Family Promise Host Churches: Epiphany Lutheran, Rockdale Baptist, St. Pius X Catholic, Allen Memorial UMC, Conyers First UMC, Conyers Presbyterian, Trinity Baptist, Rockdale Alliance, Milstead Baptist, Christ Community, Heritage Hills Baptist, Rockdale Community, The Father’s House
Support Churches: Haven Fellowship, Starrsville United Methodist, Smyrna Presbyterian, Grace United Methodist, Grace United Methodist Church
Rockdale and Newton County residents came together for one night and raised an estimated $14,000 to support a local organization that helps homeless families get back on their feet.
The organization is Family Promise of New Rock, a network of area churches that allows homeless families to find temporary housing in different church buildings on a rotating basis.
Family Promise held a dinner and silent auction Nov. 8 at Rockdale Career Academy. Roughly 250 people attended the gala, emceed by columnist Darrell Huckaby, and mingled over the meal prepared by RCA culinary arts students. The highlight of the silent auction was an all-expense paid weekend for four to Savannah, including a meal at Paula Deen's "The Lady and Sons," restaurant.
Network Director Erin White said the organization has been in existence for two years. During that time, volunteers from 13 host churches and five supporting churches have committed more than 15,000 hours of service and hospitality.
Those churches made a difference for Family Promise former resident Gloria Cooper and her four children.
Cooper spoke at last Friday's event to share with supporters how the program impacted her.
"Blessing" was an often-repeated word for Cooper as she recounted the event during a conversation with the News.
"It was just really such a blessing," Cooper said. "I am so grateful and indebted to (Erin White) and the program."
Cooper shared how her unexpected divorce and unemployment led to her eviction from her home. She and her children - ages 18, 14, 7 and 5 - stayed with a friend for about a month.
"When you hear the word ‘homeless,' people always think the worst of it," Cooper said.
She happened upon Family Promise while applying for TANF, Temporary Assistance for Needy Families, at the Department of Family and Children Services. A representative from job placement classes showed Cooper a flyer about Family Promise. After learning about program requirements and expectations, Cooper entered the program March 2012.
"It was just smooth sailing from there. They took good care of us, loved on us, never looking down on us for our situation," Cooper said, describing the assistance as heartfelt. "Being in the program, I never felt homeless."
Churches in the Family Promise network are open from Sunday to Sunday and residents stay in rooms throughout the church.
"They set the rooms up. They give it the home feel," Cooper said.
That home feel is complete with group dinners, breakfasts and a friendly face as Family Promise residents go out during the day for work or for training at what is called the Day Center. The Day Center also serves as a hygiene and laundry facility.
Cooper said she did not wish homelessness on anyone, but I was "truly blessed," to get to know the group of workers and volunteers and other families.
Now, she has her own place to call home and a steady job.
Though she is not a resident anymore, Cooper said her connection with Family Promise is still ongoing. She described it as a "continuous fellowship," with the different churches and participating families.
Last week's dinner was a chance for Cooper to see all the churches, program sponsors and volunteers in a formal setting.
"Everyone was so excited to see everyone," Cooper said.
She knows first-hand that the money raised last week is going to a worthy cause and she said she eventually wants to be in a position to give back.
The basic model for Family Promise has been used in cities throughout the country.
To learn more about the local Family Promise network, visit www.familypromiseofnewrock.org.