The Family Promise Center of the Mahoning Valley has opened its doors to help families strengthen and improve their lives.
Located at the Girard United Methodist Church, 22 N. Market St., the center opened in late June with the first family arriving June 24. The center offers programs for families in crisis.
The program offers homeless families the opportunity to achieve housing stability by providing short term shelter, food and hospitality while utilizing local resources. Family Promise is a cooperative effort to address the needs of homeless families with children.
Patty DiGiacobbe, center director, said planning for the local program began in May 2008 with community meetings involving many church congregations attending.
Pastor Brian Byrne of Howland Community Church and president of the board of directors, helped in finding a location for the day center which includes a bathroom and shower area, a family center room and closets for their belongings. Byrne has been involved with the program for about 20 years and helped start chapters in Indianapolis and Grand Rapids. The local facility was the 143rd affiliate to open.
"When he came to Howland Community Church he brought the idea with him,'' DiGiacobbe said.
DiGiacobbe said 13 churches have already signed up and have served as hosts.
She said families are at the center in the day until 5 pm, when they go to one of the churches for dinner and overnight. The families stay at the church with breakfast and lunch food provided.
DiGiacobbe said families are picked up at the host church and brought to the center at 7:30 a.m. She said some children go to day camp, Bible school or the local Girard Multigenerational Center.
"Parents are looking for job and housing, go to school, and attending parenting classes,'' she said.
''This has been such a good experience to see how people have been helped,'' said David Lowman, board vice president. He said the idea for the center grew until it became a reality.
DiGiacobbe said the program was needed. Help is available for four families at a time.
The program is designed to help families stay together while they get back on their feet. Many have lost their homes through no fault of their own.
DiGiacobbe said there are currently four families being helped.
Statistics show that 80 percent of the families that the program serves go on to long-term housing. Sixteen percent of Trumbull County children live in poverty, 22 percent in Mahoning live in poverty.
Churches are used for places of lodging, church members as volunteers and social service agencies for assessment and referrals to help families achieve lasting independence at a third cost of traditional shelters.
Donations of items are needed with fundraising items also available to help with costs. DiGiacobbe said a soup cook off in May raised $1,200 for the center.
"One of the nicest comments I have heard is one woman said she have never felt so loved. The people encounter 30 to 40 volunteers a week. Everyone is very supportive and loving," DiGiacobbe said.
Any church is welcome to take part. She said if more churches from both Trumbull and Mahoning counties help they could help up to eight families.
Melanie Timlin, a case manager with the center, said everything has been very positive and exciting. "They have an opportunity to improve their lives. They are getting a second chance.''
To make a referral call 234-421-5226.