STOW —With homelessness on the rise, a Stow church is committed to giving families an opportunity to stay together as they get back on their feet. To that end, Family Promise of Summit County was the first Chalice Grant recipient from the First Christian Church of Stow. 

"Their focus on keeping homeless families together" resonated with church representatives, according to Allan Naylor, chairman of the Stewardship team at First Christian. In 2016, church officials decided if the annual giving of its congregation exceeded what was pledged by a certain percentage, those additional funds could be earmarked for use as an arm of its outreach program. 

"We were trying to find ways to increase the impact of our outreach program in the community," Naylor says. The church, which is almost 100 years old, has approximately 200 active members.

"One of the key things that we wanted," Naylor says, "is that this was to be a game-changing gift for an agency who basically is working to serve God’s children. And their (Family Promises) application checked all the boxes we felt were important." 

Church officials recently presented Jeff Wilhite, executive director of Family Promise, with a check for $10,000. Family Promise is working with The Battered Women’s Shelter to renovate apartments in a building at 1100 Copley Road. "We’re currently able to serve four families at a time," Wilhite says, "and what that means is over the course of a year we’re able to serve between 30 and 35 families." With the donation from First Christian, which will be used to renovate one of the nine apartments in the building, "we’ll be able to help an additional 12 families a year," Wilhite reports. He says he hopes families will be able to move in to the apartment during the first quarter of 2019.

When all nine apartments in the building are renovated and put into service, Wilhite says Family Promise will be able to serve "upwards of 70 to 80 families a year." As of the end of November, there were  236 homeless families that Family Promise officials were aware of in Summit County, Wilhite says, adding, "The need is unbelievable and the need has increased this year."

Reporter Ellin Walsh can be reached at 330-541-9419, or @EllinWalsh_RPC.