Written by Phil Cerroni
By Alice Canham
You could measure the impact in dollars raised – more than $10,000 – or you could measure it in the faces of families served by the fledgling mission. By either measure, ‘Once Upon a Time,’ the first-ever fundraising gala for Family Promise of Irving (FPI), was a joyful success.
Nearly 100 guests were on hand Feb. 16 as Hockaday School threw open its doors to celebrate, 1940s USO-style, with big band music, dancing and dining. Volunteers from more than a dozen area churches, mission partners to FPI, moved among the crowd offering Shirley Temples and Roy Rogers.
Most of the guests circulated through festive hallways where silent auction items were displayed. Many stopped to admire the handiwork of Art Sellevold who crafted squares representing each partner church into a beautiful quilt, pieced by quilters at Oak Haven United Methodist. Nearly a dozen braved the dance floor to learn swing steps, several of them looking the part in 1940s attire.
Keyon and Destini Henderson were on hand to describe their journey as clients of FPI.
“We’re in a three bedroom house now,” said Destini, as husband Keyon explained that four months ago he and his wife had both lost their jobs. While they were never truly homeless, they had been overwhelmed by the bills and the needs of a growing family (four kids, aged 10, 7, 5 and 2), and had to leave the security of the home they knew. That’s when Destini happened upon the FPI resource, which offers a safe environment to allow families to stay together while they work toward self-sufficiency.
“The volunteers made me feel like family,” Keyon said. “It was an adjustment for our family, but the kids came out of it okay.
“What FPI did, they actually set a budget and scheduled our time so that I could get a job and go to work. They set stern expectations, but they also helped with any issues I had, like car trouble.”
”Every week we transitioned to a new church home,” said Destini. Host churches take in families from 5 p.m. to 7 a.m. for a week at a time on a rotating basis while daytime hours are spent in a day facility where families create a plan to secure housing, jobs or job training.
“It wasn’t a matter of pride for me,” said Keyon. “I just needed my kids to feel safe. Thanks to FPI, we found a way to get my four kids to their schools in the Euless School District so things wouldn’t be as tough for them.
“Now I have a blessing of a job again, and so has my wife.
“And I have to give credit to the FPI volunteers. They worked harder than any paid staff I’ve ever seen.”
“They really care,” Destini added.
As a pièce de resistance, Keyon will soon begin serving as a volunteer for FPI himself.
“God put me in a situation that I could get out of, and I learned from it,” he said.
Guests also heard from FPI Director Athena Clark that FPI expects to help about ten families in its first year of existence. The unmet need is great, though, as she reported there are actually about 900 homeless students in Irving ISD, a 20 percent increase in recent years.
Board VP Dan Klein reminded the audience that the mission operates with great efficiency: only one paid employee serving with 300- 400 volunteers from 16 participating churches.
“Ninety cents of every dollar goes directly to client services,” said Klein.
To learn more about Family Promise of Irving, visit www.familypromiseirving.org.