CIC Scottsdale, WCIC-Metro Phoenix Chapters Service Project at Family Promise

You might be wondering what would bring this motley crew of CIC brothers and sisters together in a commercial kitchen?  If you look closely, we are smiling and there is plenty of food around because we have been preparing for the arrival of 5 Scottsdale homeless families to have dinner with us on a Sunday evening. Yes, mothers and fathers, toddlers, teens and grandma, too are about to walk through the door to be served by the 8 of us, plus other dedicated volunteers.  Do we look like we are the hands and feet of God?  I hope so. 

But this was not our idea. The beauty of many service opportunities is that there are organizations that provide the framework, if your group can provide the workers. We were the “workers in the vineyard”; the volunteers that answered the call that was placed on our hearts when one of our brothers or sisters in Christ said, “Could you make part of a meal and serve it to a family one night?”  Once we said that “yes” our friend then said, “on that night, could you stay and share some fellowship time with the family members?”

Family Promise is a Phoenix area wide service organization that works with faith communities to provide places for qualified homeless families to sleep and receive meals on a weekly basis in “common spaces” that can temporarily be converted to living spaces at least one week at a time.  St. Patrick Catholic Community offered Fenlon Hospitality Center for the evenings of two weeks in July of 2015.  A portion of the main gathering hall usually used for meals or gatherings of large groups was instead divided by floor to ceiling curtains. Within these curtained areas, Family Promise provided rolling beds with mattresses and linens. These enclosed areas constituted a family bedroom for the week.

Just Faith, the coordinating ministry at St. Patrick contacted the heads of many parish ministries requesting that volunteers take on hosting an evening meal, provision of breakfast foods or preparation of daily lunches. Men’s CIC and Women’s WCIC of Scottsdale combined our efforts to host the dinner meal for families arriving at St. Patrick. 

The Family Promise program seeks to assist those in homelessness with services in their Day Center that will allow the participants the opportunity to find housing and employment and other services needed while the family is in crisis.  The children attend school daily.  When the families are assembled at the end of the day at the Family Promise Day Center a bus transports them to the hosting faith community for the evening. Although each faith community is different, the hope is that the faith community can provide a welcoming environment for families; a space that will allow the parents and the children some needed “down time” to rest, or play or talk with each other or the volunteers.

Although the Family Promise faith community is not a “home”, Just Faith and St. Patrick ministries tried to make it as much like a “home” with some of its comforts.   One of the classrooms was setup as a safe playroom for toddlers; complete with an igloo made out of plastic gallon sized, milk bottles that had been constructed during vacation Bible School.  Other classrooms had a television and age appropriate videos, board games, coloring books and markers.  An area had been set up with crafts for the children, so that if a ministry provided an adult or teen supervisor, after dinner parents could talk quietly.  The families, especially teens utilized the table tennis and other “teen room” electronic games. 

Men and Women from CIC prepared a home cooked meal and provided hospitality.  For the adults we baked chicken, had a rice dish and salad, and finished with a crumbling coffee cake.  For the children, we prepared hot dogs and macaroni and cheese. There was fruit filled ambrosia salad with mandarin oranges and lots of marshmallows!  The children’s eyes lit up when the cupcakes - iced in pink and blue came out of the kitchen but, like “most” children only the “crown” with the icing was eaten…

As a volunteer Family Promise is a very sobering experience.  One feels that “but for the grace of God,” I could be one of these souls experiencing homelessness and the loss of so many familiar things.

To ensure that the guests are fully accommodated, a parish couple is asked to sleep over as well, as hosts for the evening.  Nothing ever goes wrong but again, it’s about hospitality and assuring our guests that they are cared for.  It is about affirming their dignity and going to great lengths to serve them and make them feel secure. It should surprise no one that the same couple that organized the effort to provide the meal were also the same couple who offered to stay as the host for the evening.  It is with great appreciation that those of us in Phoenix from Christians in Commerce express our gratitude to Ric and Cathy Glover who organized this effort and for serving as hosts to the families of Family Promise.