Team Members:  Nicole Andrews, Rob Howell, Rick Jenkins, Gerald Knight, Michelle Neeley, Cammie Seymour, Ameca Thomas

Family Promise of Laurens County is an organization whose mission is to help families experiencing homelessness and low-income families achieve sustainable independence through a community-based response.

Homelessness affects over 4,000 people in South Carolina on any one night.  The Bags of Promise team has partnered with their branch in Laurens County to support the organization’s efforts along three key pillars.

1. Bags of Promise

Homelessness is not a life choice for the vast majority of the homeless population, least of all for those with the least agency, the children. Family Promise focuses its efforts on assisting families with children who are homeless or in danger of becoming homeless. The Bags of Promise program is directed to provide some physical comfort to the children in these situations. The Bags of Promise team provided small bags for the children containing a blanket, a stuffed animal, and a children’s book to provide the children some belongings of their own as they move through the difficult process of moving to a someplace new.

An additional component of this initiative was the team’s desire to prevent creating new challenges in the process. Family Promise of Laurens County has limited storage space in their center. To overcome this constraint, our team secured a 20-foot shipping container to be used to store the Bags of Promise as well as other in-kind donations received.

2. Volunteer Training Curriculum

Family Promise relies heavily on faith-based organizations and their volunteers to host client families. Unfortunately, many of the volunteers are not trained nor educated on homelessness issues and often believe common misconceptions about the nature of the problem and those it affects. Homelessness can affect anyone; and a large percentage of the population is at risk of becoming homeless should they suffer a combination of common negative life changes such as job loss, divorce, or a death in the family.

The focus of the training program was to 1) dispel common myths about homelessness and 2) offer constructive Dos and Don’ts to volunteers to help them be most effective in hosting and helping homeless families.

3. Organizational Visibility

Most non-profits operate on limited budgets. Therefore, efforts to share information on the organization’s work and impact are not prioritized. Rather, initiatives which directly impact the people they support are a priority.

The Bags of Promise Team, with the help of Rick Jenkins from SCBIZ, filmed and posted an extensive interview with Family Promise’s executive director Mary Lynn Tollison as part of SCBIZ’s ongoing podcast series. This interview gave Family Promise a much-needed microphone to raise public awareness and interest from donors.  As of this writing, the video has received hundreds of views and has led to several new donations.

In conclusion, the Bags of Promise Team supported Family Promise by:

  • Providing gifts for homeless children to give them comfort as well as providing additional storage space for these and other donated items
  • Developing a volunteer training curriculum to streamline Family Promises’ volunteer labor
  • High visibility, no-cost media exposure to potential donors