Published January 11, 2018
DULUTH—A celebration the week before Christmas brought together members of the Atlanta Falcons football team and families and volunteers of Family Promise of Gwinnett County.
Falcons linebackers Sean Weatherspoon and De’Vondre Campbell and defensive end Brooks Reed were on hand for a party held Dec. 19 in St. Augustine Hall at St. Monica Church in Duluth.
The players donned Santa hats and enjoyed food and fellowship with the families, and handed out gifts.
Family Promise of Gwinnett County operates a 15-bed emergency center, the SaltLight Center, for single women and women with minor children. This facility is established on a Lawrenceville church campus. The program offers a resource center to help women staying at the emergency shelter to find more permanent solutions for housing and employment.
For longer-term assistance, through the Family Promise program, local faith communities host families for one week at a time in their facilities. Currently more than 40 churches are involved in this homeless recovery program either as host or support congregations including St. Monica, as well as St. Stephen the Martyr Church and St. John Neumann Church in Lilburn; St. Lawrence Church, Lawrenceville; and St. Oliver Plunkett Church, Snellville.
Family Promise staff recruits hosts and support congregations, trains volunteers and assists each church’s volunteer coordinator.
Deacon Dave Baker helps coordinate the ministry to Family Promise clients at St. Monica. The parish hosted their guests the week of Dec. 17-24.
“It is obviously a very difficult time to be without a home,” said Deacon Baker.
He said some of the Falcons’ wives contacted Family Promise to ask if they and their husbands could visit families.
“Their acts of kindness absolutely brightened the day for our guests as well as recent graduates from the program. The parents visited with the players as if they had been long time friends,” said the deacon. “There were smiles and laughs. There was conversation and talk about their recent win in Tampa Bay and just how life was as an NFL player. The children particularly enjoyed their time with the players.”
Fist bumps, high fives and smiles were in no short supply, noted Deacon Baker. The players gave young guests the gift of a signed Falcon football as well their undivided attention.
“When the families returned to their individual rooms, there was excited conversation, a peppier step and a brighter mood shared by all,” he said.
The nonprofit provides transportation to family members to and from the Day Center and to appointments and interviews. The Day Center is for family members who are not working or in school during the day. At the center they can work on resume and interview skills, take showers and use the resources to look for employment and housing.
Family Promise of Gwinnett County is one of 200 national affiliates and was formed in 2003. In 2016, the program served 26 families with 66 children.
For more information, visit online at familypromisegwinnett.org.