FAMILY PROMISE: MINI-STORY DOROTHEA CHAPEL
When retired school teacher Dorothea and her 13-year-old son, Gregory, moved to Savannah in 2011, she looked hard for a full-time job but none were to be found. Though she substitute-taught as often as possible, Dorothea still could not make ends meet for herself and her son. Eventually the two sought aid at Salvation Army, where they stayed for about a month, until someone told her about Family Promise.
“What makes Family Promise so unique,” Dorothea says, “is that it’s a community effort between the Center’s resources, churches and the SCCPSS. Everybody’s working together in a common effort.”
Dorothea and Gregory were accepted into the Family Promise Emergency Shelter Program in January, 2013, where they were guests in several host-churches until May. “I can only say positive things about the churches. Everyone was friendly and made us feel comfortable. There were great activities and workshops for the kids and such, but, if you were having a day where you just needed to be quiet and didn’t feel like participating, they always understood.”
The many transitions he and his mother had had to face were especially hard on Gregory who lives with Autism and was struggling in 8th grade at Godley Station. After school, he received tutorial with his homework at the Center--which Dorothea insists played a major role in his ability to graduate from Middle School that spring.
Dorothea is also a Veteran who lives with disabilities herself. A counselor at the Center guided her through the complicated process of receiving disability benefits and, subsequently, she and Gregory were able to move into transitional housing. However, she still had no transportation. “There was an old car at the Center that just needed a little work. They gifted me with it when I left and even helped with the repairs. I named it ‘Faith’—because that’s just what it was!”
Gregory was homeschooled through GA Cyber Academy in order to successfully complete his last three years of High School. “Now he’s just about to finish his first year as a Culinary Arts student at Savannah Tech,” his mother says with tremendous pride, “We’re blessed. I don’t know where we’d be without the Family Promise program.”
Dorothea also shared that today, she and Gregory live in a “rent to own” home and return to volunteer with Family Promise as often as possible. “No one ever knows when or how they might need a little hand up,” she gently reminded me. “When you’re in that situation, all you have is your dignity. And, I’ll tell you this: at Family Promise, they never once stepped on that.”