Effingham County Schools made a big donation — about a 15,000-pound one — to help Family Promise of Effingham County get rolling.
The school district donated a 21-passenger bus to the Effingham chapter of Family Promise, an organization to help homeless people in the county.
Family Promise involves local churches serving as hosts for homeless families as they get back on their feet. The mini-bus will be used to take adults to and from the host churches and the Family Promise day center, where they can look online for available jobs or fill out housing applications, or do laundry or take a shower.
"We’re ready to pick (the bus) up, clean it up and put it to use," said Brian Dickey, a Family Promise volunteer serving as the Effingham group leader.
No longer in service, the 2000 year mini-bus was considered a surplus item for the school district. Rather than sell it, the board of education voted to donate it to Family Promise.
"There is a connection in what they’re doing and our students," Superintendent Randy Shearouse said. "Those homeless families have children in our schools, so we’re not just helping the adults but also the students in our system."
So far this school year, the Effingham County School System has identified 46 children from 25 families as homeless. School district social worker Jackie Brown said she is "getting referrals every day" and she expects the number of homeless students to exceed 100 by the end of the year — as it did last year.
"The board of education has been supportive (of Family Promise) from the start because they know the need in the community," Dickey said.
The bus gives Family Promise one of the four elements it needs to launch the program in Effingham County, according to Dickey. The other three are the day center, host churches and financial contributions.
With signed commitments from nine churches in Effingham and verbal commitments from three others, Family Promise is well on its way to the minimum of 13 it is seeking. Also, the organization is nearing a deal on a virtually rent-free day center in Springfield.
"We have a very, very strong lead that we feel like that’s a done deal," Dickey said.
With the bus, day center and host churches all essentially secured, Family Promise of Effingham County can now begin its fundraising in earnest. The organization will have expenses such as the salary for a full-time director, electricity and water for the day center and diesel fuel for the bus.
The first-year budget will be $125,000, Dickey said, and the Effingham chapter will not open its doors until at least $50,000 of that is raised.
"We wanted to make sure the other three pieces were in place first," he said. "We didn’t want to start taking up money and then suddenly we have only eight churches onboard and we can’t open, so then what do you do with all that money that you took up?"
Family Promise’s fundraisers will include a golf tournament Nov. 2 at Lost Plantation Golf Club. Plans for the organization also include a leadership transition from the current core group to a board of directors.
If all goes as planned, Dickey hopes to launch Family Promise in Effingham County near the end of the first quarter or start of the second quarter of next year.
"That’s a very aggressive timeline, but I think we can do it," he said.
For more information about Family Promise of Effingham, call (912) 268-0373 or visit www.effinghamfamilypromise.org.