In the driver seat for almost three months now, Family Promise Executive Director Amy Jones is ramping up plans to rebrand the nonprofit and get its name in the hands of those it seeks to serve.

In the driver seat for almost three months now, Family Promise Executive Director Amy Jones is ramping up plans to rebrand the nonprofit and get its name in the hands of those it seeks to serve.

Jones is an Oklahoma native who returned home this year after a brief stint on the Oregon coast. Now geographically reconnected with her support system of friends and family, Jones has chosen to plug her experience and skills set back into the world of nonprofit work.

The purpose-driven director said she has a passion for speaking up for those in society who do not have a voice.

“It has to matter that I show up when I give it all I've got,” she said. “I have to believe what I'm selling — and I am completely sold on Family Promise.”

The clients who Family Promise serves, Jones said, have oftentimes just been hit with unfortunate circumstances.

Families already treading water from paycheck to paycheck have little to no padding against unforeseen events or issues as they arise. She said just one crisis, tragedy or misstep can swiftly land a family into homelessness.

“Life happens that quickly to change things,” she said.

Jones said when these situations hit, people often just need a pause button — a little breathing room to get their feet back underneath them.

These typically temporary problems could be huge hurdles to overcome without a program like Family Promise.

The intense 90-day in-house program offers that quick reset so families can get back on track.

From there, Jones said they can transition into homes of their own and continue toward permanent stability.

It is during that time — up to a year — that the role of graduate mentors becomes vital.

“Some of our clients — those coming from a life of poverty — are just trying to survive,” Jones said. “We need mentors who don't just encourage them, but can also share insights to see farther ahead of situations and respond well, not just react.”

A mission like this takes money.

Jones said donations, especially monetary — are much appreciated.

She said of the many particular needs the nonprofit has — unless a donor knows exactly what they are — cash is most able to meet them because they can be so specific and random — like minor repairs to the transport van, gasoline, building maintenance or the purchase of things like supplies or outdoor toys, etc.

“We also welcome other types of donations,” she said.

The biggest needs, however, are pricey and take more effort.

“One of the biggest needs for our clients typically is transportation,” Jones said. “We could really use some cars.”

Another big ticket item is time.

“Graduate mentors are very important,” she said. “We don't want to leave clients unprepared after they leave.”

Jones said people willing to intentionally invest in someone's life is the most valuable — and the most needed.

As with any nonprofit, aside from some supplemental funding it gets, Family Promise actively seeks ways to sustain itself and its mission.

The big annual fundraiser for the nonprofit is the Walk for Families in Crisis event in September. This year — Sept. 28 — will mark its seventh walk.

“We plan to move it downtown,” Jones said.

The September walk provides an opportunity for members of the community to come together and — as an individual, group or family, church or business — walk to raise awareness and funds.

The nonprofit's mission is accomplished by providing a caring, dignified environment of overnight hospitality in church facilities and by providing supportive services to help families become self-sufficient.

Many in the community don't understand what Family Promise does or even know who we are, Jones said.

“They often mistake us for an emergency shelter — we are not an emergency shelter,” Jones said. “But we do serve families with children who are experiencing homelessness.”

She said the nonprofit works with families who have no active warrants, can pass drug screening and background checks and do not have history of domestic violence.

She said she knows the need is there.

“There are 267 homeless children registered with Shawnee Public Schools,” Jones said. “We want to help.”

She said due to privacy concerns, the schools cannot disclose the names of these children, and she is concerned her organization may not be on the radar of the very families who need its help.

“They don't know we're here,” she said.

Jones, now about 12 weeks into her new role, said she is finalizing a vision for Family Promise that would allow its clients to make investments in their own lives that are sustainable and tangible, as well as provide opportunities for building solid longterm relationships within the community.

“It's all about building relationships,” she said. “We don't have to approve of every choice someone has made in order to love them.”

How it works

Clients meet weekly with case managers who can help with goal-setting, resumes, interviews, daycare and transportation issues, among other things.

Family Promise has a day center and can help up to four families at a time, as well as fill three transitional homes it has.

During the day families continue with their normal daily tasks, going to work or looking for work, handling necessary appointments, and getting children to school or daycare. In the evenings local churches are on a rotation schedule to provide dinner, engage with families through activities and house them overnight.

“While they are in the program they are required to save 90 percent of their earnings, outside of bills they are already paying (like phone bill, etc.),” Jones said.

Eventually they will make their way into one of our transitional homes, she said and then ultimately move to a rental or into home ownership.

Background

Jones spent eight years as the executive director of Love In The Name of Christ (Love INC) in Cushing. She has experience in poverty education, volunteer recruitment, volunteer training, public speaking, and case management. She graduated from SWOSU with a degree in political science and criminal justice.

Jones replaces former director David Henry, who resigned from the post in February.

Family Promise in Shawnee has been serving the local community since 2005.

The local branch — the first one to be established in Oklahoma — is part of a national organization of more than 200 networks in 43 states, and was founded in Union County, N.J., in 1986.

For more information call (405) 273-0161 or visit familypromiseshawnee.org. The nonprofit also can be found on social media.