Saturday, May 3, 2014

United Way

Six Volunteers gathered at a home known as the "Shepherd's House" that would one day be used by a woman who had been homeless or the victim of domestic violence as she got back on her feet. The small split level home was in a suburban neighborhood off of Semoran Boulevard (436), just north of Colonial Drive. The Catholic Charities of Central Florida (CCFL) initiated the program, known as "Shepherd's Promise", just across the street is responsible for getting these homes in tip top shape. Work outside included spray washing the gutters and porch. Yard work was being done as well, including mulching and trimming trees. Inside, the kitchen was getting a new paint job and everything was being cleaned. The place was constantly buzzing with friendly activity. It was a riot of ladders, buckets, brooms and paint cans.

Any woman who moved in to the residence could have up to two children and she would have to take job interview training and computer courses. The children could then be dropped off at the church nursery once a job was found. The goal of course would be for the single mother to become self reliant. Two of my sisters have had to raise children alone and it was always challenging. Child support was non-existent. One of my sisters, when she was at the end of the rope financially, went to a church to ask for help. She was told to start gathering tin cans for the ¢5 refunds. I suspect this CCFL would have offered a better solution. 70%  of each paycheck earned by women in this housing program would have to be contributed to the charity, of that half would be put into savings to be returned to the women when she leaves, so that she could afford to find her own place.

The woman would have to verify that she was separated, since many had been in abusive relationships. If a man was found living in the home then the safety of the place would be compromised and they would be asked to leave. Every day social workers would help to ensure that the home was being well maintained. This respite was intended only as a temporary place where the family could recover and work towards a more permanent solution.

There was a playful atmosphere as the volunteers turned the empty shell into a future home. Hopefully the single mom and her family could feel that love as they worked their way back from the brink. On United Way's "Day of Caring" there were dozens of these volunteer projects going on all around Orlando. Another project involved building a wheel chair access ramp to a home. When I got to that site, the ramp was already built and the volunteers posed for a quick group photo. Each of these volunteer projects was a big step towards changing someone’s life.

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