Justin Deckard and his three daughters experienced firsthand the generosity of a community focused on lending a helping hand through involvement with Family Promise of Bradley County.
The single father of one exuberant 10-year-old and two precocious 9-year-old twins said he moved to Cleveland from Florida to raise his girls.
He asked his family to help him with child care. The small family’s needs expanded to include the basic necessity of shelter when Deckard’s mother put them “out on the streets.” Research on the Internet brought up information on the local Family Promise chapter.
Deckard took note of the number and called FP director Eva VanHook to ask about an opening.
She suggested he stay in contact until there was an opening.
“I just kept on calling and calling and calling, waiting for an opening,” Deckard recalled. “Finally, there was an opening. It was the last night. I had nowhere to go. That day I had to be out.”
The young family stayed in a hotel for two weeks. The Deckards’ church covered the cost of the first week. Family Promise footed the bill on the second week. The third week found Deckard and his three daughters enrolled in the program.
Ten-year-old Kylie and 9-year-old twins Jasmine and Kacelyn described the experience as awesome.
Deckard said it was rough.
“You really don’t know until you go through it,” he said. “It is an awesome program. It is really hard going from church to church each week and not having the stability you need.”
Deckard found a job and the family soon fell into a routine.
He arrived at the Family Promise Day Center after work with just enough time to rush the girls through their showers. The four would then head out to the week’s host church. The four would eat dinner, socialize with various members of the church, engage in some playtime and fall into bed.
The girls experience in FP was significantly less stressful.
“It was awesome,” they agreed when ask. “It was great. It was cool.”
Both VanHook and VISTA Cindy Lawson were dubbed “awesome” as well. The girls enjoyed being with the nonprofit’s volunteers and said they received help with their homework.
“Meeting everyone was my favorite part,” Jasmine said.
She and her sisters admitted it was sometimes tiring to meet so many new people.
Kacelyn agreed with her sister.
“It takes a lot out of you to meet new people,” she said.
They quickly assured a little sleepiness was OK in light of their new friendships.
Deckard said it was awesome to know his kids were safe and sound. He has raised them from infancy by himself.
“It is not easy,” he said. “Honestly, having three kids, really it sounds nuts. It kind of sets you back on doing things. There are a lot of [jobs] I can’t do because I have kids and I have no one else to take care of them.”
Deckard and his daughters stayed at a different host church every week. The family would arrive Sunday and stay through Saturday. The girls spent their time at the Day Center.
Deckard said the lack of stability was the most difficult part of the entire ordeal. A lack of transportation was a close second.
According to Deckard, it would have been easier to maintain his job and participate in the program with his own car. He instead depended on the city’s bus transport.
His time in Family Promise allowed him to save up money for a first month’s rent and a down payment. Now he hopes to continue the work jump started by the local nonprofit. He would also like to find a way to give back to the organization.
“It is an awesome program and I feel like I owe them a lot,” he said. “If it wasn’t for them, I don’t know where I would be.”
He encouraged others to get involved.
“If you have the resources to help out people, why not help them out? I understand if people are just trying to get handouts, but not everyone is like that,” Deckard said. “There are a lot of people out there like me who really needs it.
“There is no way I can put a down payment on a car and still pay my bills.”
He said it can also be difficult to retain a job without dependable transportation.
Kylie and Jasmine took a moment to say why they thought others should help out.
“Cuz, [those in need] don’t have anywhere else to go,” Kylie said.
Added Jasmine, “Because they need a home.”