I wanted to work somewhere that spoke to my heart. Family Promise was that place.
Claas lived many places in his early youth but ultimately settled in dairy country in Westtown, NY. He worked for many years in the film and publishing industry and also served as an adjunct professor of writing at La Guardia College in New York City. He considered teaching full time until he came upon a wonderful organization called Family Promise in 2001. He's been there ever since. Claas's wife Ellen will join him on the cruise.
Claas volunteers in numerous organizations in New Jersey such as soup kitchens, which he helps organize with the Islamic Center of Passaic, blood drives (he has donated over 90 times), and the Lutheran/Episcopalian Disaster Relief response after Katrina. His entire work life, however, is dedicated to helping homeless families find permanent homes and the jobs to keep them long term. That's what Family Promise is all about.
As Director of Affiliate Services at Family Promise, Claas coordinates 181 affiliated organizations nationwide to find housing for homeless families. This is a non-profit organization that works with the congregations of all faiths. These congregations feed, house, and seek employment for homeless families, typically turning their lives around in 63 days. That's the average time that these homeless families need to find permanent work and shelter. Claas gets tremendous help from the community, networks everywhere, and helps the community help the people who need it most. In 2011, they served 49,000 family members with shelter and outreach programs, finding work for the parents, and offering tutoring for the children, and getting the families back on track. The goal is to get the families into a safe environment and back to work permanently.
The success rate of Family Promise is remarkable. Once they find homes, 77% of the families stay there long term. Says Claas: "This program lifts my heart. It is an interfaith effort to find long term solutions, not just apply a band aid. It integrates the best of religious and community spirit to help the neediest among us, and it works spectacularly."