George Bowers Sr.: Loving children and their parents

George Bowers Sr.

We have had an unusually warm winter in the Shenandoah Valley this year for which we can be most grateful. Our monthly budgets are breathing a sigh of relief with an easing of heating bills as are the Virginia Department of Transportation’s snow removal allocations.

Even with the warmer temperatures, however, there would still be many nights much too cool to spend in a tent or car. I dare say most of us keep our homes higher than an overnight low of 50 degrees and would be very uncomfortable if we couldn’t do so.

Sadly, some of our neighbors have had to face these realities due to job losses, health crises, family breakups or other financially devastating events and were forced into homelessness. Thankfully, Family Promise has been there this winter to keep many of these folks warm and help them secure more permanent arrangements to prevent future problems.

During the 11 months it operated in its inaugural year of 2016, Family Promise provided housing and meals for 13 homeless families, which included 25 children and 15 adults. Of the children, 16 were age 5 or under. Our 13 host church congregations provided over 2,000 nights of free safe lodging and over 4,000 meals for these homeless children and their parents. Because this was provided through the private sector, it spared thousands of governmental dollars not to mention the potential savings in future incarcerations that may have been averted through these interventions.

In addition to the host congregations that provide actual shelter, nearly 40 other churches support Family Promise. Over 12,000 hours of volunteer labor were donated, which equals more than six full-time employees. This remarkable cooperation of Christians across denominational lines demonstrates the combined concern for our neighbors who are enduring temporary hardships.

Because the task of assisting these families is too great for any single entity, Family Promise of Shenandoah County cooperates with many existing nonprofit and public agencies. Ongoing partnerships exist with Shenandoah Alliance for Shelter, Healthy Families, Social Services, Strength in Peers, Virginia Extension Service, A Small Hand, and many others.

Children who are too young for school usually spend their days at the Family Center, or “The Happy Place” as one child called it, while the Family Promise staff assists their parents in finding employment, housing, and other vital components to reestablish their financial independence. Families can also do their laundry there while they receive encouragement and mentorship to achieve autonomy.

Since Family Promise receives no government funding or government grants, we rely entirely on the generosity and support of local families, individuals, churches, businesses, and foundations. Ongoing income is needed to provide these vital services and to love people in Jesus’ name. If readers are so inclined, donations can be mailed to Family Promise, P.O. Box 733, Woodstock, VA 22664, or you can give securely online at shenandoahfamilypromise.org.

A tastier option is also approaching on March 25 when we will hold our second annual Steak Dinner featuring master grillers Jay and Tammy Ross at the Woodstock Moose Lodge. In addition to delicious locally grown and processed beef, the menu includes baked potatoes, green beans, rolls, and dessert! Music will be provided by Jump Alley and a silent auction will feature many fine handcrafted items and collectibles as well as a week at a Chincoteague cottage! Tickets are required and are now available from various volunteers or by calling 540-459-4599.

As Family Promise does its part to assist families in need, we can each do ours by supporting its work. Beyond monetary gifts, your prayers are necessary to empower this ministry. In addition, volunteers continue to be needed to serve meals, stay overnight with guests, and play with children. Host congregations are also needed that are willing to open their church doors to house these children and their parents four weeks each year. To enquire about any of these or to get more information about Family Promise of Shenandoah County, please call the Family Center at the number above. And thank you for supporting this ministry that provides housing, help, and hope to homeless children and their families. See you at the steak dinner! George

George Bowers Sr. is the senior pastor of Antioch Church of the Brethren and has authored seven books in addition to contributing to “The Wonders of Nature 365 Devotions Celebrating God’s Beauty” by Worthy Inspired. He can be reached through www.georgebowersministries.com or at gabowers@shentel.net.