The first Family Promise experience for Holy Trinity/University Lutheran and for Pickens County was a success in so many ways. Although there are some areas to refine and we will continue to improve with experience, we finished our Host Week plus four extra days with shared feelings of joy and satisfaction. Our first Host Week was successful in part because we were able to start out easily but meaningfully: our only family was a young mother and her newborn son, discharged to our care from the hospital.
We quickly learned why we were taught that flexibility is the most important word in Family Promise. Meal plans were discarded or revamped. Overnight hosts were presented with some unique challenges. Housekeeping crew had to take down guest quarters and reassemble more than was expected, due to our willingness to take on a second Host Week because the next church was not quite ready.
We knew that this time would have its rewards, but probably none of us anticipated the wealth of rewards. A new community was formed, among our own church volunteers, among the wonderful volunteers from University Lutheran, and through the prayers and good wishes from other churches in Clemson and in Pickens County. These friendships will grow over the years, no doubt. We actually had more volunteers than we could use for this first experience. Those who were not called this first time will be invited to take part next time. It is so rewarding to have so many people eager to volunteer. Another rewarding aspect is that Coordinators for the three areas of volunteers (Kathy and Jody Hunter, Sue Williams, Kara Gold) immediately and energetically answered the request to serve. Not only did they do a fabulous job, but they all agreed to continue into the next Host Week. Likewise, the three Coordinators from Support Church, University Lutheran (Eunice Lehmacher, Rachel Quesada, Karen Dreher) contributed greatly to the success of all aspects of the program and all agreed to continue. Community was growing by the final days: Students from Canterbury and University Lutheran Campus Ministry expressed interest to serve.
Unexpected special gifts appeared: During set-up on Sunday afternoon some baby items were suddenly donated – just what was needed for mother and babe to comfortably settle in. And, in preparation for closing, there was an urgent need for someone having necessary equipment to haul the trailer with 16 cots. Suddenly an email appeared from a Clemson Presbyterian member: “I’ve got it!” And he was there before 7:00 AM with trailer hitched, ready to haul the cots to Easley.
There are so many people to whom we owe our gratitude for this success. Many who donated money, food, bedding, children’s books , crayons, toys, money to purchase ingredients for meals, and prayers. In some cases we don’t even know who you are, but your generosity in time, talent, treasure and prayers will sustain this program. Thank you to each and every one.
Our next Host Week is October 26, 2014. Family Promise will hopefully become an outreach program for years to come. According to the McKinney Vento Homeless Count, there are currently 1605 homeless school age children in Pickens County. God willing, we will do our part!