By Greg Means/Beacon Editor

Volunteers Pat Backman, left, and Susan Lloyd stand at the playground used by children when White Lake United Methodist Church hosts homeless families. Behind them is the classroom wing of the church which is used to house the families. The church tries to make the facility as much like home as possible.

Pat Backman, assisted by Sue Lloyd, has spent the last 10 years volunteering for Family Promise through their church, White Lake United Methodist.

Four times a year for a week at a time Pat and Sue mobilized their crew of volunteers to welcome families into the church from 5:00 p.m. to 6:00 a.m. They prepare rooms for families, do meal plan and prep, transportation planning, evening and overnight hosting for families experiencing homelessness.

The volunteers put in at least 275 total hours for each week they host at their church. This northern Muskegon County group has given 11,000 hours in service to homeless families the last 10 years. It takes approximately 25-30 volunteers for each hosting week.

White Lake United Methodist served as the site of service, the host church. In a truly ecumenical program, volunteers also came from St. Peter’s by the Lake, Ferry Memorial Reformed Church, Claybanks United Methodist, White Lake Congregational United Church of Christ, Lebanon Lutheran, White Lake Wesleyan and Evangelical Covenant-Whitehall to spend the night and provide meals. Ferry Memorial provides transportation in its church van.

Backman said White Lake United Methodist has the facilities to host the homeless families. Classrooms and supporting facilities become four bedrooms, a living room, dining room, kitchen and nursery. A shower has been installed.

In the church’s backyard there is a playground and fire pit.

“I was really involved in Habitat for Humanity and we had an opportunity (hosting Family Promise,” Backman explained why she became involved.

Lloyd said she became involved in Family Promise because “Pat asked me. I work for District Court and I see a lot of people. Being able to help someone in the moment is an appealing opportunity. And, I like working with Pat.”

Family Promise of the Lakeshore is a rotating shelter. Homeless families spend their days at the Day Center looking for employment and housing. Children leave for school from the Day Center. Life Skills classes that include parenting and budgeting are also held there. Casework services are provided all families.

Families who have experienced this warm-hearted group’s special touch have told us, “They really make us feel welcome.” When families have been asked about their favorite thing, the response has been, “Pat Backman, bonfires and being near the woods!” Families have expressed appreciation for the wonderful, home cooked meals provided and were full of gratitude because volunteers had taken them to Michigan’s Adventure, or swimming, or sledding in the winter – experiencing many things for the first time.

There aren’t enough words to show Pat Backman and Sue Lloyd how they have touched the lives of well over 200 homeless families, welcoming parents and hugging children. Darlene Willbrandt is stepping into the Lead Coordinator position and is looking for a capable assistant. If interested, contact White Lake Methodist Church at 894-5789.

Family Promise of the Lakeshore, founded in November, 2009, is a 501© 3 non-profit organization and a part of a nationwide network of 200 agencies headquartered in New Jersey. Family Promise of the Lakeshore was established in response to a growing need to serve homeless families by keeping them together as a family unit while seeking to address housing and other issues. Family Promise has served over 240 families with 336 adults and 430 children. Family Promise has a 90% success rate.