Generous donors keep wheels turning on Family Promise bus

Generous donors keep wheels turning on Family Promise bus
Don and Patty DeStephano, Vicky Yong and Mark Landschoot

Almost every evening for the past 12 years, a small bus transports families from downtown Jacksonville to a local church and back again the next morning.

These families, who are experiencing temporary homelessness, are guests of Family Promise and its 17 member churches, a network which stretches from Mayport to Mandarin, from Ponte Vedra to Ortega and points in-between.

Family Promise, headquartered at First United Methodist Church, 225 E. Duval St., has helped more than a hundred families get back on their feet by providing temporary assistance, hospitality and case management.

On a 17-week rotation, local congregations offer overnight accommodations and the evening meal. When they are returned to Family Promise the next morning, the families have access to laundry and shower facilities, phone and internet access for employment searches, and their children are taken to school. The bus also provides transportation to work, job interviews, medical appointments and more.

Family Promise supporters gather in circle around the bus to bless it.

Family Promise supporters gather in circle around the bus to bless it.

The first two buses – 15-seat passenger vans – were donated with many miles already traveled. Last summer, the Family Promise bus spent more time in maintenance than making its rounds, so a campaign was launched to purchase a brand-new bus.

An anonymous donor provided a $25,000 challenge grant, a couple gave $15,000 and individual members from five churches raised another $21,000. “This is the most we’ve ever raised,” said Beth Mixson, Family Promise communications director and Ortega resident.

The $61,363 raised covered the purchase of the Ford Transit 350 van ($32,604), insurance, and a reserve for fuel and maintenance. The nonprofit decided against putting its logo on the van to preserve the dignity of the families they help.

Family Promise held a blessing of the bus May 3 at First United Methodist Church, where nearly two dozen supporters gathered in a circle around the new van. Pastors from four of the five donating churches were present and included Rev. Bruce Havens, Arlington Congregational; Rev. Greg Doss, Ponte Vedra United Methodist; Rev. David Lee, Highlands United Presbyterian; and Rev. Mark Shockley, St. Paul United Methodist.

Among those at the celebration were Ortega residents Vicky Yong, chair of the Bus Replacement Task Force; Patty and Don DeStephano, generous donors who live in Avondale, and Mark Landschoot, Family Promise executive director and Lakeshore resident.

By Kate A. Hallock
Resident Community News

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