Rhonda Rhodes

Ronda Rhodes, who was recently homeless, credits Family Promise with helping turn her life around. "We are definitely thankful for Family Promise. It was so challenging when were homeless, and we had nowhere to go," Rhodes said.

Although Ronda Rhodes was homeless just a few months ago, the mother of two is now preparing for Thanksgiving Day from her own home.

She credited Family Promise of East Bell County for that development.

The nonprofit organization, which has strived to empower families experiencing homelessness for more than 15 years, enrolled Rhodes into its Guest Shelter Program — a three-month initiative that ensures families can live a new life of “self-sufficiency.”

“We are definitely thankful for Family Promise. It was so challenging when we were homeless, and we had nowhere to go,” Rhodes said.

Rhodes — who used to not have many people she could lean on for help — said the volunteers and staff at Family Promise of East Bell County have filled that void in her life.

“They were really encouraging and helped us find the resources that we needed to get back on our feet and find our new home,” she said in a news release. “They stay in touch and come by and support us with anything else that we need.”

In 2021, the nonprofit organization served 153 more people than it did in 2020 — a 268.4% increase that can largely be attributed to its new Diversion Initiative, according to Family Promise.

This recently implemented program, made possible through a $30,000 grant, aims to divert families from an at-capacity shelter into safe and sustainable housing.

“We are extremely excited about the future with the new Diversion Initiative,” Rucker Preston, Family Promise of East Bell County’s executive director, previously told the Telegram. “Nothing brings us more joy than seeing families empowered into a new life of sustainability, thriving for years after being with us at Family Promise.”

He said more families will be served following construction of the Promise House this summer — a $1.3 million expansion that will feature seven bedrooms with private bathrooms for guest families, three staff offices, two volunteer bedrooms, a classroom, a living room, a dining room, a kitchen, a pantry, a laundry room and back patio space.

“While we are always joyous to celebrate with Family Promise graduates when they move into their new homes, we are excited to serve more families at a higher level in the Promise House,” he said. “When the Promise House is completed, volunteers will be able to love on the families in the evenings by sharing meals, playing games, reading books, ensuring safety and giving the hard-working parents a brief respite each evening.”

Family Promise of East Bell County also is working to raise $1.5 million in funding for the project’s second phase of construction, which will add eight transitional homes for eligible families.

“The transitional homes will serve as an interim stage for families who step into a higher level of independence while looking for a long-term housing solution,” according to the nonprofit organization.

Donors can contribute online www.familypromisebellcounty.org/donate.

“We could not be happier with the community’s support of our work, to serve children and families who are homeless,” Preston said.

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