Churches open Family Promise affiliate

The Rev. Michael Dobbins describes where the first guest family for Family Promise of Shenandoah County stays at St. John Bosco Catholic Church in Woodstock. Rachel Mahoney/Daily

WOODSTOCK – After years of planning and community efforts, Family Promise of Shenandoah County got off to a bit of a delayed start when its first guest family began staying with participating churches this week.

Through the charity affiliate, Shenandoah churches will be providing support for area homeless families without separating them, offering assistance and guidance to find housing or employment.

The Rev. George Bowers, pastor at Family Promise participant Antioch Church of the Brethren, said the affiliate learned at the end of December that participating church facilities would need to be subject to inspection by Shenandoah County Building Department. The churches will require a renewable Temporary Certificate of Occupancy, requiring safety inspections from government officials.

Despite these initial bumps in the road, Bowers said the timing ended up working out perfectly.

“We had hoped to begin hosting on the first of January, but we were waiting on some of these issues to be resolved – and also prior to that time, we didn’t have any families that had been referred to us,” he said.

Executive Director Sherry Arey began the intake process for the first guest family last week and family members began their stay on Tuesday, soon after the first church obtained its certificate. They’ll make a weekly rotation among the participating churches, continuing in the program until they secure a road toward a brighter future.

Family Promise can serve up to five families or 14 individuals at a time – a typical number for affiliates, according to the charity – and this first family has nine members.

“That goes a pretty far distance for our capacity at this point,” Bowers said.

St. John Bosco Catholic Church in Woodstock hosted the family for their first week before passing the baton on to All Souls Anglican Church down the street. The Rev. Michael Dobbins said evenings spent at the parish hall – where the guest family stays – have been lively and enjoyable, as volunteer “host families” from the churches spend time and eat dinner with the guest family.

“We have some large families in the parish … so their kids play with these kids, and it’s a beautiful thing to see,” he said.

Saturday means the family will spend the day with some parish staff, eating out for lunch and spending time at the Apple Blossom Mall in Winchester.

Dobbins said St. John Bosco had no holdups or snags during inspections for the certificate, and he applauded Shenandoah officials who cooperated with the requests and acted quickly.

Arey said that not all participating churches have obtained the certificate yet, but the fast turnaround time means that they can file the request on their own schedule. Besides providing the required necessities, she said each church’s hosting period will be unique, with reflections of each individual parish: Donations to St. John Bosco’s thrift store can be categorized to specifically go to Family Promise guests.

Shenandoah County’s affiliate of Family Promise is the 200th to be established in the country. To commemorate this, Central High School will host on March 13 a ceremony featuring choirs and there will be tours offered of the affiliate’s family center.

Contact staff writer Rachel Mahoney at 540-465-5137 ext. 164, or