By Doug Ireland
---- — Halloween is three weeks away, but Nicole Wain of Salem and her children were busy getting ready for trick-or-treating yesterday.
But Kamden, 7, and Emma, 5, weren’t just thinking about candy. They were decorating Halloween boxes to collect money for homeless children when they go trick-or-tricking.
“You have a special job to do,” their mother told them.
Emma wants to be a cat for Halloween, Kamden a basketball player. The money they raise will go to Family Promise of Greater Rockingham County.
The nonprofit organization is distributing approximately 200 special collection boxes to local children who want to help the more than 150 homeless families in the area, according to Melanie Nesheim, the organization’s president.
“It’s children helping children,” she said.
The initiative is called Houses for Change. It’s modeled after a similar effort last year when Family Promise raised about $500 to assist homeless families by putting collection boxes at local businesses, program director Victoria McKinney-Vareschi said.
Family Promise is doing more than just raising money to help the homeless.
The nonprofit organization has established a network of homeless shelters at churches throughout the county.
The network is made up of approximately 20 congregations that provide food and shelter at 10 sites on a rotating basis. It also helps families find permanent housing.
Family Promise also operates a day center for the homeless at Calvary Bible Church in Derry. The center is a place for families to look for jobs and apartments, and to eat during the day while the children attend school.
The network is currently serving four families, including 10 children, McKinney-Vareschi said.
Nesheim and McKinney-Vareschi said Houses for Change is modeled after UNICEF’s annual Halloween collection, but their intention is not to compete with the international organization’s humanitarian efforts.
Youngsters have gone trick-or-treating UNICEF since 1950, when money was first collected to help children affected by World War II, according to the organization. Last year, trick-or-treaters raised money to help victims of Hurricane Sandy.
McKinney-Vareschi said children will enjoy decorating the boxes, which carry the organization’s logo. They are available at the day center at 145 Hampstead Road in Derry.
“We would like folks to pick up their boxes and go trick-or-treating and, hopefully, get dollars for homeless families,” she said.
Meanwhile, Family Promise continues to get financial support from the community.
The organization recently received a $5,000 donation from the Bishop’s Charitable Assistance Fund, Nesheim said.
Family Promise has also received support from five communities that have each donated between $2,000 and $5,000, she said. They are Salem, Windham, Hampstead, Derry and Sandown, Nesheim said.
For more information about Homes for Change and Family Promise, call 432-0400 or visit FamilyPromiseGRC.org. Donations can be sent to Family Promise at 145 Hampstead Road, Derry, 03038.