Praise given for Family Promise launch

Libby Rocco, Family Promise of Shenandoah County board member, directs a chorus of singers from 17 churches during the affiliate's grand opening celebration at Central High School's gymnasium on Sunday. Rachel Mahoney/Daily

WOODSTOCK – Shenandoah ministries celebrated the grand opening of the county’s Family Promise affiliate on Sunday afternoon with songs and prayers.

Shenandoah County’s Family Promise affiliate is the 200th to be established in the county, and the celebration nearly filled seats set up in Central High School’s gymnasium. Singers and musicians from 17 area churches performed a number of songs as part of the celebration.

Participating churches began hosting guest families that have no home on Feb. 7, providing them with a place to stay and resources to pave a new way.

The Rev. George Bowers Sr., pastor of Antioch Church of the Brethren and president of the affiliate’s board, told those assembled that organizers began discussing the impact of homelessness in the area almost three years ago. He said that despite the initial challenges to tackling that issue, he described how he’s seen that “God is at work.”

“One of the most special parts of this experience for me has been the privilege to meet so many wonderful people all over the Shenandoah Valley and far beyond that have enriched me by your gifts – and by your wisdom, and by your passion and by your personalities,” he said later. “I thank God for these privileges that he has given to me and to Family Promise of Shenandoah County.”

Karen Olson

Executive Director Sherry Arey also gave her own comments, describing how she learned about the hidden prevalence of homelessness by hearing children’s stories while working for Shenandoah County Schools.

“Parents were afraid – afraid of the stigma attached to being homeless and afraid that their children would be taken away from them,” she said. “So I knew that for every one student that was identified in the school system as being homeless, there were two or three or even more not identified and not being counted.”

Karen Olson, founder of Family Promise, voiced her congratulations to the Shenandoah affiliate despite having come down with bronchitis.

She also described her first effort to help the homeless: a single sandwich that she delivered to a woman living on the streets of New York City. Speaking to the woman, Olson learned that her name was Millie and listened to her speak about her life.

“This is a very strong affiliate here in the Shenandoah Valley,” she said after the celebration. “I’ve been impressed all along with the commitment from the community.

Libby Rocco, a board member of Family Promise of Shenandoah County, shows the kitchen at the affiliate's family center to Linda Leake, a member of Emanuel Lutheran Church, a Family Promise support congregation. Rachel Mahoney/Daily

“This affiliate is not only well poised to help many families, but to grow and add complementary programs to help lift people out of poverty,” she continued.

Board members presented symbols of thanks to the churches, community partners and individuals who have given their time, efforts and resources to make the affiliate possible.

Board member Pat Rosenbaum reported on the affiliate’s planned fundraisers after the audience gave offerings. She said the a steak dinner fundraiser on Saturday is already sold out and tickets for a southern Gospel concert fundraiser on July 1 will be available in the spring.

After the celebration, Family Promise invited people to tour the family center, where guest families can access resources to do laundry, shower and search for jobs, among many other things. Arey said that although the facility has been furnished for full use by donations, the affiliate may put more work into the basement and possibly pursue a play area outside in the future.

Contact staff writer Rachel Mahoney at 540-465-5137 ext. 164, or rmahoney@nvdaily.com