A Step Up & Out for Two Homeless Families
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A Step Up & Out for Two Homeless Families

Grand Circle Foundation helps to ease the transition from homeless shelter to home

Kaif's family came to the United States from Somalia when she was just a young girl. Now a U.S. citizen, she is a dedicated mother with a strong work ethic, putting in long hours as a home health aide to provide the best future possible for her 2-year-old daughter, Leeyana. But despite Kaif's best efforts, even life's most basic comforts seemed all but unattainable—at least, up until a few weeks ago. Kaif and Leeyana were living in a homeless shelter.

At the end of August, Kaif's luck changed when the mother and daughter became the 26th family to move out of the Boston Family Shelter (BFS) and into their very own apartment with the help of Grand Circle Foundation's Up & Out program. For the recently homeless, finding an apartment is just the first step on the long and costly path to independence. Acquiring items like furniture, bedding, kitchen appliances, and even cleaning products can seem insurmountable for families struggling to get back on their feet. The Up & Out program relieves them of this burden. The costliest furnishings—like beds, tables, couches, etc.—are purchased with proceeds from Grand Circle's annual holiday raffle, which raised more than $20,000 for Up & Out in 2009 alone.

Everything else—from cleaning to interior decorating—is taken care of by Grand Circle associates. They donate new and gently used furniture, housewares, and decorations; and teams of volunteers assist with packing, moving, and scrubbing the apartment from top to bottom. They even make sure there's food in the refrigerator.

Kaif's move came together in record time, thanks to the dedication of Grand Circle volunteers Nancy Fogarty, Director of Project Management & Usability; and Kim McLaughlin, Information Systems Business Analyst. Their efforts have brought Kaif one huge step closer to fulfilling her dream of a better future for little Leeyana—and the young mother is incredibly grateful. "I asked Kaif if she had any questions," says Lauren Fabrizio, who coordinates the Foundation's community service efforts. "Her response was, 'After I am moved in, is there any way I can help you with another family who needs it?' I was so touched. It made me so proud to be a part of this program."

Just one week after moving Kaif, Grand Circle volunteers gave new meaning to the term "Labor Day," forgoing the usual pool parties and barbecues to prepare a new apartment for Up & Out's 27th family: Latoiya and her 3-year-old son, Michael. Latoiya is in the process of obtaining her GED, and plans to pursue a career in medical coding and billing. Most important to her, however, is providing a stable home environment for Michael.

Lauren was one of the volunteers during Labor Day weekend, along with her fellow associate Julie Kremer, Director of People & Culture. "It is an unbelievable feeling to be able to give someone a home," she says—noting that she was especially proud of Michael's room, which was decorated with cars and trucks at the little boy's request. "Latoiya broke down and cried when she thanked us, and said, 'I can't believe this is mine.'" For Lauren and her fellow volunteers, that's why Up & Out is a labor of love.