Volunteering beneficial to Volunteers
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When we volunteer it is for the betterment of others. Whether it's delivering a meal to an elderly person or cleaning a park for all to enjoy volunteering improves the community overall. One thing that is looked over are the benefits they provide the volunteer. Recent studies show there are benefits for people who volunteer mentally and physically. 

When a person volunteers they provide themselves with a critical connection with others that we need to survive. That is why in the face of a disaster people come together help others heal and move forward. Having this connection with others helps people with mental illnesses like depression. This has been reported for people who volunteer from teens to the elderly.

Another benefit of volunteering is that it gives people the opportunity to be more physically active. These activities could lead to lower blood pressure and other issues related to heart disease. That could lead to adding years to a volunteers life.

     

Michael Hooker
Life Saving Innovations
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Organizations who work with people experiencing homelessness usually focus on getting them the basic needs for survival. Food, shelter, and clothing are usually at the top of this list and it can be a difficult to find these for people who are experiencing homelessness. So we want to shine some light on great innovations that people have used to get those items to people. 

One issue for people who are experiencing homelessness is having the appropriate clothing for weather. Detroit based company the Empowerment Plan does more than just make really nice and affordable jackets, "We hire single parents from local shelters and provide them with training and full-time employment as seamstresses so that they can earn a stable income, find secure housing, and regain their independence". The EMPWR coat is a water-resistant jacket, which can transform into a sleeping bag, or be worn as an over-the-shoulder bag when not in use. The coat is constructed of durable, water resistant Cordura fabric from Carhartt, upcycled automotive insulation from General Motors, and other materials provided by generous donors.  You can request a coat at their website http://www.empowermentplan.org/the-coat.

Weatherhyde tents provides an insulated tent for homeless families that protects from the most extreme weather. As a company they "design and provide shelter and infrastructure solutions for the homeless and vulnerable that are scalable, sustainable, and able to create opportunities for communities to emerge out of poverty." They are producing more that just tents, see more of their innovations on their website https://weatherhyde.org.

These are just a few of the amazing innovations that helps homeless people survive and you can see more of them here http://on.mash.to/2DQDLcH.

Michael Hooker
Never Too Young
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We recently had a special donation come in from an exceptional group of kids. This got us to thinking about the youth volunteers who are allies of Families Together and we want to share some stories about the youth allies that we have helping us take families from homelessness to home.

We were contacted by Kelly Ramp earlier this month with the coolest origin story about a donation we received. 5th graders at Harris Creek Elementary were given the assignment to research local nonprofit organizations. After finding a organization they wanted to support, each group gave presentations about them. Then a vote was taken and Families Together was the organization that won the vote. Then they produced a fundraiser selling cookies and raised over $230 for us! Meghan and Michael went to meet with the students were they had a awesome time speaking and answering questions.

Grace Biddell is a Girl Scout who connected to our after-school program. She comes to educated our students onsite about the importance of extracurricular activities as they lead to better behavior, decreased dropout rates, and higher self-esteem. Although her interactions are with our kids, her message is for everyone as she states "adults can get involved in small groups, book clubs, recreational sports which can be pre-organized or created by you and your friends!" Thanks Grace for educating us all!

Delaney is another one of our young philanthropists who spends time uplifting others in her community. She has ran her own food drive for Families Together for the past few years.This past Thanksgiving she dropped off a truck load food. Her mother Donna said "I've started getting calls from the neighbors asking when is Delaney going to start collecting food." She is truly a great example and we are glad she is an ally.

These are just a few of the outstanding kids that has joined our mission. We are so grateful to have them as allies!

Michael Hooker
What a year!
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2017 was a year of immense growth for Families Together. Like every year before we remain dedicated to move families from homelessness to home. Since 2010 there has been a 56% increase in of children experiencing homelessness. In response to this growing population Families Together has expanded our staff and board of directors, our community of donors, volunteers, partners, faith groups and landlords which has lead to us reaching more children than any time in our recent history.

In 2017 we added to our staff by hiring our firs-ever Housing Navigator Kevin Atkins. As the Housing Navigator Kevin works closely with Families Together Mentor Advocates in identifying appropriate housing opportunities for families enrolled in the program as part of their overall progress toward stability and independence.  An integral part of the Kevin’s responsibilities is to build relationships with landlords and maintain and grow the base of landlords that partner with FT and provide housing opportunities to low-income/high barrier families. Kevin had a big impact in 2017 and we can't wait to see what 2018 holds.

John Niffenegger, Ann Thomas and MaryJane Selgrade who combined have provided more than 15 years of service on the Families Together Board of Directors ended their terms. Although we are sad to see them leave we are ecstatic to have Lauren Brown, Anne Ehlers, and Ron Williams to join the Families Together board of directors and continue in our mission of housing homeless children.

With so much growth we would be remiss if we didn't mention our wonderful allies who helped us reach new heights as an organization. We want to say "Thank You" to the 614 volunteers who volunteered 2,465 hours in 2017. Those hours were used to in a variety of ways to improve the lives of others. They helped provide much needed school supplies to students at our Backpack drive. They helped recognize clients who completed our program by producing a family carnival and graduation onsite. Our volunteers help improve the lives of people who live onsite by completing many projects like clearing debris for a play space for kids, building benches/cubbies for each unit, and put together beds for every unit in our apartments. We are truly grateful that we had such great allies to enhance the lives of others.

We ended 2017 on high note as we getting some notoriety for our mission. Executive Director Lisa Rowe spent a lot of time educating the community in various ways. She wrote an Op-ed piece for the News & Observer explaining how the lack of affordable housing is leading to the spike in homelessness. She was featured in a story about Giving Tuesday by Linnie Supall of Spectrum News.

Lisa also made another appearance in video produced by GlaxoSmithKline for us being awarded the GSKImpact Award for building a healthier community. We are so honored to be recognized for the hard work that we put into making our community better. To top it off our video won additional funds from GSK for winning the employee vote! Thank you to GSK for acknowledging our work, and to all of our allies because we couldn't achieve any of this without you!

2017 was a huge year for Families Together and we will continue to strive and reach higher heights in 2018!  

 

Michael Hooker
Social Inequity
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One of the biggest stories being covered all over our nation is the new tax plan that could be affecting us all in just a few weeks. Some people will say that the plan is good for our country and that it will help our economy grow and drop the unemployment rate. While there are some who say that this plan will only benefit the highest tax payers long term. There a plenty of pundits who are going back and forth about the percentages and dollars, but at the core of these arguments is social inequity.

The Alameda County Public Health Department defines social inequity as disparities in power and wealth, often accompanied by discrimination, social exclusion, poverty and low wages, lack of affordable housing, exposure to hazards and community social decay. When power and wealth are attained by a group of people they may not totally restrict access to power and wealth, but they make it almost impossible for others to gain significant wealth and power.

When discussing the inequities of society the word "privilege" often comes up. Privilege is important to this discussion because it is a major determination how resources are distributed. A college professor recently did an experiment with students about privilege in the form of a race.  In the race he asked questions about the students upbringings and if you said "yes" you moved closer to the finish line. It's a great analogy for how societal inequities drive our nation.

 

Michael Hooker
Families Together Honored
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Families Together Honored

Last month GlaxoSmithKline recognized Families Together along with nine other organizations with the Impact award for building a healthier community. We are so honored to have our mission of moving families from homelessness to home recognized.

We work tirelessly to combat child homelessness in our community and were able to serve 454 children this year. The ceremony was held on November 16 at GSK in the Sir Paul Girolami Research center in Research Triangle Park where along with the award we received a check for $40,000! Then on #GivingTuesday we were informed the GSK employees voted for Families Together to win an additional $10,000 after watching this video.

We are extremely honored for the accolades, but none of this would have been possible if it were not for all of our allies who have joined us in facing the fact that more and more the face of homelessness is that of a child. Thank you to all the board members, donors, churches, corporations, and volunteers for your contributions. This awards is a reflection of everything you do and belongs to you as much as it does to us.  

You can check out our fellow winners Facebook pages by clicking their name:
Communities In Schools of Wake County
CEF: Community Empowerment Fund
DHIC, Inc.
Diaper Bank of North Carolina
Empowerment, Inc
Orange County Partnership for Young Children
Partners for Youth Opportunity
Reinvestment Partners
Student Action with Farmworkers 

Michael Hooker
Give Thanks
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It’s Thanksgiving and it’s time for football, family, and food (oooh the food!). Also, Thanksgiving is for people to reflect and give thanks for the things they are grateful for. In the spirit of that we are going to share with you some things that we are grateful for here at Families Together, like the service provided to families this year, and for all of the people who are involved in our mission.

Our mission is to take families with children from homelessness to home. Families Together follows national Best Practices for the Housing First model with a children first focus. Our work is designed to reduce the number of nights a child is homeless by first helping the family get into a safe, affordable home and then wrapping them with the intensive coaching and supportive services they need to become self-sufficient and break the cycle of homelessness. We are so thankful that 206 families were impacted this year, with the goal of increasing this number next year.

With so many families being served, the support from the amazing people who are allies in our battle against homelessness. The volunteers who give their time and their talent increase our impact on the families we serve. Also, we could not achieve our mission without wonderful civic-minded businesses who have joined Families Together in our campaign to give children a brighter future and make our community better for all. Having dedicated partner churches that have rich histories and are commitment to community service as a key partner to Families Together, means so much to our work and the families we serve.  We are thankful for your support as it is motivation to continue to ensure no child will have to worry about where they will sleep at night.

Michael Hooker
Making an Impact!
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People providing resources to people in need goes back to the earliest times of our nation. Throughout our organizations history volunteering has been a mainstay for us to get things done.  Families Together is fortunate to have people who want to positively impact the lives of people in need. Our volunteers range from individual people to corporate organizations providing time and effort to help us further our mission of taking families from homelessness to home.

If we were to list all of the things that we lean on our volunteers for, this blog would take all day to read. We are going to start with Tim Hiteshew who came with a team and finished building benches and cubbies for our units that families have and will find very useful.  He also is our resident grounds keeper putting in many hours in the elements to keep our grounds looking great. We also have three awesome ladies representing St. Philip Lutheran Church, Sally Bowman, Stacey Carstens Bell, and Sandy Glass – go above and beyond for families experiencing homelessness by using their “elbow grease” to clean our Short-Term Family Housing apartment units after families move on to a better future in a permanent home in the community.  With smiling faces and tons of enthusiasm, they come often at a moment’s notice to get the units ready for a new family to move in. We are so appreciative to have them as part of our family.

There are plenty of ways that you can join in our mission. First, you can becoming a Social Media Ambassador and increase awareness about the face of homelessness increasingly being the face of a child. Urge your followers to join our cause. Also, you can connect us to landlords in the community who want to make a difference. We need advocates to support affordable housing initiatives and urge local decision makers to create policies that make our community better for all. Finally, make a donation for matching funds.  Your $50 becomes $100 and gives a child their first four nights in a safe, stable home. If you would like to join the mission of taking families from homelessness to independence contact Meghan Olesen at Meghan@familiestogethernc.org

Raleigh's Rising Crisis
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Raleigh continues to be ranked as one of the best cities to live in the country.  In 2015 Raleigh’s population grew over 2% making it the ninth fastest growing city in the country (Forbes). You probably have felt the growth from the construction sites adding time to your commute. Like many other growing cities Raleigh is faced with the issue of having a lack of affordable housing.

A recent editorial in the News & Observer said “The amount of affordable housing in and around downtown Raleigh and elsewhere in Wake County is declining as real estate values rise thanks to a flood of global investment dollars. Fewer traditional starter homes are being built, and affordable rental projects are being redeveloped to target higher income tenants.” The N&O also stated “Absent adequate affordable housing, those who make a city or a county go – police, firefighters, municipal workers, college students, public school teachers – can’t afford to live in that city.”

Without affordable housing available many families will be at risk of cycling in between homelessness, emergency and institutional systems. Executive Director of Families Together Lisa Rowe stated in an N&O Op-ed piece “According to recent data from the Wake County Public School System, the number of homeless children and youth in our school system has increased a mind-numbing 56 percent in the past seven years. Additionally, the numbers are increasing more rapidly – a whopping 27 percent in the past two years.”

This why we need you! Together we can face the issue of child homelessness, and give them the opportunity to thrive.

When you give today the Stewards Fund will match your donation making your impact even greater! Your $50 donation becomes $100; your $100 donation becomes $200 and so on. WHAT A DIFFERENCE YOU CAN MAKE IN THE LIFE OF A CHILD!

 
Michael Hooker
Tim's Story
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It was the middle of the summer and Tim and his family were returning to their motel room after a day out. His mom inserted her key and nothing happened. They couldn't afford another night, so the manager had locked them out with their belongings still inside.  With nowhere to go Tim, his mom, and five siblings were left to roam the city until they settled in a public laundromat where they spent the night. 

With the temperature reaching 100 degrees, Tim and his family walked to the Families Together office looking for assistance. Fortunately, we had an apartment available and our team could act quickly to get them in our program. We moved Tim and his family into a safe, temporary home at Families Together that very day. Tim now has a warm bed to sleep in and a playground where he can run and have fun. He also participates in our After School program where he gets help with homework and enjoys fun activities like making smoothies. His mother has benefited as well. She is now consistently working with the goal of getting her family back to independence. 

Stories like this are the motivation behind the 2017 Let’s Face It Fall Campaign. You can give our community’s children a place to call home and an opportunity to thrive. Join us!

When you give today the Stewards Fund will match your donation making your impact even greater! Your $50 donation becomes $100; your $100 donation becomes $200 and so on. WHAT A DIFFERENCE YOU CAN MAKE IN THE LIFE OF A CHILD!

FamiliesMichael Hooker