ENDING CHILDHOOD HOMELESSNESS,
It's been a minute and a half since we've updated you all through this blog, and there's definitely a good reason for that. Not only have we spent this summer launching the Drive To Greatness program and assisting families through our daily operations, but also we have been hard at work planning our biggest celebration of the year, open to the Great Falls public: Ramp It Up! Our executive director went on KRTV earlier this week to talk about it.
We're incredibly excited for this year's fundraiser. It's our third annual Ramp It Up!, and it's a 4-hour extravaganza of live music, silent auction, 50-50 raffle, drinks, dancing, dinner, photobooth, and more. We pulled out all the stops this year, and we're happy to have Pacific Steel & Recycling sponsoring our event. This allowed us to do some amazing things that we haven't been able to do in the past, like this fun commercial that's been airing all month!
If you haven't seen the details yet, you can save $10 on tickets if you buy your tickets in advance! They cost $25 in advance, and $35 on the day of the event. Ramp it Up! is open to the public and we're selling tickets in four different places...
A) Here at the Hub (1019 Central Avenue)
B) Kaufman's (411 Central Avenue)
C) First Avenue Auto Body (706 1st Avenue South)
D) Online (rampitup.brownpapertickets.com)
If you're reading this, we'd love to meet you in person and celebrate on the Sip 'N Dip Patio.
This has been a historic year for Family Promise of Great Falls-- new executive director, new programs, new board members, new partners, new possibilities, and the same vital mission for the Great Falls community, ending childhood homelessness, one family at a time. We think that's a good reason to have a party, and raise some funds while we're at it. Wouldn't you like to join us?
This is Dani Barker, and she swung by the Family Promise office to say hi this morning.
She's a dynamic speaker, a hard worker, a mother of two, a wife, and many other things.
She's also a Family Promise of Great Falls alum.
The picture above is from our Early Risers series (photo credit: Dave Herman). Our staff gathered at First Presbyterian Church at 6:30 am on Thursday mornings during the month of May, for hymns and prayers and speakers. Well, to be precise, DJ and Sharon made it to every single one, and I only made it to the third one.
I'm glad I did, though, because that was the session at which Dani spoke about Family Promise, and it was the first time I had ever met her. She made a splash in the room. I say that literally because she brought people to tears. She was poised and professional behind the podium, but she was also powerful and vulnerable. She shed a couple of tears herself, tears that she had earned and we all knew she had earned. She earned the applause, too. It came in droves when she was finished.
We ran into her again this morning with her wonderful family. When we told her that the Early Risers attendees had made close to $3,000, she smiled. Brian, her husband, smiled too.
You'd never guess that they had ever been through a personal crisis of homelessness. Brian looks like any middle-class dad in his T-shirt and flip-flops; put an apron on him and he'd fit right in grilling burgers at a cookout. Their son speaks kindly to people and wears a Kansas Jayhawks baseball cap.
You'd never assume anything of people like that, and that's precisely why Dana's testimony at Early Risers had such an impact. Homelessness has been a national crisis for millions in the last three decades. It's extraordinarily well-documented how wages are not always keeping pace with the cost-of-living, especially in metropolitan areas. Great Falls is a community of 60,000, give or take, but people still struggle out here.
The reasons for losing your home are complex. Somehow the stereotypes are still simple. Nobody would ever guess that the Barkers lost their home because they don't fit the profile of people who have lost their home. There's an image of laziness and drug abuse that people associate with being homeless. There's an image of criminal activity and begging for change on street corners.
I think that's why I think Dana's testimony struck a nerve. She doesn't match those images, and yet she boldly told her story. She demonstrated that homelessness has many, many faces, and that those who can help need to be ready to help. Moreover, there needs to be a profound re-imagining of what homelessness looks like, to make it easier for families who need help to ask for help.
It's hard enough when you're a parent and you have to figure things out for a child who doesn't understand what words like "bills", "rent", "eviction", and "motel" mean. I took the time to shake Dani and Brian's hand because I respect their drive and their resolve. Frankly, I find their drive and their resolve more real and more inspiring than the legions of entrepreneurs on Facebook and LinkedIn talking about finding your inner passion selling lemonade.
Their testimony speaks to the power of the human spirit when faced with adversity. Ultimately, I think the key to solving homelessness is to transform the narrative into a narrative of courage, instead of the narrative of desolation that it has been. I think that the power of testimony is to slowly shift that narrative, and color it with the shades of your experience.
That's the difference that Dani made. I hope she and her family have fun fishing today.
- Sean McGuire, AmeriCorps VISTA Service Member
If you're reading this, welcome to the blog! If you're new to us, we're a non-profit that started three years ago to put an end to childhood homelessness in the Great Falls, Montana area. One is too many, and some counts estimate over 200 homeless children. You can learn more about you can help solve that problem, but let's kick things off with an update from our retiring executive director, Sharon Odden. She wrote some words for our quarterly newsletter in March 2018 and she can sum up things up better than I can.
Change! Change is good, right? Right! And Family Promise of Great Falls has seen lots of changes lately.
Maybe you’ve seen our new tagline— “ending childhood homelessness… one family at a time.”
What you might not have seen is that I let the board know in October 2017 that I would be retiring by the end of September 2018. That decision did not come easily, but I think that it is a good time to pass the torch. The organization is in a much better spot financially than it was three years ago. We can now work on building reserves to ensure that Family Promise of Great Falls can be here into perpetuity.
We have proven that there is a need for our services in the community. Our program has been successful. We have one of the shortest lengths of stay in the nation. We just helped our 62nd family get into their permanent home! We truly make a difference in the lives of our guests. We have over 800 superb volunteers. It is a good time to retire.
Till next time – Shalom, my friends!
Sharon has been a fantastic leader, and we're sorry to see her go. Her leadership powered our organization through the first three years of operation. She wrote grants, engaged donors, recruited close to 30 churches in town, made friends with our guests, gathered a rockstar board of directors, and generally exemplified who we want to be as an organization.
She's working in tandem with our incoming director, and she officially retires on June 30th. By a remarkable coincidence, we're having a party over at Centene Stadium that night
Starting next week, you're going to start seeing updates from our incoming executive director, Donald Lott Jr.! You can just call him DJ. He started on May 1st, and he brings a wealth of experience in the non-profit world. He's served as the director of the Indian Health Clinic in Great Falls, the president of the National Council of Indian Health Services, and the Boys and Girls Club of Greater Scottsdale.
He's done fantastic things in his time, and we're blown away to have someone with his expertise taking the helm.
We're off to a great start already. Ideas have been zipping around here like lightning bolts, and a couple of them are already making sparks of their own. Keep an eye out. This summer, DJ will be talking about some of these ideas as they start to take shape.
Family Promise has put some impressive numbers on the board, but we're not the kind to rest on our laurels. To be precise, we're the kind to brag about those laurels and then build on them with new successes. We're serious about wanting to put an end to childhood homelessness. One homeless child is one too many. And every child has a promise.
Stick around. We want to take you with us as we find new ways to make a mark in the Great Falls community.
- Sean McGuire