November 3, 2019 was my first activity for Family Promise of Waukesha County. The past year has been eventful!  In my first year as Executive Director we:

  • Purchased a new building
  • Started a new Prevention program
  • Started a new Apartment Shelter Program 
  • Experienced two months with a guest, for the first time in our history
  • Had to suspend our rotational model.
  • Experienced the generosity of our volunteers, friends, and supporters through donations of time, supplies, gift cards and finances. 
  • Navigated a once every 100-year (maybe) pandemic.

After one-year leading Family Promise, it still seems new and I have not yet fully experienced the default program of Family Promise of Waukesha County. As a person who likes to note anniversaries, I wanted to share with you my reflections about my first year at Family Promise of Waukesha County. 

 

ASK AND YOU SHALL RECEIVE 

In the middle of the summer one of our donors was dropping off supplies at the Wales Day Center.  I was happy to see her because it gave me an opportunity to thank her for all four of her financial donations to Family Promise.  Her response was, “I keep giving because you keep asking!”  She is not alone. There are quite a few people who make monthly financial donations and many faith communities, individuals, businesses who have given multiple times. Many congregations use the week that they were scheduled to host and instead collect supplies, gift cards and monetary donations. It is my belief that the model of Family Promise of partnering with congregations and volunteers has led to a strong sense of ownership for the success of the organization. There have been so many challenges in 2020.  The best thing for me has been the overwhelming and humbling generosity of our supporters. This is the third non-profit I have served and the one whose supporters have best exemplified ask and you shall receive. 

 

A PART OF SOMETHING BIGGER 

Family Promise of Waukesha County is one of 200 affiliates nationwide.  Are you aware that since its founding in 1988, collectively Family Promise has served over 1,000,000 people?  This is a mind-boggling number.  It is edifying to know that our affiliate is part of something bigger. It also demonstrates the difference that can be made and the power of people who are committed to the same cause. There are also practical ways that the national organization supports affiliates.  They provide webinars, strategies for training volunteers, ideas for marketing, regional gatherings for board presidents, Executive Directors and Case Managers. Being a part of something bigger gives us needed support and elevates the impact we make on the lives of families experiencing homelessness.

 

ADVOCACY   

Volunteers make a significant difference in the lives of our guests. Their presence uplifts the families and helps them to know they are important. Sometimes the volunteers build a relationship with the families. Volunteers get to know the challenges our families face and how difficult it can be to change the trajectory of their life. Providing shelter, food, and the tools to start over is crucial for the success of our families.  There is something else we all need to do to support our families and that is advocate for them and their needs. There is nothing more painful than to hear others make disparaging remarks about those who are homeless. Those of us involved with Family Promise know better and have a responsibility to advocate for them.  We know families experiencing homelessness are not lazy, we know that they are not criminals, we know that they will not ruin our neighborhood.  It is up to us to help change the narrative about those who experience homelessness. 

 

ADAPTABILITY AND RESILIENCE 

On November 3, 2019 no one had any idea about Covid-19. Look how much it has changed our lives. Whatever control we think we have is a myth.  Our families experience this often.  There was one week when two of our families both had their cars break down. It set them both back significantly. Yet they exhibited great resilience. They did not quit.  They started over and continued to move toward achieving independence. Planning is important, but sometimes events and circumstances divert our objectives. A pandemic brought our rotational program to a halt. It is important to adapt and embrace resilience. 

In the same vein no one can predict what we will happen between now and November 2021. I am optimistic about the future and our ability to serve those who are experiencing homelessness.  Thank you for your support and involvement. Together we will do great things.

 

Joe Nettesheim

Executive Director