DERRY — St. Thomas Aquinas Church of Derry has joined the Interfaith Hospitality Network program at Family Promise of Greater Rockingham County. With 17 other local churches in the IHN, St. Thomas will soon be helping local homeless children and their families.
Family Promise is a nonprofit organization whose mission is to help families experiencing homelessness to get back on their feet. Its IHN serves Salem, Derry and 14 surrounding towns.
St. Thomas Aquinas will take a turn hosting IHN families in its church buildings. The families will stay there for a week at a time, four or five separate weeks per year. Congregation members volunteer to provide meals and company for the overnight stay. During the day, the families stay at the IHN’s Day Center and work with professional staff to resolve the issues that led to homelessness.
It is not commonly known there are at least 322 homeless students in this area. Family Promise is a local affiliate of a national organization with more than 180 affiliates in 42 states around the country. A local affiliate engages congregations of any faith to assist homeless children and families by taking turns providing overnight stays and meals in church buildings.
The local IHN has been open for more than a year. So far, it has returned six families to permanent housing. Three or four families are in the program at a time, up to 14 individuals. Families receive intensive case management, are connected to services, and receive guidance in parenting and financial literacy.
St. Thomas Aquinas’s recent volunteer training, taught by Network director Victoria McKinney-Vareschi, was attended by about 50 people. The Rev. Phil Pacheco gave Family Promise an enthusiastic welcome; church members brought laughs during role plays, which McKinney-Vareschi debriefed in a way that said, “Your work as a volunteer will be enjoyable, sometimes challenging, and always important to the program’s success.”