Like all ad agencies, we at Prejean Creative often have the opportunity to apply our skills to any number of pro bono projects. While these efforts don’t bring cash to our bottom line, they give us something that in many ways is much more valuable — a tremendous amount of satisfaction in knowing that our work is having a positive impact in our community. We’ve adopted one particular nonprofit agency on which to focus our pro bono work, Family Promise of Acadiana. Personally, I’ve been a volunteer for the program since my church became a host congregation, and I am now serving as the local organization’s board president. Seeing the need firsthand made the choice to offer our agency services free of charge was an easy one.
Part of a national network, Family Promise of Acadiana is a shelter program that helps homeless families regain and sustain long-term independence. It is the only area shelter program that accepts entire families, including men and teen boys.
This weekend, Family Promise of Acadiana hosts its primary fundraiser, the annual Southern Garden Festival. It’s a weekend full of wide-ranging activities including an elegant alfresco dinner during Evening Under the Stars, garden tours and expert gardening advice, boat tours along the Vermilion Bayou, eco and conservation information, artist exhibits, live music in the gazebo, and more — whew! — all on four beautiful bayou-side acres at the home of Sarah and Harold Schoeffler.
The fact that the Schoefflers open their home and property to this public event is testament to their lifetime of community service. Talk about pro bono work. What we do as an agency to promote the event pales in comparison.
Like us, though, the Schoefflers do this because they believe in the cause it supports. Statistics, nationally and locally, may surprise you. Since its beginning in 2004, Family Promise of Acadiana has served 86 area families, including 178 children. The majority of our guests are children, and nearly half of the families were unable to enter another shelter because the family included either an adult or teen male. Other shelters require men and teen boys to be sheltered separately from moms, wives and sisters. So that means a single mother with a teen son, a married couple or a single dad with young children face the choice of being separated or staying together with no place to sleep.
This quote in a thank you letter from a single father who graduated from the program says it better than I can: “There is not a whole lot support for a homeless male with children. When I was stranded while visiting Lafayette, away from my spouse with two of my sons, the barriers to shelter were impassable. Many seemed surprised to find a man in my situation. The best advice I got was to place my kids with friends or family and go to the men’s shelter. A family shelter is a blessing, but Family Promise in its mission to teach us to fish, is divine.”
Many of these families have adults who are employed, but simply cannot find affordable housing. While the local housing market is strong, there is a real lack of housing for people making minimum wage or slightly higher. Divorce is often a factor that puts once-stable families into being homeless. Not only do we put a roof over their heads, but provide social service resources to help them beat the cycle of homelessness and achieve long-term independence.
Through the work of our wonderfully dedicated executive director, Renee Menard, our board, our network of local church congregations from various denominations, and more than 400 volunteers, Family Promise of Acadiana has helped 86 percent of our guest families graduate into permanent housing, with a 92 percent employment rate. These percentages are significantly above the national average for homeless assistance programs.
All reasons why I give my personal time and our agency devotes its pro bono efforts to this organization. I invite you to find out more by visiting the organization’s website and Facebook page. And, plan a visit to Southern Garden Festival this weekend if you can. It’s a fun event and your support will help keep a homeless family together when their world is falling apart.