A Joyful Noise: Family Promise

oct_11_family_promise“Couch surfing” might seem like a free-spirited way to live when you’re a young adult, crashing with friends and relatives instead of settling down and signing a lease.

But for a family, it’s just a nice way of saying “homeless.”

“Most of our families start with the ‘couch surfing’ experience,” said Elliot Brown, director of Family Promise of Beaufort County. “They bounce around, trying to figure things out, and when that doesn’t work out they come here.”

“Here” is Family Promise, a haven for homeless families, where they’re given not only a place to call home for at least three months, but also three meals a day and help in getting back on their feet.

The local chapter of the national organization relies on a network of area churches and synagogues, both to host the families for one week at a time and to provide them with food and other assistance toward their sustained independence. There are 34 religious groups in Beaufort County affiliated with Family Promise, Brown said, and every one of them is critical to the program’s success.

“We couldn’t do it without the churches,” she said.

It’s that same spirit of cooperation that will be on display at the upcoming Celebration of Sacred Music, a Family Promise fundraiser planned for 3:30 p.m. Oct. 30 at St. Peter Catholic Church on Lady’s Island.

“There will be a combined choir of singers from 12 churches, and most of them are involved in Family Promise,” said Gary Rakestraw, director of music at St. Peters, who is coordinating the effort.

The combined choir, which Rakestraw guesses will be at least 120 voices strong, will perform several anthems and hymns from various periods, including modern, gospel and classic standard anthems.

The program also will feature performances by the choir from the Unitarian Universalist Fellowship of Beaufort, the Low Country Children’s Chorus, and Anita Prather-Singleton and the Gullah Kinfolk, an internationally known singing group from St. Helena Island whose notoriety dates back to their appearance in “Forrest Gump.”

Everyone is donating their time and talents, so the entire goodwill offering will be donated to Family Promise, Rakestraw said.

Besides monetary donations, Brown said the organization is always accepting donations of items to help furnish an apartment for a formerly homeless family that finds a permanent place to live.

“We need kitchen supplies, beds, dressers, baby items. We equip them with their whole house when they move,” she said. Most of their clients have been single mothers in their 20s or early 30s who have two children. The average client has a high school diploma but is unemployed and has no reliable transportation. That’s a lot of cards stacked against you, Brown said, which is why Family Promise aims not just to give them a temporary place to stay, but a permanent plan of action.

“We have case managers who will help them get resumés together, get them to and from interviews if possible, and help get them job training if possible,” she said. “And once they’re employed, they’re eligible for free child care vouchers that turn into sliding scale vouchers.”

Because the program is action-oriented, it’s not the place for someone looking for a free ride.

“You have to be willing to work to get back on your feet,” she said.

By Robyn Passante



if you go

The Celebration of Sacred Music, a fundraiser for Family Promise, will take place at 3:30 p.m. Oct. 30, at St. Peter Catholic Church on Lady’s Island.

if you don’t

You can still donate at www.familypromisebeaufort