By John Toole
---- — Family Promise of Greater Rockingham County is ready to start fulfilling its promise of helping homeless families.
The agency, organized by volunteers in 15 church congregations from Kingston to Pelham, is about to start helping people next month.
Family Promise will start small, serving three to five families, letting them sleep at area churches at night while getting back on their feet through programming at a day center.
The group already is occupying space at Calvary Baptist Church in East Derry, which is home to the day center.
Family Promise also has purchased a van and has a big benefit lined up to help pay for it.
There’s a new program director on board and the annual meeting upcoming.
Family Promise last month announced it had exceeded a $60,000 startup goal. The agency had raised $70,000.
“That was very cool,” Family Promise president Melanie Nesheim said. “We love how the community responded,”
Benefactors have included Salem Lions Club, Salem Exchange Club, the Windham Turkey Trot and the Let’s Play Music and Make Art school in Derry.
“A lot of people have responded,” Nesheim said.
But there’s more to do, like paying off the 16-passenger van.
Salem businessman Henry Glickel and his wife, Robyn, are organizing a “Fund the Van” charity gaming night, in conjunction with his 50th birthday, at the Brookstone Event Center.
“Our objective is to pay half to all of the van off,” Glickel said. “We’ve already got 80 people going to the event.”
He has sponsors for the hall, the gaming and the appetizers.
“So, 100 percent of this is going to the organization,” Glickel said.
Robyn Glickel belongs to First Congregational Church of Salem, one of the participating churches. The church is partnering with St. David’s Episcopal Church. She is one of the host coordinators, whose role will be to help families when they spend the night.
The Glickels are big believers in Family Promise, which area churches began organizing in 2010.
“I think the concept, the idea is great,” Henry Glickel said. “There is a lot of volunteer work. Their overhead is not extreme and there’s not a lot of staff. So, it’s got an excellent return on investment.”
The new director is Victoria McKinney-Vareschi of Salem, a former Massachusetts social worker and teacher who has 30 years experience with nonprofit boards.
“I am very excited,” she said. “We have a super group of very hard workers.”
McKinney-Vareschi also ran two restaurants, Metamorphosis in Lawrence and Metastasis in Salem. She previously was executive director of Keep Sound Minds, a nonprofit that promotes mental health awareness.
She recently attained a master’s degree in management of nonprofits from Cambridge College.
“Fund the Van” night will be Saturday, Feb. 2, from 7:30 to 10:30 p.m.
Tickets are $25 and there will be raffles and a silent auction. Email firstname.lastname@example.org by noon Jan. 26 for reservations. Tickets are limited to the first 150 people.
The Family Promise annual meeting will be held from 7 to 9 p.m. Tuesday, Jan. 29, at Calvary Bible Church, 145 Hampstead Road, Derry.
Nesheim said Family Promise expects to hold an open house for the day center in the coming weeks.