Volunteering has been deeply ingrained in the Garrett family DNA from the beginning. In fact, Jenn Garrett met her husband Tim during their undergraduate studies through Alternative Spring Break, a group that organized community service projects during spring break. “Helping people is what brought us together and it’s something we still enjoy doing together,” said Jenn.
Before they had children, Jenn and Tim would regularly volunteer with Family Promise (then named Interfaith Hospitality Network) as overnight hosts through Trinity United Methodist Church. Family Promise provides temporary housing, food, job training and child care assistance to families who are homeless. The families spend the night at different churches for a week at a time, with church volunteers providing overnight hosts (like Jenn and Tim), meals and sometimes transportation. “Over the years we met so many wonderful families,” said Jenn. “Many were single mothers with one or more children, some were pregnant women, others were families with husband and wife and children of all ages.”
However, once they had their son, Davis (now 10), Jenn and Tim decided to take a step back from Family promise. “I felt a little overwhelmed by the idea of spending the night away because of his challenging sleep patterns,” said Jenn. Over the next 10 years they continued to grow their family, adding their daughters Lane (7) and Bell (1). “We found other ways to volunteer over the years, but we were missing what was so special about Family Promise — meeting the families and letting them know that we care.”
As their children grew older, Jenn and Tim started searching for a way to teach them (particularly Lane and Davis) how meaningful helping others can be. It was at this time that Beth Haines, the coordinator for Family Promise at Trinity United Methodist Church, reached out to Jenn and Tim to see if they would be interested in volunteering as hosts again. “It seemed like the perfect opportunity,” said Jenn.
As hosts, the Garrett family ate dinner with the family of five staying at Trinity that week. The families got to know one another before heading off to bed, then met up in the kitchen for breakfast in the morning before heading out to their respective schools/jobs. Jenn said that the experience was great for her whole family. Not only did they form new friendships and provide support to a family in need, but it also helped the family reflect on what they have.
“My kids understood that our sacrifice of spending the night away from the comforts of our home for one evening was really not a big deal and that in doing so we made another family so much more comfortable and safe,” said Jenn. “I am grateful to Family Promise for giving me a way to actually show my kids how to be grateful for what we have and generous with our time and resources to give to others in need.”