Denise D'Angelo and Janet Wagner of The Secret Attic during the 30th-annual Family Renew Ice Cream Social on Sunday, Sept. 22. Photo by Jarleene Almenas
Ormond Beach Observer
Family Renew Community celebrated its 30th anniversary of helping families lift themselves out of homelessness on Sept. 18, and with a current 96% success rate, the nonprofit hopes to continue its mission for another 30 years.
As families indulged in ice cream for Family Renew's 30th ice cream social event at St. James Episcopal Church, Executive Director Tony Deobil reflected on what the milestone represented. Three decades ago, Family Renew was formed after several churches got together and decided to take action regarding the local homeless problem.
“And here we are, 30 years later, and it’s even worse than it was 30 years ago," Deobil said.
Family Renew is doing what it can to help.
Deobil said the nonprofit isn't a housing program but a restoration program. While families can stay in the program for up to 18 months — during which they're given a stable place to live while the parents are assisted in becoming self-supporting — most stay between 6-7 months. Family Renew helps teach them new basic life skills, and try to help them find and become qualified for jobs that pay above the minimum wage.
Deobil remembers an 8-year-old girl who once told him she wanted to have babies when she grew up because her grandmother told her she could then get a check from the government. That same little girl later told him she wanted to be a nurse, and Family Renew got her a play nursing kit and had real nurses talk to her. At the end, before her family graduated, the little girl told Deobil that her brother had gotten sick. She took care of him, and she loved it.
“Break the cycle, you know?" Deobil said. "And that’s what we try to do at Family Renew.”
It costs Family Renew $9,600 to put a family through their program, and these funds are often raised locally. The average family is two paychecks away from homelessness, Deobil said, and he hopes people will come to understand what homelessness looks like in Volusia County.
Deobil said the organization strays away from going after federal funding because family homelessness oftentimes doesn't meet the federal definition of homelessness. They never want to turn a family away because of they don't meet those requirements.
“It puts the greater responsibility on us to raise money to keep a program like this open," Deobil said.
Recently, Family Renew held its $30 for 30 years raffle, where it sold 299 of the available 300 tickets. It is also hosting its first art show at The Casements on Nov. 7.