“We’re having a party, you can stay home!”
That was the tagline for virtual housewarming parties and a virtual baby shower that Family Promise of Ontario County hosted earlier this spring, said Lauren Lamb, Family Promise’s congregation and community liaison.
The nonprofit social service organization has remained open amid the COVID-19 pandemic and has implemented proper social distancing and safety precautions advised by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, said Lamb.
The organization strives to provide resources for homeless children and their families to secure reliable housing and self-sufficiency. According to the organization’s website, services include a day center located in Canandaigua, where families can take showers, receive case management, and look for housing and jobs, and overnight accommodations at area houses of worship, including St. Benedict Parish in Canandaigua and East Bloomfield.
Two families in Family Promise’s residential care program had secured housing April 1, Lamb said, so to help the families through the transition into their new homes during these unprecedented times, Family Promise decided to throw two virtual housewarming parties as well as a virtual baby shower.
“They (the families) have some things from storage, but they also have a need for aluminum foil, things that get lost in transition because they have been homeless for weeks or months,” Lamb said.
Although this is the first time the agency has organized house warming parties to Lamb’s knowledge, baby showers have typically been hosted at local houses of worship.
“Everybody loves baby showers, but we can’t get together like that (during the pandemic), so we came up with the idea of just having people go online,” she said.
The parties were created using the platform signup.com. A list of items the families needed was available on the site, and those purchasing items could order from a number of online retailers and have donations shipped directly to the day center. Lamb said donations of secondhand items also was encouraged and could be dropped off in a “Blessing Box” located in front of the organization’s office at 185 N. Main St. in Canandaigua.
“Someone ordered a double stroller for one family made by Jeep, which is heavy duty, but the fact that this family doesn’t have a car means that they need to walk everywhere, and the stroller is going to be a spectacular gift,” Lamb noted.
The recipient of the stroller was a Finger Lakes Community College student, her husband and their three children. The youngest of the three children, a 6-month-old boy, was the child for whom Family Promise had organized the virtual baby shower in conjunction with a house warming party.
“We got a lot of beautiful things,” said the FLCC student, who asked not to be named.
Originally from the Pittsford area, the student had moved to Texas, where she met her husband, and recently moved back to New York a little over a year ago. Her husband had found work right away, but finding affordable housing in a safe neighborhood proved to be difficult, she told the Catholic Courier.
“We’re just grateful that we have a program like Family Promise available to us in the area, and everyone who works there is just so willing to go above and beyond to make sure that the families are taken care of,” she said. “The really nice thing about Family Promise is even when you find housing for the year, after you find the housing, they still help you out with anything you need and check up on you to make sure you’re OK.”