the Yvonne Esworthy Story
From the words of John Bechtel, FPHCR’s founding President:
“Yvonne was a member of my home church, Tree of Life Lutheran, in Harrisburg. I got to know Yvonne in 2008, when I started to drive her to her chemotherapy appointments.
It turned out that, like me, she was a CPA and a former basketball player (although Yvonne was big league and John was very little league on both counts!). Anyway, we got to talking about our Family Promise development effort, which was very much in its infancy then. Yvonne was looking for something she could do at home, on her own time table. So I asked her to tackle the Internal Revenue Service application that we needed to put together, in order to apply for the federal tax exempt status which every charity needs. That would be a daunting task for most of us. But for Yvonne, given her CPA background, it was like just another day at the office. So she took it on and got it done. That alone was a big lift for us.
But that was not all Yvonne did for us. Not by a long shot.
In April 2009, when Yvonne knew she was dying, she also knew there would be sizeable memorial fund contributions to our church in her memory. So she asked Scott, her husband, and our Pastors, Richard and Cathy Geib, to earmark half of those memorial funds for us, for Family Promise, when that time came.
Just take a moment and put yourself in her shoes, especially you Moms with kids still at home, and really let that sink in. Here was Yvonne, a 36 year old Mom with a son in pre-school, in her last days, dying of cancer. Try to imagine everything she had to have on her mind. Try to imagine everything that would have been on yours!
It still spins me around that Yvonne was EVEN THINKING ABOUT Family Promise at that stage of her life.
Thanks to Yvonne, Family Promise collected over $5,800 from those memorial contributions in her memory in April 2009, at a time when our fundraising was going pretty slowly. It was just a huge shot in the arm for us then.
Yvonne made a very deep impact on me. Even though she was young enough to be my daughter, by the end she felt more like the kid sister I never had. In a spiritual way, more like a big sister. I say that because she taught me so much about courage and confidence in the face of approaching death.
My own life journey has taken me pretty far and wide. I’ve had the chance to wander back and forth across all the lines of race, creed, culture and geography that make the world such a diverse place. I’ve had the chance to get to know many attractive, intelligent, and interesting people. I’ve also known many kind and caring people. I’ve even met a few brave people. But there’s only one heroic person whom I’ve ever had the privilege to know, and I think you all know who that heroine is that I’m talking about.
As Christians, we talk a lot about love. And serious Greek scholars might tell us that the Greek word “Agape” has nothing to do with our idea of romantic love, or our idea of love for family members. Agape love is more about the head than the heart. Agape love calls for an attitude of invincible good will, a “will power” for which the Holy Spirit is the source. You could even say, I think, that Agape love is heroic love.
That’s why I feel that the example Yvonne set for us all to follow, in her last days of life on earth, is the highest example of Agape love I’ve ever seen close at hand.
To read about the impact Yvonne continues to make by her presence in the life of those she has left behind, please check out this link about a cancer research walk in her honor:
She was featured in the WBCA Pink Zone Stories. Read this article.
1986: THE FIRST NETWORK
When Karen learned that homelessness was affecting families right in her own community in New Jersey, she knew she had to do something. But this was much more than giving sandwiches. She brought together people in need and people who wanted to help. Existing community resources could provide shelter, meals, and housing. Volunteers could use their skills, knowledge, and compassion to help their homeless neighbors find employment, reconnect with society, and restore their dignity.
She approached the religious community. Congregations offered hospitality space within their buildings. The YMCA provided showers and a family Day Center. A car dealer discounted a van. The first interfaith hospitality network opened on October 27, 1986.
National Family Promise History
1988: THE NETWORK GOES NATIONAL
As word spread, more New Jersey congregations formed a second network. Other congregations were inspired to develop similar programs. In 1988, we formed the National Interfaith Hospitality Network to bring the program nationwide. In addition to shelter, meals, housing, and job-seeking support, our Affiliates began developing programs for transitional housing, childcare, and homelessness prevention. Nationally, we added programs like Just Neighbors and Family Mentoring.
1992: POINT OF LIGHT
Family Promise was awarded one of 21 Points of Light, out of a field of more than 4,500 nominees, by President and Barbara Bush, signifying Family Promise as one of the top volunteer agencies in the country. The award recognizes how one neighbor can help another, and calls upon the nation to take action in service to our fellow citizens.
2003: WE BECOME FAMILY PROMISE
We changed our name, from the National Interfaith Hospitality Network to Family Promise, to reflect our broad range of programs and our vision of ending family homelessness. The name refers to the promise, in the sense of commitment, which communities make to families in need. But it also refers to the promise, the potential, inherent in every family.