Former educator Kay Galli is appalled by the idea of children living in cars or on the streets. Since 2012, she’s been involved with Family Promise of Linn County, a local chapter of the national nonprofit that works to eliminate family homelessness.
“They have a vision in which every family has a home, a livelihood, and a chance to build a better future,” Galli says. “The families are able to stay together and that gives them strength.”
For the past eight years, Galli has been organizing musical fundraisers for Family Promise. The next one, “Joyful Noises,” will be held on Saturday, April 6, at St. Paul’s United Methodist Church in Cedar Rapids.
“They call me the producer,” she jokes. “I’ve always had a mixture of professional musicians and talented musicians —that’s what people love.”
This year’s Joyful Noises concert promises to be no exception, and Galli hopes to fill all 750 seats at St. Paul’s.
Family Promise, which helps homeless families achieve sustainable independence through their communities, has a very high success rate. A nonsectarian, faith-based organization, Family Promise works with religious organizations and humanitarian agencies to provide food, shelter, childcare, and vocational assistance for homeless families. Their volunteers represent virtually all faiths practiced in the United States.
In the Linn County program, faith communities create rotating temporary housing for families. Families spend a week at each church or temple, arriving after Sunday services to get settled and fed. A centrally located Family Day Center provides showers, laundry, and a place for parents to look for jobs and housing.
Volunteers help orient the families, share meals, provide transportation, and listen without judgment to their stories. Families receive assistance finding jobs and affordable housing. Nationally, Family Promise has an 82 percent success rate in finding families long-term housing over a nine-week period.
Homelessness is a growing problem in Iowa, with downsizing, technological advances, and mechanization contributing to job loss, and rising medical bills making it hard to pay rent. According to data provided by the Cedar Rapids, College Community, Linn-Mar, and Marion school districts, over 900 children ages 5 to 17 were homeless in 2017–18.
The Joyful Noises concerts feature some of the finest musicians in the area. According to Galli, once musicians learn about Family Promise and its “wonderful success rate,” they’re eager to donate their time. This year, professional harpist Bethany Wheeler is returning after performing at a fundraiser several years ago. “She’s fabulous,” Galli says. The Iowa Accordion band is making their third appearance, because “they make everybody happy.” Back for his second performance is world-renowned Native American flutist Jonny Lipford. “He’s just awesome,” says Galli. Steve Shanley, keyboardist and Assistant Professor of Music at Coe College, will be playing jazz with his 14-year-old daughter Vivian, who was first-chair bass at the All-State Orchestra this year.
Galli says there will also be a “wonderful” gospel singer, a talented string quartet, and a high school senior at Xavier “who’s off the charts as far as his ability to play marimba and timpani.” Galli’s youngest granddaughter, an award-winning spoken-word artist from Des Moines, will be performing a piece about homelessness. The entire event will be emceed by KCCK radio’s Ron Adkins.
Donations have averaged about $8,000 in the past, but Galli hopes to raise $10,000 this year. There are no tickets, and admission is by free-will offering. Doors open at 6 p.m. for hors d’oeuvres and auction baskets, and the concert starts at 7 p.m.
For more information about Family Promise of Linn County, call (319) 540-6494 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.