So Many Ways You Can Help Homeless Families This Season
Just in time for the holidays, we made our list – and checked it twice! – of 5 easy ways you can help homeless families on the South Shore this season. Some are super easy to do. Others give you a chance to enjoy the spirit of the holiday season while your contribution goes to helping us put an end homelessness on the South Shore.
Our new Program Director returns “home” to work on behalf of homeless families
When Tandah Etienne arrived at Friends of the Homeless of the South Shore this summer as the new Program Director, it was a return to her roots. In fact, Tandah’s work as an advocate for homeless families began when she was a student at Eastern Nazarene College. Back then, she volunteered at Friends of the Homeless under the direction of then Executive Director Dorothy Newell.
A wonderful story about a former homeless shelter guest — with a powerful message — from Executive Director Herb Newell …
There are times when all of us who work in family sheltering have felt overwhelmed by the magnitude of the need. We see the seeming intransigence of current problems, and know all too well the mentally tough work. At those times it’s important to remember that we have been – and continue to be – a significant part of the response to homeless shelter guests needing help and guidance.
How 1 woman’s determination, 1 donor’s generosity, and 14 energetic volunteers gave the kids in Norwell a safe place to play outside — in just 4 weeks.
It was a warm and sunny day in August this year when Nancy O’Neil decided that enough was enough. It was high time that the Norwell children who attended the inside play space program at the Friends of the Homeless of the South Shore’s Norwell shelter got the chance to play outdoors too.
But first she needed to find the resources to build a fence so they could play safely in the shelter’s outside play area.
Giving Norwell Kids a Safe Outdoor Play Space
O’Neil, a volunteer play activity leader for the Horizons for Homeless Children Play Space Program, knows the importance of outdoor play. She worked in high school and college-level athletics and health for more than three decades before becoming a consultant for athletic education and wellness.
“If there’s one thing that kids have in common, it’s energy. And lots of it!” says O’Neil. That’s why they need a safe place to play outdoors. “Even if you don’t have a place to call your own, you still want your kids to be safe,” she says.
So she reached out to Herb Newell, Executive Director of Friends of the Homeless of the South Shore and his staff and volunteers for their assistance. Sharyn Burden, Assistant Program Director at the Norwell shelter became a key supporter, fielding calls and providing valuable insight. Another volunteer created a 2-page flyer to give to potential donors. Little did we imagine our Norwell kids would have their fence so quickly.
Persistence Pays Off — Quickly
It was O’Neil’s dogged determination to get the fence built ASAP that made all the difference. In fewer than 4 weeks after she started her effort:
Art Caron of AVO Fence & Supply in Plymouth, MA generously donated over 170 feet of fencing panels.
Atlantic Fence in Raynham, MA donated all of the posts.
O’Neil and a friend picked up and delivered the panels to the Norwell location. Caron picked up and delivered the posts.
Enough cash donations were received to rent an auger and set aside money for maintenance.
Newell and O’Neil assembled a team of volunteers to get the fence installed.
On Sunday, September 18th Caron, his staff, and a few helpers set the corners and began the build. Then, on Saturday, September 24, a full crew of volunteers “dug in” to build the fence and make the outdoor play space for our Norwell kids a reality — in just 4 hours!
“We did it!” says O’Neil. “With the leadership of Art Caron at AVO Fence and the help of a tremendous team, we finished the fence! And it is beautiful! The youngsters will soon enjoy the out of doors during their play space time. YIPPEE!! HUGE thanks to all who contributed.”
In addition to O’Neil and Caron (“total project hero” says O’Neil), the volunteer construction crew included Marci Stoda, Paula Myers, Judy Katalina, Nancy Martens, Nancy Bilodeau, Herb Newell, and Kenny Dustin.
Still Needed: A Few Finishing Touches
Of course, the work isn’t completely done, admits O’Neil. “We still have to fill in with a couple of gates for access and the hardware to go with them.” But Director Newell’s connection to Habitat for Humanity volunteers will soon make this happen, she says. The gates are scheduled for completion during the week of October 3.
To everyone mentioned above AND the many other generous donors whose time and money helped us make the fence a reality, we cannot say thank you enough! You have made a big difference for our Norwell kids and their parents. Thank you for your support in making a difference in children’s lives on the South Shore of Boston as a whole! We invite you to connect with us on Facebook.
Maybe fence building isn’t your thing? Don’t worry, we have many ways you can help, either by volunteering or donating. Which ever way you chose will make a great impact on our children in shelter.
Next time you are in a Shaw’s Supermarket, instead of saying “No” when the cashier asks if you are collecting stamps for their flatware promotion, please say “Yes” instead. Then put the stamps you do not want in an envelope and mail them to:
Judith Patt c/o Promise Church 204 M Tall Oaks Drive South Weymouth, MA 02190
“No need to bother pasting them in the little book either,” says Judith. “We will take care of that.”
Judith and others at Promise Church are collecting the stamps to give to Friends of the Homeless of the South. They will redeem these Shaw’s Stamps for flatware to give to families moving out of shelters and motels and into more permanent housing.
“We’d love your help in collecting as many stamps as we can before the January 5th deadline,” Patt says. “That gives us up to January 19th to redeem them for the families.”
Ask the Shoppers Ahead of You Too!
If you are in line and the person in front of you says “No.” Think about taking advantage of that opportunity too, Judith suggests. “When you ask if they would mind giving you the stamps to help temporary shelter guests move into permanent homes, you will be surprised at how generous your fellow shoppers can be.”
These Cuisinart Saver Stamps are earned for every $10 you spend at Shaw’s. Why not take advantage of this wonderful opportunity? And for other donation ideas, visit our website donations page.
Promise Church is a newly forming church of the United Church of Christ. They gather for worship and fellowship in homes around the Weymouth and Quincy area on Sunday evenings. Church members provide ongoing support to Friends of the Homeless of the South Shore to help build stronger parents, children and families; to secure education and employment opportunities; and to find safe and affordable permanent housing.
Home with Friends has a success story to share with you. For our dedicated volunteers, generous donors, ever-energetic supporters, old and new friends, here is the update you have been asking for on our new Home with Friends program from Program Director Lora Wooster. See below for her list of things you can do to help support the families.
They Always seem happy to see me!
The first family in our Home with Friends program – Deanne and her pre-school son – lived at our Norwell shelter for almost 3 years. She began meeting with the mentoring team from St. Paul’s Church of the Nazarene in Duxbury last year. And despite some self-doubt at the start, she has since made great strides toward self-sufficiency.
Perhaps that is why, when asked about her experience with her mentors, she beams. One of the things she likes best about meeting with them, she says, is that “they always seem so happy to see me!”
Confidence to Meet Her Goals
When she joined the program, Deanne (not her real name) who is in her late twenties, had already faced a number of life challenges and disappointments that damaged her self-confidence and resilience. She grew up with her grandmother while her parents was incarcerated. She never finished high school, and she held a series of unskilled, low-paying jobs. But with encouragement from her mentoring team — and the Secure Jobs program at Father Bill’s and Mainspring – she:
completed her GED last October
moved into her first apartment in March
started training to become a certified nursing assistant (CNA) in June and
found a part-time job at a local hospital in July
Next: A new Career & No Subsidy
She got high marks in her CNA classes and graduated as a Certified Nursing Assistant on September 3rd. That means she is more than ready for the next challenge: to find a full time job that keeps her on her career path in nursing so she can afford an apartment on her own. Up to now she has had a rental subsidy from the state. Now that the subsidy has ended, her mentoring team’s church, St. Paul’s Church of the Nazarene in Duxbury, will provide a decreasing rental subsidy for another year.
Car Troubles and a Short-Term Fix
Along the way, Deanne has been learning that it takes time and effort to build the life skills and confidence that will help her succeed. She is also learning that there will be occasional setbacks that she will need to overcome. For example, when her car died recently, she was able to resurrect it for the time being with the help of her mentoring team and a local mechanic. Unfortunately, the car probably will not last until winter, and she needs it to keep her job. (See our “What we need now” wish list below.)
Her Chance to “Grow and Bloom”
Like the daylilies that survived the heat and drought of my garden this summer, Deanna has overcome many challenges to grow and bloom. And even though she still worries about her finances – she tells me that she could not have made it this far without her social worker and her mentoring team.
Two More Families Matched with Mentors
We now have two more families on board and teamed up with wonderful mentoring teams from North Street Community Church of the Nazarene and Highrock Covenant Church of Quincy. Both moms are working and one moved into an apartment with her son in August; the other is still looking for an affordable apartment. I will bring you more details in a future update.
What We Need Now for Home With Friends
Deanne needs a halfway-decent used car. If you have one you would like to donate, you could receive a tax deduction for its value, and Deanne would know that she will be able to get to work this winter. Contact me.
We continue to need funding for staff to provide case management for families and to train and equip volunteers to minister to families in motels. If you would like to organize a fundraiser, please let us know, or to donate right now, use the donate button on the Friends of the Homeless of the South Shore website. (Please do not use our old PO Box)
Please help us increase the awareness of family homelessness in Boston and on the South Shore. You can do this by:
Inviting me to speak with the groups you’re involved with at your church or in your community.
Subscribing to the FHSS blog to hear more stories!
Thank you for your acts of compassion and your sharing, giving attitudes in the past – and the future! God’s love has shown through you.
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Lora Wooster is the Program Director for our Home with Friends program, she can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org 617-939-3709
I imagine one of the things that comes to mind is “home cooking.” Our neighbors who are experiencing homelessness also dream of home cooking. When families leave the shelter for their own place, they need to supply all their furniture and household items. In order to help these families get settled, the people of Promise Church collected Cuisinart pots and pans provided by Shaw’s Supermarkets.
Shaw’s offered one stamp for every $10 spent; we needed 100 – 120 stamps for the size cookware we wanted to collect, so we asked our friends for help. People from UCC churches, churches of other denominations, local groups and individuals, all combined their stamps in the weeks before Christmas. These stamps were redeemed and the result was 40 saucepans, fry pans and chef’s pans to give to families to use when they are in shelter and to take with them as they leave shelter for their own place. Dorothy Newell, president of Friends of the Homeless said, “A new skillet for a family moving into our homeless shelters! What could be more welcome! And many thanks to Shaw’s stamps and all who collected them to make this Promise Church project possible.”
Helping the shelters run by the South Shore Friends of the Homeless has been an ongoing mission of Promise Church. Friends of the Homeless of the South Shore is dedicated to helping homeless families by providing food, clothing, furniture, shelter, education, and advocacy. They address a whole range of needs, from physical to emotional, from personal to social, and from psychological to spiritual.
Promise Church is a newly forming church in care of the Pilgrim Association of the Massachusetts Conference of the United Church of Christ. We gather for worship and fellowship in homes around the South Shore area. It is sometimes hard for such a small congregation to see that they are making a difference. With the help of many friends, this pile of cookware is a visible expression of our care for others.
Friends of the Homeless is grateful to Promise Church for their commitment to helping home-ready families get the items they need to move in. If your church would like to participate in a similar way, please contact our Volunteer Coordinator, Dorothy Newell at email@example.com