Family Promise appeals to public in fundraising drive


Ed Kemmick/Last Best News

Architect Jeff Kanning speaks during the kickoff of a fundraising campaign for Family Promise of Yellowstone Valley on Wednesday. The agency plans to renovate the two-story brick building in the background for use as a day center for the homeless families it serves.

Family Promise of Yellowstone Valley, a nonprofit agency that works to lift families out of homelessness, took its fundraising drive public Wednesday afternoon.

Standing in front of a building on South 26th Street that will become a day center for families served by the agency, fundraising chair Carol Roberts announced that Family Promise was already halfway to its $600,000 goal.

She said $300,000 in donations and pledges have been rounded up in private fundraising since Family Promise purchased a two-story building at 10 S. 26th St., just northeast of the Downtown Skate Park, from the city of Billings two years ago.

One more important donation came in during the lunch-hour ceremony Wednesday.


Ed Kemmick/Last Best News

Felicia Flores is a graduate of the Family Promise program who helped raise money for the agency.

It was a check for $1,149, presented by Felicia Flores and several other employees of the Burger King on Grand Avenue. Lisa Donnot, the director of Family Promise, introduced Flores as a graduate of the program who got a job at the Burger King while she was in the program and now manages the restaurant.

Flores said she wanted to do something for a program that did so much for her, so she asked the restaurant owners, Jan and former U.S. Rep. Denny Rehberg, if she could organize a fundraiser there.

She and some other employees got the green light and started asking customers during checkout if they’d like to donate to Family Promise. The $1,149 was raised since March 16, Flores said.

Jan Rehberg, who said she was an original board member of Family Promise, when it was known as the Interfaith Hospitality Network, also gave Donnot a personal check Wednesday.

Family Promise bought the building and an adjoining lot from the city for $85,000. Built in the early 1900s, the rectangular brick building originally housed the Maple Leaf Club and most recently Galles Filter. After Galles moved in 1999, the building and lot were purchased by the city.

Original plans called for having a coffeehouse and café—staffed by people in the program—on the ground floor and two transitional apartments on the second. The agency was going to build an addition to house its administrative offices.

Since the building was purchased, Donnot said, those plans have changed considerably. She said the apartments aren’t needed because Family Promise already has four transitional living units and, in partnership with another nonprofit she didn’t want to name yet, could soon have three more.

The coffeeshop was likewise considered unneeded, she said, because Family Promise has been working with two other nonprofits, Community Leadership Development Inc. and Friendship House of Christian Service, on the possibility of opening a coffeeshop on the South Side. That means no addition will be needed.

Changing the scope and nature of the building, Donnot said, “has given us the opportunity to cut our renovation budget in more than half.”

Jeff Kanning, a former board member and principal with Collaborative Design Architects, which drew up plans for the renovation, said groundbreaking could take place in mid-July. If all goes well, Donnot said, Family Promise could be in the building before next winter.

Plans now call for a kitchen and offices on the ground floor, including a career center and space for the director and a case manager. On the second floor there will be four family bathrooms/dressing rooms, a laundry room, a commons, a computer station and a children’s area. Outside, just to the west of the building, there will be a children’s playground.


Ed Kemmick/Last Best News

A drawing by Collaborative Design Architects shows what the building will look like after renovation.

The IHN was founded in 2004 and became Family Promise of Yellowstone Valley in 2013. It is a consortium of religious congregations that provides intensive case management for carefully selected families, trying to move them into homes and stable lives.

Donnot said families served by the agency now use a 750-square-foot space in the basement of Bethlehem Lutheran Church. It is always crowded, she said, particularly in bad weather.

“It’ll be way more therapeutic,” she said of the new building. “We have very little space for in-depth conversations.”

Families spend the night at one of the partner churches. Family Promise takes them to the churches at 5 p.m. and picks them up at 6 a.m. The parents either go to work during the day or to other agencies for training or other help. Children who are not in school stay at the day center or spend time at places like the YMCA.

Shane Colton, president of the Family Promise board, said the agency has “transitioned hundreds of people out of homelessness” since its founding.

“We’re expanding our promise to the community with this building,” he said.

Details: For more information of Family Promise of Yellowstone Valley, click here.

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