All posts by Friendship House

A Year End #ThankfulThursday

Hi friends,

This is Kim Eppehimer, the Executive Director and CEO of Friendship House. Being that today is the last day of 2020 and our last #ThankfulThursday of the year, I thought it would be appropriate to once again hijack today’s post and reflect on all I am grateful for this year.

Everyone agrees it has been an incredibly difficult year. Almost 350,000 Americans have died of a raging pandemic. We suffered political divides, experienced painful racial inequity continuing to exist in plain sight, and witnessed millions of people experiencing homelessness for the first time.

This year, FH has tried to look for gifts as a sign of hope when we felt uncertain, scared or lost. They are reminders that when we feel things are falling apart around us, we can still take a step forward and have faith we will find firm ground.

Some of these gifts include our February Fundraiser at Hagley Museum, which feels like so long ago. This was our last pre pandemic event where we were able to gather in person, celebrating FH, hugging and eating together. This fundraiser raised necessary funds while hearing success stories from graduates of our programs.

We were able to add two new houses to our Transitional Housing program due to the generous hearts of ChristianaCare and Westminster Presbyterian Church.

We were able to open the Boxwood Empowerment Center as a direct response to the lack of access to resources people so desperately need in our Millcreek, Richardson Park and Newport communities thanks to Calvary Presbyterian church, United Way of Delaware and Delaware Community Foundation.

Our participation in this year’s Highmark Walk broke incredible records for us and for the Wilmington Highmark Walk! We raised over $70,000 with more than 500 registered walkers all over the country.

FH has given almost three times its usual annual financial assistance support with incredible support from many organizations and church partners. As people continue to call us with over paid bills, we have been able to respond with hope to each person.

And we found a new partnership with New Castle County through the opening of the Hope Center. We started this journey thinking we would be able to open winter shelter for several months safely. It has now become a new program run by FH working with our friends living on the street and now many families who are on the brink of homelessness through the state service center hotel voucher program. What an incredible way to end our year.

These opportunities, these gifts, were beacons of light in dark times. The support and faith in our organization from our community has been truly humbling and remarkable.

I think for me the greatest gift has been witnessing the resilience of our organization, through the incredible support of our community. You have heard us say many times we never stopped moving forward. We never closed, we never gave up or gave in to the difficult times. Instead, FH persevered, found creative solutions, and fought for the vulnerable and often invisible people experiencing street level living. We did this while keeping our faith in tomorrow by giving our all today.

As we turn the corner to 2021, I think I am most touched by the collective hope of the human race. Everyone is expecting next year to be “better”. Although I know next year will be hard as we continue to fight through this pandemic, manage the COVID-19 vaccinations, and face the ramifications of lost income for millions of people, the fact that billions of people have hope for a brighter tomorrow brings me peace. That many people can’t be wrong.

Thank you to each and everyone of you – from my heroic colleagues, our incredible board of directors, and our faithful supporters – you have carried this organization forward every stop of the way. I am truly grateful.

May you have a blessed, happy, healthy and safe tomorrow.

Your friend,

Kim Eppehimer

Code Purple Update

It is in our core values and mission to serve our community, fill the gaps, and walk with each person as they find a way home. Especially during the winter. Even during a pandemic.

FH has been part of the Code Purple network in New Castle County for many years and we knew this program would look different this season due to COVID-19. Our first concern was finding space large enough to safely house our friends experiencing street level homelessness. Quickly followed by hiring sufficient staff and getting access to necessary supplies. At the time, it felt daunting and an impossible feat. Then New Castle County offered the idea of hosting Code Purple in a hotel and asked if we would be willing to run the program there. We believe the only answer is “Yes!”

The model of transforming a hotel for emergency shelter and services during the pandemic is being used nationwide by several cities. It is a model that requires collaboration, significant funding, an open mind, creativity and love for one’s community. All of these things are at the table as we are actively planning to use the Sheraton on Airport Road in New Castle as our location for winter shelter this season.

Here is what we know so far about how this will work. First, we will run daytime and evening winter shelter out of the hotel. This winter shelter location will be open every day and every night, not just when weather drops below freezing. Being able to offer 24 hour/ 7 day a week winter shelter during the pandemic is a huge gift and opportunity for our friends living on the streets. As many of you are aware, their lifelines closed when the pandemic forced so many businesses and organizations to close their buildings. This will be made more difficult in colder weather.

We are anticipating a December 15 start date. We will pre register people who are experiencing street level homelessness for space in the hotel now, starting with guests who frequent our Empowerment Centers.

Many logistics remain outstanding. For example, how we will feed our guests in the hotel, transportation (day and night) to and from the hotel, and how referrals will work.

Many of you have asked what you can do to help. If COVID-19 guidelines allow, we will offer volunteer opportunities. We need hygiene items such as toothbrushes, toothpaste and soap (regular and travel size). In addition, we will need non perishable food items such as bottled water and individually wrapped snacks (pretzels, granola bars, fruit snacks, etc.) As well as new socks, underwear, and winter items (coats, gloves, and hats.)

We also will need your prayer and patience. This process is only possible because we are working in collaboration with other organizations and the New Castle County city council. This is a huge undertaking, and one we are so honored to be able to do. We will continue to share information as we learn more and create a plan of action.

To stay informed about Code Purple, visit our Code Purple web page and follow us on Facebook.

Thank you for all you do to be part of our loving, supportive community.

2020 Reflection

2020 will be one for our history books. As we face the COVID-19 pandemic, destruction coming from so many storms and horrendous fires, racial disparities, and tension in our community and systems it feels overwhelmingly sad and heart wrenching. I often hear the word “maddening” to describe the current state of affairs.

And yet, I cannot ignore the abundance of gifts surrounding us.

One gift is my coworkers, who showed courageous leadership ensuring Friendship House stayed open the past eight months. They displayed compassion as they handed out hundreds of cups of coffee, not once letting the danger of getting sick get in their way of showing love through their masked faces and gloved hands. They remained a team, some even remotely, to make sure every need was filled.

Another gift has been you: our loving and supportive community. We hit records this spring in personal giving and with our Highmark Walk fundraiser. We hit records in donations of food to our residents and our Empowerment Center guests. You held on to your clothing donations until we were ready to take them. We asked and you responded, again and again. You loved us and those we serve even when you couldn’t be there in person to tell us.

This year could have caused us to hunker down, protect our assets and wait out the storm. Maybe even cut back and shrink to ensure no losses. Instead, because of our loving and supportive community, we responded to the cries of help with an abundance of gifts.

When we heard the cries of our community saying they can’t afford to pay for the most necessary items, we responded by expanding our Empowerment Center services. When we heard the cries of our community saying there is not enough affordable housing, we responded by growing and changing our Transitional Housing program. When we heard the cries of students in need of school uniforms, our Clothing Bank committed to get them the clothing they desperately need. All because of you: our worshipping communities, foundations, and businesses.

Another gift this year has been the gift we receive from our guests every day. Friendship House uses Jesus as an example of how to serve others. We are reminded of his call to action: when you serve the hungry, thirsty or homeless, you serve him.

When you open your heart during the act of serving, you realize you are the one receiving the gift. When our guests come to us for assistance like a cup of coffee, a room in one of our houses, a coat on a cold night, they are giving us a gift. Their gratitude and grace lets us know we matter, too. There is a powerful gift in knowing you matter. Each of us can give that gift, regardless of where you call home.

Friendship House believes the solution to homelessness is community. True community is when there is mutual giving and receiving of each other’s gifts from God. This is at the heart of what we do. Many of the guests we are blessed to work with understand that. So much so I sometimes wonder if we are mislabeling who is experiencing homelessness.

Homelessness is stretching far and wide this year as millions are losing their savings. More than 200,000 Americans have lost their lives in less than seven months from COVID-19 related deaths and that number is rising. There is a political divide greater than anything most of us have ever experienced. And still, this year continues to provide us gifts. You may have to squint hard to see them, but they are there.

It is through this mutual giving and receiving, with grace, love and support from one another, we will all find a way home.

– Kim Eppehimer (Executive Director)

Good Luck Mary Anne!

We’re sad to announce Mary Anne Matarese’s retirement from Friendship House! During her 6 years with us, she has been such an asset to our Women’s Transitional Housing Program. Mary Anne is deeply loved by residents, volunteers and staff! We are thankful for all she’s done for FH. We will miss Mary Anne dearly and wish her well!

COVID-19 Update | November 11, 2020

Friendship House has been hard at work this year ensuring safe delivery of services during this pandemic. So far, we have ensured our guests experiencing street level homelessness, who had life lines shut down when the state went on lockdown back in March, had access to the most urgent things like bathrooms, hand washing stations, food, water and even emergency shelter through hotel vouchers. During this time, we were able to give 100 people hotel rooms, serve over 20,000 meals and countless cups of coffee!

We have seen significant increases in financial assistance requests. With support from businesses and foundations we have been able to provide more than 1,000 people directly affected by COVID-19 with additional financial assistance to prevent homelessness and lack of utilities.

We have continued to provide clothing, job training and transitional housing throughout this pandemic, too. Although never easy, FH continued to find a way in connecting people facing homelessness with loving, supportive communities they can call home.

Now, we face winter. FH is committing to providing winter shelter this season. Due to COVID-19, it will not be the same as previous years. We are working in collaboration with the state, county, our dedicated Code Purple partners, and many other agencies to ensure safe and effective options. Please make sure to follow us on Facebook and sign up for our electronic newsletters for updates.

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