On Tuesday — also designated Family Promise Day by way of Mayoral Proclamation — Family Promise of Shawnee gathered at the Citizen Potawatomi Nation Cultural Heritage Center to honor its committed volunteers.

On Tuesday — also designated Family Promise Day by way of Mayoral Proclamation — Family Promise of Shawnee gathered at the Citizen Potawatomi Nation Cultural Heritage Center to honor its committed volunteers.

Presenting awards to several individuals within its system of host churches, Shawnee Family Promise Executive Director David Henry said the task of choosing specific honorees was difficult, as the overall effort is one accomplished through teamwork.

Northridge Church of Christ, 1001 E. MacArthur, walked away with a traveling trophy for raising the most funds, and more than a dozen individuals were presented with honors for their service throughout the year.

Featured speaker was Karen Olson, Family Promise's founder and president emeritus. Her initial ministry has grown into a national nonprofit interfaith organization committed to helping homeless families get back on their feet.

Olson said Family Promise has affiliates in 42 states and has served more than 750,000 individuals in need with a system using 180,000 volunteers in 6,000 congregations. These churches provide shelter, meals and support services to families.

Olson said years ago, when she was trying to establish a place to shelter the homeless, she came to realize God can throw roadblocks in your path.

“My (original) goal was justifying a building for shelter,” Olson said. “Had I found that building, today I might have a nice shelter in Elizabeth, N.J., serving 30 people and a handful of volunteers maybe, but God yearned to build community — to have His people serve.”

Later, local graduate Christiana Whitten addressed the room, sharing her story of struggle and support through the program, and how it got her and her son through some difficult times. She now has a home to call her own, obtained through the help of the local organization.

The Shawnee Family Promise Network was the first to be established in Oklahoma, Henry said. Since then, networks in Lawton, Bartlesville — and now Tulsa — have been started in the state.

Serving families since January 2005, the Shawnee group's mission is to help families in need achieve self-sufficiency through volunteer-based mentorship.

According to the Family Promise of Shawnee site, at familypromiseshawnee.org, the local branch is part of a national organization of 210 networks founded in Union County, N.J., in 1986.

“We strive to alleviate the trauma of homelessness and assist families in securing a stable home,” the site reads.

Locally

Family Promise of Shawnee serves homeless families consisting of couples with at least one child, single mothers or fathers with at least one child and women who are pregnant.

“We do not serve those with active drug or alcohol addiction, severe mental illness, violent criminal records or those seeking shelter from domestic violence,” the site reads. “We do serve as a referral source and refer families to appropriate agencies for other assistance programs.”

For more information, visit familypromiseshawnee.org or call the office at (405) 273-0161.