SUMMIT, NJ – The lives of teenagers Shauna and Samantha Bolton were turned upside-down last year when their father, Shawn, lost his job of 25 years.
The family ended up homeless.
Determined to remain together during a difficult transition, the Boltons turned to the Summit-based Family Promise organization for help. Using about 6,000 congregations nationwide, Family Promise temporarily houses and helps homeless families get back on track.
The Bolton girls told their story today at Family Promise’s annual “Our Promise to Children” breakfast. The event took place at Canoe Brook Country Club.
“My family is whole again,” said Shauna, 18. “We have a home. We aren’t moving around. My parents are working to make ends meet. But we would not have this opportunity if it weren’t for Family Promise.”
Shauna, a senior at UCTech in Scotch Plains, plans to attend the University of Connecticut on a scholarship this fall.
The Boltons’ story is not uncommon. Guests at today’s breakfast also heard from a working mother of two who holds a graduate degree but became homeless after she left an unsafe apartment that threatened the health of her son.
Because she was employed, the woman was turned away from many shelters, she said. “There was nowhere else to go,” she told the audience. “I did not want to lose my job or my children. But through Family Promise, I finally had a peaceful place to figure out my next steps.”
Founded in Summit in 1988, Family Promise now has 200 affiliates in 42 states and uses community-based resources to help families achieve sustainable independence.
76 percent of those in the the Family Promise program find sustainable housing within nine weeks. The organization has served 650,000 children and adults and engages 170,000 volunteers.
“Our volunteers are a huge part of the Family Promise community and the heart of the program,” said Family Promise President Claas Ehlers. “We often hear from our volunteers that their experience with Family Promise changes their lives.”
One of those volunteers, Summit High School junior Kate Griffith, described how volunteering with Family Promise at Central Presbyterian Church impacted her life: “Volunteering, I now realize how important it is that these warm and loving families have a place to be with each other in peace,” she said. “I now understand how the laughter of a child, the warmth of family and the healing power of togetherness can give these families the strength and resilience they need to overcome their hardships and get on the path they need to a better life … together.”
Today’s event drew nearly 300 volunteers, supporters and new friends. Family Promise’s Fall Fling, scheduled for Nov. 4 at Canoe Brook Country Club, will celebrate founder Karen Olson, who retired in January.
The organization thanked its breakfast sponsors and corporate partners: Worldwide ERC, Philadelphia Insurance Companies, Foremost Insurance, S. Rubenstein Family Foundation, Lois Schneider Realtor, Prudential Financial, Investors Bank, Volk Packaging Corp, The Farm at Green Village and its media partner, TAPInto.
Those who want to earn more about Family Promise’s work can attend one of the “Third Thursday at Family Promise” meetings held monthly at 8 a.m. or by appointment at Family Promise offices at 71 Summit Ave., Summit. They can also visit www.familypromise.org or call 908-273-1100 x16.