Family Promise Day Center opens Friday _lowres

Photo provided by Family Promise - Melissa Landrum

Family Promise of St. Tammany will mark a milestone Friday when the new Day Center opens for business.

After almost two years of planning by a team of volunteers and with a new executive director on board, the nonprofit interfaith organization is ready to help homeless families transition into permanent housing and financial security. A key part of that effort is the Day Center at Christ Episcopal’s Wheeler House, 1534 Seventh St., Slidell.

The public is invited to attend and tour the newly renovated home that Christ Episcopal donated to Family Promise as well as the blessing, ribbon-cutting and open house at 11 a.m. Friday.

Special guests include the Rev. Harry Jenkins, rector of Christ Episcopal; Archbishop Gregory M. Aymond, of New Orleans; the Rev. Morris Thompson Jr., bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of Louisiana; Parish President Pat Brister; St. Tammany Parish schools Superintendent Trey Folse; and clergy of participating churches.

“The Day Center will be the place where families find assistance in job searches, do laundry and take showers,” said Melissa Landrum, who recently was hired as executive director of Family Promise. “It will have all they need to help them search for jobs. I want this to feel like their home.” The center will have laptops, volunteers on hand to help and everything the families need to be comfortable.

“The great thing about the Wheeler House is the central location,” said Diana Booren, who is on the board of directors of Family Promise. “It’s a wonderful opportunity. It’s really exciting to see the pieces coming together.”

While the Day Center will act as a permanent base for families accepted into the program, they will spend their nights at one of 18 host congregations across St. Tammany. St. Luke Catholic Church in Slidell will be the first host congregation, starting the first week in May, said Landrum, who said she has always been drawn to help the homeless.

“When I heard Family Promise was looking for an executive director,” she said, “I thought, ‘Maybe this is the plan.’ ”

For Landrum, the plan is to help the more than 1,000 homeless children in St. Tammany and their families stay together and find a better future. “The Christian motto is to be of service to others in need. It is something I live by,” she said. “We want to make sure these children have a place to rest their heads at night.”

Landrum, a Slidell native and nonprofit veteran, is not surprised that the people of St. Tammany have come together to help others. “With what happened with (Hurricane) Katrina, everyone can relate to unexpected devastation,” she said. “We know what it is like to lose everything.”

The purpose of Family Promise is to help those who have lost so much find their way back, Landrum said. The nationwide program has a 80 percent success rate, she added; it is a highly structured program, with families screened and selected to take part.

Starting with St. Luke on May 3, host congregations will house up to three to four families, or a maximum of 14 people, each week. Volunteers at the host congregation will provide meals and fellowship.

“What a blessing it will be for these churches to come together for one purpose — to serve others,” Landrum said. “That’s what it’s all about.”

“I know these families will fall in love with the host congregations,” she said. There are many volunteer opportunities available for those who want to help, from volunteering at the day center to providing needed items. “There are many ways people can help,” Landrum said. “The sky is the limit.”

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