“Transforming the lives of families experiencing homelessness. Because every child deserves a home.” That’s the mission of Family Promise Montco PA, where Michael Cuff has volunteered his time and efforts year-round since 2015.
A deacon in the Catholic church, Michael sees the promise in each person. He’s an encourager, a connector and an organizer, acting as a beacon of hope and support for families experiencing homelessness. A resident of Ambler, Penn., Michael shares his love for the organization and the communities it serves with members of his congregation. He embodies humble vitality and enthusiasm along the way. Read more about what motivates Michael in his volunteerism as well as some of the things that Family Promise Montco PA is achieving.
Describe your volunteer role with The Interfaith Housing Alliance.
I’m a deacon in the Catholic church – that’s more of a calling. Part of that calling is to help people in need: the lonely, the sick, widows, prisoners. Take The Beatitudes and The Corporal Works of Mercy – they’re pretty basic, and I try to live those out. Through that, I became involved as a coordinator with a program called Family Promise, part of the Interfaith Housing Alliance. It’s a program working with various churches in the area to sponsor unhoused individuals.
What that means is they give them a place to stay while they’re looking for work during the day. This includes not only a place to sleep, but also meals every night, a place to bathe, access to computers to try to find work, counselors to help them with money management, social workers to help with things like childcare. In the churches, we’re asked to help stabilize these people’s lives by giving them a place to eat and rest every day, and that helps them find their way out of homelessness.
So there’s one church that’s the main place for three months. Then each week, other churches in the area provide volunteers to go to that church to greet the families, bring the meals, spend time with them, and in some situations, even provide transportation. It’s a very good program. I’ve been kind of a jack of all trades for the program. I help some of their other clients find work, provide minor financial services or a ride, and maybe even some spiritual guidance.
What inspires you to volunteer?
The word “deacon” has direct ties back to the Greek word “diakonia,” which means “one who serves.” In times of old, men worked and widows often got neglected. So it was the deacons’ responsibility to go and provide for these widows. So it’s all tied back to the same concept.
Our faith is built on two things: word and deed. You can go on Sunday and do all the singing and praying you want, but if you don’t go out those doors and live out what you’re singing and praying about Monday through Friday, you’re forgetting what it’s all about. Word and deed. That word “and” is important. It connects the liturgy and the service. That’s what inspires me.
Sometimes when you listen to the news, it can seem overwhelming – the violence, the homelessness, all these different things. But if everyone helped one person, we wouldn’t have some of these problems. I don’t think people realize the thin line between housing insecurity and the costs of things… the income disparities are becoming bigger and bigger.
Please share a rewarding moment from your work.
There was a young woman several years ago in the program who had two small children. She needed some extra help. She was going to some of the most unsafe places in Philadelphia, riding an unusual bus route to take her kids to a daycare there. I was able for a two-week period to provide her with morning and evening transportation. That was one less thing she had to do.
Down the road, she was progressing through the program, doing everything that was being expected, through her work she was doing very well. Eventually, she started going back to school. To make a long story short, about a month and a half ago I ran into her and she told me she just finished her associate’s degree, and now she’s working on her undergraduate degree.
This is a woman, just five or six years ago, who was in a very tough spot in her life. That, to me, proves that if people are willing to help other people, it can make a huge difference. It’s not a handout. She even told me she wants to major in social work in order to come back and help others the way she was helped.
Why do you think it’s important for others to get involved with causes they care about?
Because if you step back and think about it, our government isn’t going to fix it. Our people can’t even talk to each other, how sad is that? The primary problem is that people are attacking each other. There’s so much judgment.
There are things we can do as a community to make things better. Each one of us is here to help other people. Each one of us has different skills and different vocations, so we just have to find what we’re being called to.
One of the things we do in baptism is we pray over the ears and the mouth, a prayer to open the ears and mouth. Open our ears, and be able to speak what we hear. A lot of times, the speech part is the action, what we do in response. Actions speak louder than words, and we all need to use our gifts, talents and abilities to help others.
Are there future partnerships, programs or events that you are excited about?
There’s always a need. Always. Family Promise of Montgomery County Pennsylvania is an interfaith organization. They have different events, they have golf outings, they’re always looking for volunteers, service, donations, etcetera. They need volunteers to paint, financial assistance and more.
How can people find out more about the current needs?
Go to Family Promise Montco PA. It’s not just Christians – it’s an interfaith organization, including Jewish temples and others, banding together to help the community.
Do you want to make a difference in your community like Michael? Find local volunteer opportunities.