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Making a difference in New Hampshire without government funding

Best Barn Dance Ever fund raiser for Seacoast Family Promise
Best Barn Dance Ever fund raiser for Seacoast Family Promise
Harry McClard

It seems that several times a day we are asked to help with donations for various charities but they also receive funding from either the local, state, or federal government. Occasionally, we hear about charities that do real work helping real people who are in need. New Hampshire's Seacoast Family Promise is one of those organizations.

Tonight John Decker's Stratham, NH, barn was site for Seacoast Family Promise's (SFP) first annual "Best Barn Dance Ever" fund raising event. This was a chance for the group to come out of the background and into the limelight for at least a few minutes. Pati Frew-Waters, SFP Executive Director, acted as host and gave a passionate speech during the Ben Baldwin and the Big Note band break. Ms. Frew-Waters explained SFP's mission and how homeless families are being helped.

SFP has been a 501c charity for 10 years, offering housing and support services for families with children who have become homeless. The families may stay with SFP for up to 6 months but the average stay over the past year has been 70 days.

The families are taken-in by SFP and then housing and meals are provided by more than a dozen local churches and meals are provided by church member volunteers and other local volunteer groups. The children attend school as they would in "normal life" and the parent(s) are supported with education in finance and other skills that are needed to become and remain self sufficient.

The typical family that asks for help is one that finds itself suddenly, and usually for reasons beyond their control, without home or transportation or shelter. The parent(s) may have just lost their job and only source of income. The most troubling fact with these families is that the average age of homeless child is 9 years old. In 2013, 19 families were supported that included 62 children. Over its 10 year history, more than 80 percent of families assisted "graduated" in less than the 6 month maximum and became and remained self sufficient.

And, SFP does all this with no government funding. In fact, SFP managed all its good work with a total operating budget of $211,000 for the entire year of 2013. Its faith-based charity network and the good will of the various volunteers are reminiscent of the "old days" when it would have been unimaginable to think of government aid for local problems that the churches and community minded folks gladly handled themselves.

SFP needs more funding to meet the challenges of increasing costs and more families that truly need their help. But, simple little things like a "Best Ever Barn Dance" and silent auctions of donated items and charitable funds donations by local businesses and individuals will be SFP's ticket to monetary success. Going after government hand-outs just isn't in their game plan.

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