Jean Vaught knows something about homelessness. It is one of the reasons she is committed to its effects and causes.
Vaught, one of the founding members of Family Promise in Effingham County, was named this year’s Sunrise Rotary Club Service Above Self award winner.
Vaught was surprised at getting the award, coming to the early Tuesday morning meeting on the pretense of talking to club members about homelessness.
Dasher called Vaught the brains behind the Family Promise bed race, an event that raises money and attention for its mission of addressing homelessness.
“Homelessness is close to my heart,” she said. “The reason I got involved in homelessness is because I looked in the mirror. I grew up in a dysfunctional household. I grew up thinking everyone owed me something.”
Vaught said there are homeless children going to Effingham schools, and club members may be going to church with someone who has no home.
“There are people in your congregation who are homeless and won’t tell you because they are ashamed,” she said.
Vaught pointed out that there are 119 students in Effingham County schools who have no place to call home.
“At Family Promise, we are not big enough to house all 119,” she said. “With those 119, that means there are two times or three times as many” where they spend the night.
Many of the homeless, Vaught said, live in tents in the woods.
“Savannah doesn’t have the answer,” she said. “They have 4,000 homeless every night. That’s the same number they had 26 years ago.”
Vaught’s life was headed down the wrong path, she said, until someone intervened.
“One day, God sent someone to me,” she said. “He changed my life in the blink of an eye. It took an instant. He turned my life around.”
Five years ago, the Sunrise Rotary began honoring people who go above and beyond to help others
“This event is one of the highlights of our Rotary program,” club member Billy Dasher said.
Dasher said because of Vaught’s compassion and her work with Backpack Buddies, hundreds of kids have food and many of those who had no place to go had a warm shelter on a cold winter night.
“She truly has a servant’s heart,” he said.