FHN Families at St. Mark’s
by Paula Friedmann
Last week, May 7-14, St. Mark’s old Sunday School wing was abuzz with activity. Five families from Family Housing Network took up residence in the choir room, the youth room, and two Sunday School rooms. Quite a few St. Mark’s members who use these areas were affected, but for the most part the FHN activities were unseen by most, taking place between 5 p.m. and 8 a.m. each day. (Families leave the host facility by 7:30 a.m. each day.)
On Saturday morning we prepared for the families’ arrival. Nine volunteers moved beds, made beds, and added welcoming touches to the rooms. Each bed had a “goodie bag” prepared and donated by our member Patty Hulbert. Patty also provided homemade pillowcases for the children’s pillows. All guests were provided with new pillows donated by our members.
Five of the six adults we hosted were mothers, and on Sunday evening we celebrated them. Each mom received a Mother’s Day gift card decorated with fresh flowers. St. Mark’s member Mary Olsen provided the families with a craft project, helping them decorate picture frames and taking pictures of them to put in the frames. A box of diapers was provided to each family who needed them.
There were seven babies and children, ranging in age from 4 months to 10 years old, with the families. They played in our nursery, on our playground, and took advantage of the room to run around in the narthex. All of the families appreciated having private rooms to retreat to; at some of the host sites they sleep in common areas divided by partitions.
In all, over 40 volunteers participated. In addition to setting up and taking down the bedrooms, some brought groceries, some cooked dinners, some stayed overnight with the families or came to play with the children. There were times when we had more volunteers than family members in the building.
I offer all of these facts to illustrate that, as a congregation, we are richly blessed with resources of all kinds: lots of willing volunteers, financial resources to support our efforts, and a facility big enough to accommodate it. In a recent conversation with Joy McDonald, Volunteer Coordinator for Family Housing Network, I learned that not all of the host sites enjoy such riches. During the past 6 months, there have been six weeks when there was no host site available for the families. (They are housed at FHN headquarters when this happens.)
The reasons for the shortage of host sites are varied: one church had a fire, one church dropped out of the program on short notice, and some of the churches are struggling financially and have had to cut back from hosting two weeks a year to one week. Some churches have had faithful volunteers who, because of illness or aging, can no longer participate.
For the past four years, St. Mark’s has hosted families for two weeks each year. Because we have such abundant resources, we are now looking at adding a third week each year. We will be looking for a second leadership team and a new group of volunteers to add to those we already have. If you are interested in joining this ministry in any way, please contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org.