Prayers, cash, and new blood to halt hiatus

by Joni Astrup
Associate editor
After a successful fund-raiser in December and other positive developments, Great River Family Promise is working toward a goal of reopening its shelter program on Feb. 1.
The organization helps local families experiencing homelessness. It went on hiatus in September after failing to meet a fund-raising goal.

A successful Great River Family Promise fund-raiser was held Dec. 17 at Central Lutheran Church in Elk River.
A successful Great River Family Promise fund-raiser was held Dec. 17 at Central Lutheran Church in Elk River.

But there has been recent progress, including a Dec. 17 fund-raiser in Elk River that raised $10,000. About 200 people attended the event and 100 businesses supported the cause and donated items for the fund-raiser, according to Maria Rehlander, a board member who is in charge of marketing.
With the help of church congregations as partners, Great River Family Promise began offering services in the Elk River area in 2013. It has served about 60 families, including more than 100 children. Churches take turns housing the families and making sure they get to a day center to address their needs.
The organization set several goals to reopen, including:
•Having at least nine board members committed to serving through 2017.
•Securing at least 70 percent of the annual operating budget (approximately $86,000) and having a sound plan for meeting the remainder of the budget.
•Having 13 churches to serve as host churches.
Here is a recap of how those goals are being met.

New board members come on line for 2017
The goal of at least nine board members committed to serving through 2017 has been met, as there are now 13 active board members. They are Deb Rontti, Dave Nicolai, Jan Torrey, Vicky Biren, Gina Hugo,

The Dec. 17 Great River Family Promise fund-raiser drew about 200 people and raised $10,000.
The Dec. 17 Great River Family Promise fund-raiser drew about 200 people and raised $10,000.

Chris White, Maria Rehlander, Darla Beyer, Rich George, Brittany Thiele, Amber Hasslen, Chelsea Weber and Jude Richter.
The organization is still looking for two more board members.

Fund-raising goal met and surpassed
Great River Family Promise’s fund-raising goal of $86,000 has been met and surpassed. The total now stands at $116,100.
Here’s where the support has come from:
•Business: $11,250
•Church: $38,643
•Civic group: $1,000
•Club 180: $200
•Fall event: $9,500
•Grant: $2,000
•Individual: $43,107
•Give to Max: $10,400

Goal is to have at least 13 host churches
The last hurdle before reopening the shelter program is finalizing commitments from churches, Rehlander said.
The goal is to have 13 or more active host churches. There currently are 10.5. Several churches have indicated interest but are looking for coordinators in their churches. As soon as they formally commit, Great River Family Promise will be ready to start the program back up in full.
“Our prayer is that coordinators will be found, and we can officially announce that we will re-open on Feb. 1, 2017,” Rehlander said.
The churches who have currently committed to hosting and supporting Great River Family Promise are:
•United Methodist Church, Elk River
•Central Lutheran Church, Elk River
•Christ Our Light Catholic Church, Zimmerman Campus
•Riverside Alliance Church, Big Lake
•St. John Lutheran Church, Zimmerman
•Freshwaters United Methodist Church, Zimmerman Campus
•Emmanuel Lutheran Church, Elk River
•St. Henry Catholic Church, Monticello
•Lord of Glory Lutheran Church, Elk River
•Christ Church, Otsego
•The Crossing Church, Zimmerman Campus
•NorthRidge Fellowship, Rogers

Staffing update
Jess Hartfiel Thurston, Great River Family Promise executive director, is continuing her work with the Central MN Continuum of Care, which is necessary to be able to provide the pre-screening tool for assessing needs and for serving Great River Family Promise families in the future.
Plans are in the works to hire a case manager, Rehlander said.