THE REVOLUTION IS COMING.

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Almost exactly two years ago, Hamilton: An American Musical took the world by storm. A musical that effectively compelled youth to take an interest in history and theatre, a musical that spoke to the social dynamics of our world– a musical that dared to tell the story of our nation’s past in the style of our nation today, with a diverse cast and current music. For so many reasons, this production exploded into a worldwide phenomenon.

So what on earth does that have to do with Family Promise? Why would we call our Annual Gala “The Revolution is Coming”, inspired by Hamilton: An American Musical?

If you know the story of Hamilton, you know the story of an immigrant who came from nothing, rising up to become one of the most recognizable figures in American history. He was instrumental to the fight for independence and the Revolutionary War. He had ambition, drive, and unrecognized potential, and when given an opportunity for a platform, he changed the world.

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The children and families we serve are no different. Suddenly homeless, coming from practically nothing, their world has been turned upside down. These children represent the future of our community. They could be future doctors, lawyers, actors, business owners, non-profit leaders— they could write the next hit musical. These children deserve opportunity. Their parents deserve the chance for independence and self-sufficiency.

This is not a “revolutionary” idea. We have always believed that children are the future. We have always believed in helping families re-gain their independence and freedom, to return to self-sufficiency, sustainable housing, and stability. But ending homelessness, forever, that is the revolution. We are a small piece of the puzzle, an eye in the hurricane, but we will fight this battle until it is won.

“this is not a moment. it’s the movement.”

Our Annual Gala is the opportunity to begin this revolution. We can all be in the room where it happens. History has its eyes on us (the quotes go on and on). We have the chance and stand in a position to empower these families, and these children, to follow their dreams and gain their independence.

We hope you’ll join us!

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Tickets to our Annual Gala are available HERE or by calling 480-659-5227.

NEW YEAR, NEW BLESSINGS

New Year, New Blessings

On behalf of Family Promise-Greater Phoenix and the families, children, and pets that we serve, thank you for your time, support, dedication, and generosity in 2016. Thanks to all of our volunteers, supporters, and donors for making another year memorable and successful!

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Emergency Shelter & Pet Program
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Surpassing last year’s numbers, Family Promise assisted 103 families in 2016 to find sustainable housing and self sufficiency!
Total, this represented 338 individuals, including 196 children and 45 pets. Families continued to be served by our 32 interfaith congregations, including our first synagogue, and a network of over 6,000 volunteers. Throughout the year we welcomed numerous corporations, organizations, families, individuals, and groups to volunteer, donate, and otherwise assist the families, children, and pets we serve!
Aftercare Program (HOPE)
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Since its inception, the Aftercare Program (affectionately named “HOPE” by the families) has only further increased to serve even more families after their graduation from Emergency Shelter. There are currently 96 families enrolled in Aftercare and enjoying the many benefits of membership and participation!
These families continue to attend classes on subjects such as budgeting, cash flow, parenting, and self care. This year two major changes were introduced– a mentoring program, which continues to foster connections and support within the community, and the extension of the Aftercare Program to two years for added assistance and benefits! Through shopping at the Client Store, program participants have accrued a savings of $180,688.50 total for the year. Participation in Aftercare also comes with the added benefit of discounted dental work, graciously donated new cars, participation in football camps, and family outings to basketball and baseball games! Most importantly, the program is a continued network of support and friendship long after graduation from the Family Promise Day Center.
Diamonds, Leather & Studs… The Excitement Continues!
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2016’s edgy, exciting gala was held at the Harley Davidson Dealership of Scottsdale on March 19th, 2016. Guests enjoyed a photo opportunity with a biker babe, a silent auction packed with beautiful and one-of-a-kind items, gravity defying performances by an aerialist, and an epicurean four course feast!
Following dinner, they enjoyed a moving program and celebration of Family Promise, and then an action packed live auction including a signed Peyton Manning helmet, a Pink Floyd “Dark Side of the Moon” signed gold record, and even a Harley Davidson motorcycle! The night wrapped up with a raffle, drinks, and dancing in the moonlight. Following the success of the 2016 “Diamonds, Leather & Studs” Gala, the 2017 annual celebration will be sure to amaze! Mark your calendars for March 18th, 2017– The Revolution is Coming!
Cardboard City 2016
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After last year’s chilly and rainy Cardboard City, we were blessed with blue skies on October 15th & 16th at Scottsdale Stadium. This year’s event boasted a few notable changes– in addition to a neighborhood of cardboard houses, participants also built and played cardboard arcade games to win prizes and awards!
We danced the night away to the stylings of DJ Melissa Marie of Urban Rockettestar Productions and enjoyed food truck fare and the carnival-like atmosphere. With a record turnout, 2,000 Hygiene Kits for the Homeless were assembled in no time. In the morning, we woke up bright and early for coffee and donuts! We owe a great debt to participants, volunteers, and donors for the success of Cardboard City 2016. Thank you to all those who constructed cardboard homes and games (they provided the entertainment!), over 80 dedicated volunteers, and our sponsors and Hygiene Kit collectors. See you in October for Cardboard City 2017!
Golf Fore Family Charity Tournament
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Generously presented by PruGen Pharmaceuticals, the Family Promise Golf Fore Family Charity Tournament on Monday, November 7th was a hole-in-one!
Held at the beautiful Ambiente Course of the J.W. Marriott Camelback Inn, the tournament began with delicious box lunches and a 12 noon shotgun start. Along the course, golfers participated in contests, including a putting contest with professional golfer Pam Wright, and the chance to win a car with a hole-in-one. The 18th Hole Party and dinner back at the clubhouse included a scrumptious buffet, prizes, and a raffle. Most importantly, we heard stories from several families served by Family Promise and employed by PruGen Pharmaceuticals. Thanks to all who sponsored, volunteered at, and participated in this wonderful event!

THE GIFT OF GIVING BACK

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The Gift of Giving Back

As one of over 200 Family Promise affiliates across the country (with more in development every day!), Family Promise-Greater Phoenix always enjoys stories of families helped by Family Promises, wherever they may be! A recent story sent to our Aftercare Coordinator from a family relocating to Utah is a touching story of success, cooperation, and connectivity between Family Promises.

Last fall, Janie and her two children entered the Greater Phoenix shelter. Much like many of our other families, Janie found herself without a place to live after losing her job and source of income. With nowhere to turn, she found Family Promise. After leaving the program, Janie decided that opportunities lay outside the state of Arizona, and made the move to Utah. Below is her story, and she is thriving!

“Just to update you per your request we have moved to Utah and I have an amazing new job!!!! Kids are adjusting beautifully!!!! Couldn’t be better!!! Happy to be 100% stable and making money like I could never imagine. There is a Family Promise here in Utah we have a lot of support out here.

By chance do you have a location where they accept donations? I promised Ted that paying it forward was a huge goal for me and I would love to be able to lend a hand with anything or just donate to the cause!!! Even if I am not in AZ I feel the love of FP and I am so grateful for all the help we have been offered.

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Last week Dom earned $10.00. Then while out on errands we saw a man holding a sign at a stop light and Dom and Randi usually give any food we have right to them but this time we didn’t have any food to offer. So, I looked back at Dom he had tears in his eyes… He rolled down his window and handed the man his money the man asked me what my name was and told us he was going to say a prayer for us then he offered his name and asked if we could also pray for him. I looked back at Dom and he already had his arms folded and then looked up at Randi and she was ready for prayer. Also, she told her brother to say the prayer and they both made me so proud to be sitting there with them. Family Promise has taught us anyone at any time could be in a situation of hopelessness/homelessness. No one chooses to be in it but with the help and support from you wonderful amazing people we have seen hope when there was none… And it truly changed us I know it would make our Christmas a whole lot more meaningful to give instead of accept.

Last year in the Family Promise shelter our children had the best Christmas they have ever had and it was because of your organization. I would be happy to help and I am so grateful our circumstance this year make that possible. Thank you for all your wonderful advice and your love you do so much for everyone keep up the hard work!!”

-Janie

GOLF FORE FAMILY: A RECAP

Golf Fore Family: A Recap

Each year, the Family Promise Golf Tournament grows more successful and, overall, fun! This year’s Golf Tournament was no exception. With an amazing Title Sponsorship from PruGen Pharmaceuticals, a record amount was raised for families, children, and pets without homes. Ninety nine golfers assembled bright and early at the JW Marriott Camelback Golf Club- Ambiente Course for 18 holes of amazing golf all in support of a great cause. With a boxed lunch, they set off with a noon shotgun start. While on the course, they enjoyed course contests through a super ticket, including a Golf Ball Launcher, Beat the Pro, Putting Contest, and even the chance to win a car!

Upon completing the course, golfers had one more chance to buy raffle tickets for a variety of amazing prizes, including spa packages, foursomes at some of the Valley’s elite clubs, hotel stays, and restaurant gift cards including The House Brasserie, Joyride, Postino, and more! The night closed with a delectable dinner, silent auction (including signed golf memorabilia) and a moving program about Family Promise. Two recently graduated families stood up to tell their story, including what Family Promise has meant to them, and what a job at PruGen Pharmaceutical’s GenRx has done to change their lives.

We hope that even more golfers and avid supporters of Family Promise will join us again next year for another successful tournament! It is sure to be another hole in one!

CARDBOARD CITY 2016: A RECAP

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Cardboard City 2016: A Recap

Cardboard City is a unique event– there’s nothing quite like it. Once you’ve been to one Cardboard City, you’re hooked for life, and no two Cardboard City events are the same! Every year, we introduce new ways to keep this event fun and exciting while never forgetting its true purpose– to help families without homes.

This year, Cardboard City introduced a new activity. In addition to cardboard houses, groups were also invited to create games out of cardboard, inspired by the amazing story of Caine’s Arcade. If you haven’t seen this video yet, check it out. It’s a little long, but worth the watch. As you can see, groups took full advantage of this opportunity!

Cardboard City has always been about awareness and community. This year, more than ever, that sense of community was evident. We brought together youth groups from schools and churches as well as corporate groups, families, and friends. The event became a showcase of youth creativity and innovation, along with an amazing event benefiting families without homes and their pets.

A few milestones were reached– we enjoyed record participation with over 350 guests, more than ever before. As always we built 2,000 Hygiene Kits for the Homeless, from items that were collected by these same caring groups. This year, we built those kits in record time– they had never been assembled so fast!

We danced to DJ and MC Melissa Marie, enjoyed amazing food truck fare from What’s Fresh AZ and Arizona Wings N’ More, played cardboard games and bonded over a freezing cold night sleeping in cardboard boxes on the field of Scottsdale Stadium! In the morning, the kids were up bright and early and waiting patiently in line for Dunkin Donuts coffee, hot chocolate, and sweet treats generously sponsored by David Schweikert.

Thank you to everyone who attended and made this event a success. It was a long night, and lots of work, but worth it in the end for the families we serve and for the groups who attended– we hope they had as much fun as we did and that they will all join us again next year. Check out the video below for a taste of what Cardboard City 2016 was like…

And get ready for Cardboard City 2017!

RAISING PHILANTHROPIC KIDS: CREATE A FAMILY FUNDRAISING PROJECT

Raising Philanthropic Kids: Create a Family Fundraising Project

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Hello again! Last time we met, we talked about the three part allowance and how it may help provide a solid philanthropic foundation for kids – teaching them about the value of giving. This month, I’d like to share with you some different things that you can do as a family to raise money for your favorite charitable organization.

How can you raise money for an organization when there isn’t a specific event going on? Create your own! It doesn’t have to be big. When it comes to teaching our children about philanthropy, even the small things count.

Recently, our family held a lemonade stand in front of our home. From the very beginning, we made a commitment that all money we raised would be donated to our charity of choice. Our children took a lead role in planning the event and running the lemonade stand. The big day quickly arrived, and it was a success – we made over $96! The kids felt the satisfaction of helping a worthy cause, they got to practice math skills, had a great time mixing and sampling recipes – and they had fun! In fact we made a party out of it, and the kids each invited a friend to join the festivities. Here are a few things we learned from our experience hosting a lemonade stand:

  • Have information about the nonprofit organization available. See if you can obtain marketing materials from the organization you will be donating to or print out a couple of pages from their website. Whatever you do, make sure you have literature about the organization out at the lemonade stand. Set up a bowl or jar next to the organization’s literature that clearly asks for donations.

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  • Advertise! This is key. Ninety percent of our customers came to our lemonade stand because of the handmade flyer the kids created. Flyers were taped to neighbors’ front doors, and our kids took the flyers to school and asked their teachers to put a flyer in their classmates take home folders.
  • Fresh squeezed lemonade. We decided to take the extra time to make our own fresh squeezed lemonade. Everyone LOVED it and was quite impressed that it was homemade.
  • Food. Serve something tasty with the lemonade. We went the homemade baked goods route. All the visitors bought a treat with their lemonade – and we sold out!
  • Pricing. Don’t price your products too high – you want people to come, and you want them to not only buy lemonade and treats, but to also donate! We had a couple people throw in $20 to the donation jar!
  • Plan around other events. If there is an annual event in your neighborhood (home tour, parade, race, garden tour…), try to plan your lemonade stand to coincide with the event. We didn’t do this – but will next time. I think we could potentially double or triple our fundraising dollars if we do!

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A lemonade stand is always fun – but what else could you do as a family to raise money for your favorite charity?

Bake sale/cookie stand – If it’s chilly outside, how about having a cookie stand and sell cookies and apple cider or hot chocolate? Run it similar to how you would run a lemonade stand.

Garage sale – Clear out the clutter in your home and have a garage/yard sale. Donate proceeds to charity. Make sure to have information about your charity available and ask for donations!

Neighborhood art show – Have your children create fun pieces of art (or uses masterpieces they’ve already created). Get your neighbors or children’s friends involved and have them contribute works of art too. Set up in your yard and charge an admission and/or ask for donations. Check out this link for loads of ideas/inspiration from a family that hosted a successful neighborhood art show to raise money for their favorite charity: http://www.artbarblog.com/summer/neighborhood-art-show/

There are many creative ideas out there to involve children in fundraising. Whatever you decide to do – have fun. Showing kids that you can actually have a lot of fun helping others is an important part of parenting and helps to build strong, kind and generous communities.

~Whitney

whitneyheadshot1About the Author: Whitney Thatcher is a dedicated Family Promise Volunteer, helping with events and in the office with administrative work. When Whitney is not helping Family Promise, she loves to spend time exploring Arizona’s campgrounds and hiking trails with her husband, children and a boisterous black lab. She also enjoys getting dirty in her vegetable garden, spending time behind the camera taking photographs, listening to music, and eating chocolate.

WE LOVE OUR VOLUNTEERS!

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Each month on Social Media, we like to share the story of one of our valued volunteers. These are the people that make Family Promise what it is– a community, a collaboration, a family. They give of their time and ask for nothing in return. Our volunteers are board members, host coordinators, office workers, childcare specialists, teachers, and more! They serve the meals, cut hair, help our families with job searching and resumes, attend events, enter data, and sleep overnight. What would we be without volunteers?

Meet a few of them below:


Whitney T., Fundraiser, Blogger, Event Aficionado & Office Support

 Whitney is a recent transplant to Phoenix, Arizona. She has always been passionate about giving back to the community, and enjoys sharing her compassion for others and the skills acquired in her career in finance and real estate with charitable organizations.

Whitney feels fortunate to have found Family Promise – Greater Phoenix because the nonprofit closely aligns with her beliefs and goals as a volunteer. When Whitney is not helping Family Promise, she loves to spend time exploring Arizona’s campgrounds and hiking trails with her husband, children and a boisterous black lab. She also enjoys getting dirty in her vegetable garden, spending time behind the camera taking photographs (which is why we are missing a photograph of her here!), listening to music, and eating chocolate.


Jill R., Client Store Manager

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Jill Russell is former President of the board and current volunteer with her church. In addition, Jill runs the Family Promise Client Store, no small undertaking. In Jill’s own words:

“In 2002 when I first saw the video of the Interfaith Hospitality Network, now known as Family Promise, I knew that this program could offer a meaningful addition to the life of University Presbyterian Church. In May of 2003 we hosted our first families and 13 years later we’re still hosting. I have served as a host coordinator, president of the board, and am currently the volunteer coordinator of the Client Store with the help of many wonderful volunteers. Family Promise has been a big part of my life for many years.”


Terri W., Dedicated Board Member

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In Terri’s own words, she gives her time to Family Promise because “it is so gratifying to see a family recover from a crisis intact and move on. Family Promise gives these families a stable environment where children feel safe and cared for… Someone not paid to care but volunteers who are there, reaching out in a time of need.”


Gary W., Long Distance Supporter & Maintenance Superhero

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Gary no longer lives in AZ but comes to town every few months and always visits Family Promise to help out! Here he is helping John put together furniture for our new Volunteer Coordinator’s office. He’s built a lot of furniture for Family Promise, but is not opposed to any task we throw his way!


Betty M., Jack of All Trades

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Betty is a powerhouse. Not only does she represent Family Promise at a variety of events and perform all manner of duties at the Day Center, but she also is our transport driver for on-site pets to receive veterinary services. According to Betty, “My work at Family Promise is occasionally exhausting but it is always satisfying seeing that what I do makes a difference for the children and their parents. Oh yes, and the pets too! It is wonderful being part of a family of families working toward the same goal.”


Ambria H., Social Media Wiz, Pet Photographer, Friend to Families

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Ambria is finishing her first year helping promote our pet-friendly shelter via #FamilyShelterTails and her fourth supporting hosting efforts including games and some overnights.

Ambria loves connecting with young families like hers and empowering one another because life is about journeying through a struggle together. She is grateful that so many congregations make vital use of their empty space and strong volunteer network on behalf of Family Promise.


Linda R., Host Coordinator at Our Lady of Perpetual Help

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“The first year that OLPH hosted Family Promise guests, I was president of the women’s organization. We cooked a whole turkey dinner in the kitchen at the church and two of us chaperoned. (We stayed up all night because we didn’t know that we could go to sleep.) I attended every night that week and was hooked about the program. I made the comment that I would coordinate this program for the Parish in a heartbeat because I was so elated with the satisfaction of having helped total strangers. I felt like I had found where I truly belonged—helping others in every possible way—housing, feeding, clothing –right on my front doorstep doing what I had been taught all of my life through the teachings of the bible.

The most memorable experience was on day 3 of a host week during a Q & A session before the dinner blessing, a 7 year old boy raised his hand and asked if he could give the blessing. He repeated the blessing that we had been using the prior two days. It brings tears to my eyes as I know he will always remember where he learned that prayer. That’s my reward.”


Thank you to these amazing volunteers for all the work that they do. Family Promise truly wouldn’t be what it is without them, and the countless others (6,000!) who dedicate their time, effort, and expertise to Family Promise-Greater Phoenix. Stay tuned for more volunteer shout-outs and updates!

AROUND HERE, GRADUATION IS A FAMILY AFFAIR

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Around Here, Graduation is a Family Affair

Even though it’s summer time — and for some back-to-school season — graduation season is still a bit on my mind.

It started with a college graduation in May followed by a high school one and then four kindergartners in June. Thankfully the latter was all in the same ceremony.

Then this summer a mom from Family Promise’s program invited me to hers at the day center, as the families sometimes call it. With up to 12 families in the program at a time and parents securing employment and more permanent housing at different rates, Family Promise graduations happen quite regularly throughout the year. This, however, was the first one I attended.

If you get a chance, see to it that a family you encounter while hosting them at your congregation or while volunteering on site invites you to their graduation. It’s so much more special to be there in person rather than just see the picture afterwards on Facebook.

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Everyone’s smiles were brighter. The twinkle in their eye stronger. And the kitchen within the administrative offices where that particular graduation was held was filled with true hope in humanity and in the future. That stood in stark comparison to the college graduation I attended, in particular, where I couldn’t help but think so many graduates would be fighting/vying for the same open positions the next day. Those key differences, I think are what make Family Promise graduations special.

More importantly, the whole family gets to be in the spotlight…. Not just one member like what happens at a school graduation. And it’s only fair that the entire family gets that spotlight. Overcoming a giant obstacle like losing your home and then securing a job and a new home — even if it’s just a rental or some other temporary situation — is a family effort. Every parent and child makes sacrifices when a family becomes homeless. They’re removed from almost everything that’s familiar and comfortable, except each other and their pet if they have one.  It takes everyone’s continued optimistic spirit and persistence to get life back on track.

The kids may not be fully aware of their role. They’re mostly playing and making new friends. Still, for a parent to see that their child(ren) are happy and cared for– thanks to community support at the churches who provide food, shelter, and fellowship– allows these moms and dads to focus on employment and housing. Those are the stepping stones to graduating from Family Promise and returning to independence.

One of the moms who attended that graduation — also her first — was relatively new to the program at the time, but could already tell the vital difference it made having people like Ted, Nicole and other Family Promise staff hand you the graduation certificate. They, unlike a principal or other administrator at a school graduation, directly journeyed with the family on their path to self-sufficiency, she said.

“Really to have it in black and white, to say that you’ve accomplished something is validating,” the mom told me, “but being able to accomplish something, a goal because you have in mind your children’s lives,”– that she couldn’t put to words. And sometimes, you don’t need to.

Although she did later say that facing homelessness as a family makes you want to fight more to overcome it.

Watch Qamara’s Graduation Here.

And to further connect the inspirational spirit of a graduation after overcoming homelessness, take (another) look at this story that made headlines across the country earlier this month.

A 19 year old went from sleeping in a tent behind a church– his home at the time– to a 50 mile bike ride that ended with him re-staking the tent in a parking lot near Gordon State College. Student housing hadn’t yet opened for the fall semester. When two police officers discovered him, word quickly spread. Strangers pulled through to offer him a job, temporary housing, and money. Within a week organizers stopped accepting donations. They pooled some $184,000 for the young man. He intends to keep the public updated on his grades and progress in school.

My favorite part of the story? Toward the end when he recorded a message to donors: “Hopefully, on the day I graduate, all of y’all are there. I love you all.”

About the Author: A is a valued Family Promise volunteer, dedicating time to events, social media, and hosting the families through the congregational network. She is a lover of pets and an avid photographer.

THE HEART OF TEN MEN

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The Heart of Ten Men

An aspiring pro sports figure is generally a picture of health. Living the dream in the field of basketball, Daniel was also raising his two sons on his own due to his wife’s long term incarceration.

On a day that seemed normal, Daniel suddenly fell ill. His health, his heart, and his organs were deteriorating quickly. Near death, he only considered the well being of his sons.

They lost everything due to medical bills.

Daniel, a proud person, never asked his colleagues or friends for assistance. He and his sons were forced to enter the Family Promise Emergency Shelter. During all of this hardship, Daniel’s only concern was that his sons were okay.

His only priority was to stay alive, despite the diagnosis from multiple doctors, for his sons. At times he was barely able to stand up.

Hospitalized many many times, near death and waiting on liver transplant, Daniel always said his prayers for his sons, because they were what kept him going.

Finally, a miracle liver transplant became available to Daniel. Even with only 5% heart capacity, he consistently followed through with therapy and dialysis four times a week. Daniel recently got a job as a high school basketball coach and has given us the update that his heart capacity has risen to 15%.

He says it’s nothing short of a miracle! His strength comes from God and knowing that there are people like those at Family Promise that care enough to give a hand up when you are in need.

The strength and compassion of Daniel and the love for his children are a story of hope that make even the hardest of hearts feel softer.

~Syri

About the Author: Syri Gerstner is a former client of Family Promise-Greater Phoenix, and now a valued employee. She dedicates herself to homeless families through her work as the Family Promise Aftercare Coordinator, as well as by serving on the Board of Save the Family. Her story of success has been told time and again as an example of the mission of Family Promise and the inspirational drive and determination of many of our families.

THE VALUE OF A PET – EVEN IF YOU’RE NOT AN OWNER

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The Value of a Pet– Even if You’re Not an Owner

My third-grader and I visit a family member with some regularity and as we pull up to the house, we start to call out numbers. They’re generally somewhere between 10 and 30.

The numbers are guesses for how many seconds it will take the dog, a black lab, to notice our presence and return with a slobbered, often de-fuzzed and sometimes not-quite-whole tennis ball in his mouth. We’ve gotten pretty accurate about it, so while the guessing game no longer happens with every visit, Lou inevitably still shows up with his ball.

The first moments of our visit then tend to include a short game of fetch in the back yard. They also involve a bit of a treasure hunt to find the cats. Princess, a gray tabby, shows up inside or outside. It’s a race to find Fancy, a calico. She seems to be a one-pet-per-household kind of cat, so she shows up at feeding time and that’s about it.

Recently, we managed to respectfully capture all three in succession so we could trace their ‘paw’tograph on a graduation greeting card. My daughter took the initiative to draw ovals and circles for where their pads might go and label each paw print.

Why?

We know that pets are important parts of many families. They easily become the center of attention within a household. Or maybe they vie for it alongside the children. Pets tend to serve as our:

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  • lap-warmer/bed warmer
  • entertainer
  • exercise partner
  • objective listener

More importantly, they’re the one set of eyes that manage to exclusively see the good in people. They don’t look away if a person is one day labeled as “homeless” nor do they think any less of their owner. Pets remember a person’s intrinsic value. That’s why when someone is having a particularly tough moment, day or longer stretch of time, it’s the family pet he/she can take comfort in.

Or, as the host/trainer of “Lucky Dog,” put it in the recent “Otto” episode:

“Dogs have a way of providing companionship, especially in times of need.”

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That’s exactly why Family Promise of Greater Phoenix and a growing number of affiliates nationwide now offer pet sanctuaries. Its staff and volunteers know the value of allowing the whole family — people and pets — to stay at the same shelter. Homelessness, unemployment and a host of other changes are enough to deal with. Having the family pet nearby provides a constant source of optimism and comfort. 

Families who don’t have pets aren’t left out. Therapy dogs from Gabriel’s Angels make regular visits to Family Promise and other organizations whose clients are in crisis mode. Petting them brings instant smiles and relief from current worries. Even some U.S. airports allow volunteer therapy dogs — and their owners — to roam the terminals in search of stressed passengers to console.

Our home doesn’t have any real dogs or cats, but we have acquired two fuzzy, battery-operated ones within the last year. Just like the real thing, this cat and dog have their favorite areas to be petted. Doing so often lulls them to sleep. We’ve also noticed that petting them when we’re stressed — with each other or some other facet of life — inevitably calms us down. We usually end up laughing too. Their whimpers and meows are too powerful to allow us to cling on to any negativity.

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About the Author: A is a valued Family Promise volunteer, dedicating time to events, social media, and hosting the families through the congregational network. She is a lover of pets and an avid photographer.