Family Promise to raise awareness
by DELANEY WALKER, Banner Staff Writer
Jul 02, 2013 | 794 views | 0 0 comments | 28 28 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Small town news often spreads fast within the same circles. Family Promise of Bradley County is hoping to reach a new audience through its July 13 motorcycle benefit ride.

With a registration fee of $10 per rider/passenger, Diana Whittle, fundraising chair, said the event is not about the money. The benefit will serve as a way to tell others about the program.

“There are a lot of people here in Cleveland and Bradley County who don’t know anything about Family Promise,” Whittle said recently. “I just talked to a man last night who had never heard of us.”

The news surprised Whittle.

Family Promise was established in September 2011. According to Eva VanHook, Just Neighbors program director, 14 families have graduated from the program in the last two years. Each family is now standing on its own.

Whittle was under the impression everyone in the area knew of the nonprofit’s mission to help homeless families. She realized a motorcycle benefit would be, “... a different avenue to reach out to people and let them know who we are, and what we are about.”

Motorcycle riders will meet at the FP Day Center on Saturday, July 13, to register from 9 to 10 a.m. A police escort will then lead the gathered riders on a 1 1/2 to two-hour ride. The final stop will be at Tinsley Park’s pavilion 2.

“We hope to have some of our graduates there to talk with the group,” Whittle said. “We want to have an afternoon of fun and music.”

Sacred Highway and the Life Bridges trio will provide the music while participants are made better acquainted with the program.

Both VanHook and Whittle hope the benefit will bring in more volunteers.

“There are very few people paid from this organization. We are almost 99 percent supported by our volunteers,” VanHook said. “I mean, literally, if you have a skill, we need it.”

She made her point clear by highlighting the following skills: scrap bookers, artists, writers, gardeners, craft people, construction and lawyers among others.

“There are so few of us,” Whittle explained. “I am worn out by the end of the day, I am spread so thin.” 

There are currently 11 host churches aiding in housing the families in the 13-week program. An additional 20 have signed up to provide volunteers, food, furniture and the various services needed to keep the nonprofit afloat.

Still, Whittle said the need is great for more volunteers.

“This is all done by volunteers, believe me,” Whittle said. “That is the only way we could do it.”

The churches and volunteers already involved have the privilege of knowing they have made a difference in someone’s life.

“So many times people think the homeless are the guys walking down the street dragging their feet asking for a dollar here and there. That is not it,” Whittle said. “These are people like you or me who have families and have lost their home for whatever reason.

“We have children who are doing horrible in school because they don’t know where they are going to spend the night or if they are going to eat.”

VanHook believes many people in the Bradley County and Cleveland area do not seem to understand the magnitude of the problem.

“Cleveland’s housing problem is so much larger than people believe. If you don’t drive down certain streets, you will not see the people in need,” VanHook said. “It is amazing to me how many people who are out [on the streets and are homeless].”

She said the average homeless person is an unmarried or divorced mother with children.

“Something like divorce can make a person homeless,” VanHook said. “It is not like they went out and squandered their money, they just got divorced.”

All families in the program must have children and meet certain requirements.

“We are very specific about the families we let, in because they must be motivated to change the position they are in,” VanHook explained.

Participants planning to come with a large group are asked to contact Family Promise ahead of time, so the appropriate number of waivers can be printed.