take a basket (or two) of linens home to wash fold. You then bring the linens back to church and place them neatly in the Family Promise closet. That’s it!
Update on Family Promise House of Ruth
The $58,000 that the TPC congregation so generously contributed toward establishing a new transitional home in Tustin is proving to be the seed money we had hoped it would be to open new doors. Family Promise assigned the task of investigating the possibilities to a small group called the House of Ruth Committee consisting of six people, two of whom are from TPC. Combined with the $50,000 matching grant from the Presbytery of Los Ranchos, the $108,000 has enabled us to engage in meaningful conversations with both the City of Tustin and the City of Buena Park. As you can imagine, the process takes time, but we are making steady progress. Both cities have been very positive toward Family Promise with respect to establishing housing for homeless families.
With respect to the City of Tustin, we are seeking to buy or build a multifamily home or apartment complex where we can provide housing for homeless families. We have an indication of financial support from Tustin and from a group of investors. We are in conversation with the people in charge of housing development in Tustin to explore the possibilities.
If you have any questions, talk with Bernie Jeltema or Carl Greenwood after the Sunday morning worship services.
TPC and Family Promise —
Past, Present, and Future
TPC has played a very formative role in establishing Family Promise of Orange County, one of over 180 Family Promise affiliates nationwide. From the time national representatives came to Orange County to help organize and establish our new affiliate here, several TPC members were involved in the preliminary activities that led to incorporation as a nonprofit charitable organization on October 27, 2009. Three of the required 13 congregations needed to host Family Promise guests on their premises for four weeks each year quickly signed up, but there were no more congregations willing to serve. So, in June 2010 the first president, Chuck Turner of St. Mark Presbyterian Church, submitted his resignation, and the initial board was ready to abandon the effort unless something could be done by September of that year. It was at that time that Bernie Jeltema, with “what would Jesus do” in mind, felt called to become the president, recognizing that the need to help the homeless in Orange County was a widespread problem, and that the Family Promise model for helping eliminate homelessness was a proven method to address the issue.
Bernie and Chuck teamed up and called on pastors and leaders of about 50 OC congregations with the Family Promise vision. TPC signed up soon as the fourth congregation to make a commitment. It was several months before the fifth congregation was found, but the momentum began to build in early 2011, and by mid-2011 the required 13 congregations agreed to host.
Another major requirement to make a viable affiliate in OC was the need for a day center that would have the facilities — bathrooms, computers and workspace for guests to find jobs, a lounge for relaxation, office space for the staff, and other amenities. The day center is the hub of Family Promise where the guests go each morning to shower and go from there to their places of work or to look for a job, with the kids going off to their own schools, and then from the day center at 5:30 p.m. back to the host congregation of that week for dinner, fellowship, and overnight sleeping. Finding a place for the day center was a challenge, but First Methodist Church of Orange offered the use of several classrooms which were not being used in their education building. Again, several TPCers stepped up and helped remodel the spaces needed.
A Board of Trustees was established in summer 2011. An Executive Director, Casey Crosbie, was hired in September 2011, and Family Promise of Orange County officially opened its doors to guests on February 6, 2012.
Now in its fourth year of operation, under Casey’s capable leadership, Family Promise has grown steadily. Two transitional homes have been added, both in Fullerton. By 2014, 119 individuals were served — 37 families with 74 children. About 90% of the families returned to housing. The average stay in the emergency/congregational program was 38 days and 5½ months in the transitional housing program. A total of 24 congregations are involved, 6,630 bed-nights have been provided, 10,374 meals have been served, and 1,150 volunteers have logged over 30,000 hours.
Each of the four weeks each year when TPC hosts Family Promise guests about 35 TPCers, including some of our youth, serve to set up and take down tents and cots, prepare and serve meals, clean linens, provide hospitality, and stay overnight. These people deserve a big round of applause, for it is them who make Family Promise a reality at TPC. On some days we are aided by members of our support congregation, Congregation B’nai Israel, who prepare and serve several of the meals.
All of this activity regarding hosting is a significant responsibility, and it was initially coordinated by Sandra Bear, then for the past year by Ashley Riopka, and for the week we just hosted by Sue Currie. We are seeking a volunteer from the congregation to assume this responsibility.
It is worth noting that three of the dozen members of the Family Promise of Orange County Board of Trustees are TPCers — Jerry Herter is the Treasurer and Bernie Jeltema and Lynn Petersen also serve.
A full-time caseworker with a Masters in Social Work (MSW) is now on staff. The staff and board of FPOC are continually looking for new ways to help the homeless community and have several new ideas on the drawing board to accomplish that. The quality of the services offered is outstanding. Guests are tracked at least monthly for two years after they graduate to assure they receive the needed support and remain in their homes.
Family Promise of Orange County currently is financially healthy, but to stay that way and continue to grow, it relies on contributions from individuals, congregations, grants, corporations, and other sources. The annual Gala this year will be on Saturday, August 22, at Wilcox Manor in Tustin. TPCers are encouraged to attend.
Some say that Family Promise of Orange County is the best-kept secret regarding service to the homeless in Orange County. To help get the message out, Family Promise of Orange County has just established a new Advisory Council. We are pleased that Bill Groves has agreed to serve on this Council.
The members and friends of TPC can feel good about the role they play — past, present, and future — to help serve the needs of the homeless in Orange County through Family Promise. TPC looks forward to a long and meaningful relationship with Family Promise.
225 West Main Street, Tustin, CA 92780-4319 (714)544-7070 www.tustinpresbyterian.org