Family Promise of Greater Cleveland is an organization formed from the merger of Interfaith Hospitality Network of Greater Cleveland and New Life Community. Our mission is
to inspire and empower homeless families to transform their lives, become self-sufficient, and fulfill their promise.
Today, our Volunteer Spotlight shines on Lynda Bernays, who uses VolunteerSpot to sign up volunteers for a week of hosting homeless families in her church.
Please tell us about your organization and your volunteer needs.
The church I attend (Christ Episcopal Church in Shaker Hts Ohio) is one of 20-30 faith communities in the Cleveland area who serve as host churches through Family Promise, the local branch of a national agency by the same name. Being a host church means that for three separate weeks during the year we provide dinner and overnight accommodations for a maximum of 14 people in 4 families. Every evening we need volunteers to prepare, bring and serve dinner; help with dinner and clean up; spend the evening interacting (or just being present) with the families and children; and spend the night. During the day the families return to the agency's Family Center. On a given week I work with 40 or 50 volunteers filling 80+ slots.
What’s one piece of advice you have for volunteers or their leaders out there?
Communicate, communicate, communicate! Use email to its fullest advantage to keep volunteers informed about expectations, routines, changes.
Why did you decide to use VolunteerSpot?
I had experimented with other on-line sign-ups and found they couldn't accommodate the multi-day, multi-task schedule I needed. I then used Google docs to offer access to a sign-up chart that I created, but not everyone could access it and sometimes even I couldn't. I went back on line in September to see if the on-line sites had improved, and found VolunteerSpot.
Anything else you’d like our readers to know about your organization or volunteering?
Anyone who is involved in volunteering will tell you that the person who benefits the most is the person doing the volunteering. They will also tell you that recruiting volunteers is the most wearing part of running any volunteer-dependent program.
The program I work with is Family Promise of Greater Cleveland (www.familypromisecle.org). Local agencies work independently but are under the umbrella of the national organization Family Promise. Interfaith Hospitality Network is a commonly used name and was in fact the name of the agency in Cleveland until it merged with another agency that provides services that compliment their work with homeless families. The level that I work with is the emergency housing level -- families in need of shelter can contact the office directly and are offered space, if available, as soon as possible. The children are transported to the school they are currently enrolled in, and the parents receive counseling and services as appropriate -- job training, GED classes, job-search assistance, access to benefits. In the early evening they are driven to that week's host church, and are picked up in the morning to return to the family center and offices, or be taken to school.
As I said earlier, many churches/synagogues in any given area are needed to support the evening program. In Cleveland, Family Promise has 2 host churches every week so in effect needs 104 weeks covered during the year. Each site will host up to 14 people in 4 families. Families stay in the emergency shelter part of the program for up to (I think) 60 days. Family Promise also has a transitional housing program in which families can stay for 16 weeks; this is the partnership I mentioned earlier.
To learn more about Family Promise, visit their website, www.familypromisecle.org
We salute Lynda and all the other volunteer leaders out there making a difference. If you're using VolunteerSpot, write and tell us about what you're doing and give us a chance to shine our Volunteer Spotlight on you!! Just email us at VS@volunteerspot.com.