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Londonderry congregations help homeless with housing

Union Leader Correspondent

January 30. 2013 7:38PM

LONDONDERRY- Two Londonderry congregations will soon open their doors and hearts to four homeless families after joining forces with Family Promise of Greater Rockingham County (FPGRC)

Starting in March, the Londonderry Christian Church (LCC) on Mammoth Road will offer evening lodging on a part-time basis for families in need.

Volunteers from the Orchard Christian Fellowship, which meets monthly at Matthew Thornton Elementary School in Londonderry and is in the process of building a new church on Pillsbury Road, will work closely with the LCC to assist in the process.

The Salem-based charity, which meets monthly at Triumphant Cross Lutheran Church, was formed in hopes of assisting countless area families that have found themselves homeless: victims turbulent economic times and unforeseen circumstances in the communities of Atkinson, Auburn, Chester, Danville, Derry, Hampstead, Kingston, Londonderry, Newton, Pelham, Plaistow, Salem, Sandown and Windham.

An alternative to shelters or transitional housing, FPGRC's program will be fully under way within the next month.

As part of the program, families will spend their evenings at area churches and their days attending educational programs at Calvary Bible Church in Derry.

Participating congregations take turns hosting families: on average, the churches will have overnight guests for about one week every few months.

During the host week, volunteers cook and serve meals, play with children and offer friendship and support to adults.

On Sunday afternoon, recruitment efforts were in full swing at the Londonderry church, with a potluck luncheon for potential volunteers drawing more than 75 congregants.

FPGRC spokesman Bob Stift, a Salem business owner who assists the organization with public outreach, said the need for this program is greater than many realize.

Currently, there are a total of 155 area families registered in the program, he noted.

"These are our neighbors, they're your kids' friends," Stift said. "Things happen: people get laid off and families split up. The problem is a real one, and even if you do have a job, sometimes the rents are too high."

Similar programs have already proven successful.

Stift said Family Promise programs in both the Nashua and Seacoast regions have been operating for the past decade, and plans are in the works to begin a program in Concord sometime next year.

Things are already off to a promising start in Londonderry, Orchard Christian Fellowship Pastor Ken Glazier said on Sunday.

"We're very excited," he said, noting that parishioners had already signed up to cook a meal, bring a loaf of bread or help out in the kitchen.

With his church soon to have a permanent home, Glazier said he's looking forward to a long, happy relationship with Family Promise.

"Once we have some space of our own, we can become a host congregation rather than a support congregation," he said.

"This is just such a positive program," LCC Pastor David Harrison added. "We can't wait to get started."

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