story by jeff whitten
photos by luke smith
It’s said that when one door closes, another door opens. So, after a
divorce left Joe Tallent with more time on his hands than he knew what
to do with, he decided to put that time to good use.
“I was only getting to spend half as much time with my kids as I
did when I was married, and I didn’t want to be sitting by myself at
home, so I started getting more active in my church and active in the
community,” said Tallent, who is putting that part about “getting more
active” mildly. He’s currently involved in the Effingham Sunrise
Rotary Club, on the Effingham County High School Council, is a member
of the board of directors of the local YMCA and also serves with the
United Way Director Bonnie Dixon said Tallent’s talents are an
asset to the group.
“United Way values all of our volunteers as they each bring a
special expertise and personality to our organization,” she said. “We
are most fortunate to have someone of Joe Tallent’s caliber serving on
our Effingham Advisory Board. He came into our organization ready to
help! He has embraced United Way on many levels, including serving on
the United Way of the Coastal Empire’s Vision Council, the Effingham
Allocation Panel and V-Chair of our annual Effingham fundraising
campaign! His medical knowledge has also made him a great asset to our
newest program, Two Rivers Health Clinic.”
And then there’s Family Promise of Effingham County, a nonprofit
organization which aims to help homeless families help themselves find
homes. Tallent is currently president of the nonprofit organization’s
board of directors. He got involved early in the process when friends
at Springfield United Methodist Church asked him to pitch in and help
get Family Promise off the ground in Effingham.
“It was still being formed then. They were helping to get it
going, and they asked me if I’d be interested in becoming involved,”
Tallent said. “I learned about it and decided I wanted to help. And
like many people, it’s not like I have a lot of money to throw at
things, but I can give you my time.”
Tallent has more time to give than some, because his job as
coordinator of Effingham Health System’s community outreach program
means he’s already reaching out to the community through good works
such as Family Promise.
“The hospital is very supportive of the community outreach,”
Tallent said. “Being the coordinator, the administrator gives me the
autonomy to do things out in the community. Even if that wasn’t the
case, I’d still do it on my own time, this just frees me up to do more
during the day.”
Tallent is an athletic trainer by education and spent more than a
decade on the sidelines. He was introduced to the profession while in
high school and went on to earn a scholarship at Georgia Southern,
then worked as head athletic trainer at both Johnson and Effingham
County High School before moving into management for Effingham Health
System, where he also works as operations coordinator.
“I’m still a trainer, but as you get older the hours start to add
up. You work a lot of long hours at night and on weekends, and that
takes its toll. So when I had the opportunity to move into management,
I took advantage of it,” said Tallent, who also spends as much time
as he can with his children and is also “addicted to Crossfit. I go to
Crossfit Groundspeed in Rincon, and it’s really made a lot of changes
in my life.”
Working with Family Promise has also impacted Tallent, and that’s
not unusual, because understanding the depth of Effingham’s homeless
problem can be an eye-opening experience for anyone. In 2015, there
were approximately 235 homeless children attending local schools,
children who come from an estimated 65 homeless families.
“I really had no idea we had that many homeless people in the
county,” Tallent said. “There is a problem in Effingham, there is an
issue, but it’s harder to see in a rural area. If you’re downtown in a
city, you see people sleeping on a park bench or in the streets, but
in a rural area you don’t see them, they’re not as visible.”
Family Promise of Effingham County began in 2013 and is roughly
based on a national program which started as the Interfaith
Hospitality Network. In the Effingham County version, a dozen
“covenant” and three support churches shelter homeless families while
they go through a program of anywhere from six to eight weeks geared
toward solving whatever problem led to that family losing its home,
whether it be loss of job, budgeting skills or some other problem.
Most who go through the program, nearly 85 percent, get permananet
So far, a dozen families have found homes through Family Promise,
said Ashley Moore, the group’s fulltime director. She praises the work
of volunteers such as Tallent and those businesses that have stepped
up to help.
“Family Promise is very fortunate to have community support from
local businesses that allow their employees to be involved with our
organization,” Moore said. “Joe has done a great job as board
president by promoting Family Promise within the community and helping
the organization strategically plan for the future. Joe, as well as
our other board members has been instrumental in continuing the
mission of Family Promise and helping the organization grow.”
It’s knowing he and others are helping homeless families turn
things around that has the biggest impact on him personally, Tallent
“I know we are helping somebody,” he said. “As far as who is in
the program, I don’t know that and I don’t know their faces. As a
board member, I don’t want to know their faces. That’s Ashley’s job,
and I respect that confedentiality she has with the families. But I
enjoy it when she tells us the details and shows us the statistics.”
Those stats show a single mother with three children who is able
to find a home, and a married couple with four children who graduate
from the program and are no longer homeless, Tallent said.
“I know we’re making a positive impact,” he said. “We’re helping
the homeless people of Effingham County, these are people that are not
coming back into the program. They’re getting out there, they’re
thriving in their jobs … they’re out they’re thriving as a family as
a whole. I don’t have to know their face or their name. Just knowing
what we do has helped somebody along the way, getting them from being
homeless to having a home, that’s enough for me.”
Family Promise: What it is, who it helps and how it works, how you can be a part
Springfield-based Family Promise of Effingham County is a private
effort by local churches and concerned citizens that seeks to help
homeless families get back on their feet and find housing. The 501(c)3
nonprofit was formed in 2014 and served its first family in June of
that year, according to Executive Director Ashley Moore.
It does so with the help of member churches who form an
interfaith hospitality network to take turns housing the families
during their time in the program. Four families were served in 2014,
another eight have been served so far in 2015, according to Moore, who
noted that the program is trying to add churches to its network.
“We’ve got 12 host churches and three support churches involved,
and we’re trying to expand the number of churches involved in the
program,” she said.
Families on average spend anywhere from 90 days to eight weeks in
the program, and rotate from church to church each week until they
make graduate. That means each church will host a family about four or
five times each year, Moore said.
In essence, the program basically gives families a safe place to
stay at night while Family Promise volunteers and others work with the
parents during the day to help them tackle the problems that led to
homelessness, whether it’s loss of income, inability to budget, legal
issues or something else.
“It’s a variety of things,” Moore said. “There’s a large
population just in Effingham County where people live paycheck to
paycheck and squeeze by every month, and then something happens and
they lose their job, or they’re making minimum wage and they get sick
and can’t work as many hours as they usually do. They don’t have
savings and don’t have any emergency plan or anyone to help. They
might get behind on one bill and then try to catch up and get behind
on something else, and things just go from there.”
Moore said there are an estimated 1,100 families living in
poverty in Effingham at the moment. One measure of homelessness in the
county comes from the school system, which tracks those children
enrolled in local schools who are homeless.
Once a family is accepted into Family Promise, the adults get
courses in such things as budgeting, job skills, education and so on.
They also get help looking for housing. Whatever it takes, Moore said,
noting her agency even gets calls from people worried they’re about to
lose their homes and they do what they can to help.
“We do a lot of referrals with outside agencies, so for example
if they need to see a lawyer, we get them in to see Georgia Legal
Services,” she said. “If they need credit counseling then we go
through Consumer Credit Counseling; if they need to get a bank account
we work on that with them, we help them look for housing and so on.”
Daycare is available for children, who are also set up in a
school if they’re not already enrolled.
“We want to keep them in their school of origin if we can,” Moore
said. “That’s the first priority. We make sure they have everything
they need, uniforms, supplies and any extra resources they might need,
like tutoring. And we work with the local YMCA which helps out with
childcare and also with summer camp over the summer.”
So far, the program has experienced an 85 percent success rate in
terms of families who find housing; 100 percent find work. And while
Family Promise plans on expanding next year to offer more classes and
more support after families graduate, some of the problems are outside
“There are times the family will get jobs, have the money saved
and are ready to move out and there’s nothing affordable available in
the county,” she said. “That tends to be the biggest barrier to people
finding housing in the county.”
Family Promise is operating on a budget projected to be between
$130,000 to $140,000; the program is funded through donations,
fundraisers grants and the United Way.
“We just did our first 5K, and we generally do different things
throughout the year and through church outreach,” Moore said. “This is
not just our host churches, but a lot of churches in the area will
take up offerings of things for Family Promise, and so will invidiual
donors. We apply for a lot of grants.
And Family Promise can always use donations — whether it’s of
time, money, gift cards for such things as food or gas, and household
goods such as furniture, towels, linens, cleaning supplies, laundry
supplies and so on.