By connecting donors one-to-one with specific families in need, Family-to-Family brings a large and seemingly intractable problem — poverty — into personal focus, making tangible results possible one family at a time.
Lending a Hand the Robin Hood Way
In fall 2002, The New York Times ran a series of articles highlighting poverty in the U.S. One article described the town of Pembroke, Illinois as a community so poor that “some still live in crumbling shacks with caked-dirt floors and no running water.” Pam Koner — a mom and entrepreneur from Westchester, New York — read that article and immediately felt compelled to help.
Pam contacted an outreach worker in Pembroke with the simple idea of linking families she knew who had enough food and other basic life necessities with families who were struggling to get by. The outreach worker supplied Pam with the names of 17 of the neediest families in Pembroke. Pam then convinced 17 of her friends and neighbors to join her cause. Each family agreed, and shortly thereafter, began sending monthly boxes of food donations and letters to each of the Pembroke families.
17 families soon grew to 60, and after a flurry of media exposure, 60 families grew to over 900. Thus, Family-to-Family was born — a national hunger and poverty relief organization dedicated to connecting families who have enough to share with impoverished American families who have profoundly less.
After Hurricane Katrina devastated Louisiana and parts of the American South, Pam kickstarted “It’s in the Bag”, a donation-based program built on the Pembroke model, which linked over 1,000 displaced families to matching donor families. Donors shipped basic necessities like blankets, dishes, and clothing to families who had lost nearly everything in the storm.
Family-to-Family made Christmas 2005 happen for Hurricane Katrina-affected families by sponsoring a toy drive that yielded over 15,000 donated toys, wrapping paper, and ribbons. The toys and wrapping paper were shipped to select sites around the Gulf of Mexico so that parents could “shop” (with no funds needed) locally for their own children, and wrap gifts themselves. The idea was that come Christmas morning, the gifts were given by mom and dad as though they had purchased them themselves.
Family-to-Family has coordinated a similar toy drive for its hunger relief families every Christmas since.
Then in 2012, Family-to-Family supported Hurricane Sandy victims by linking more than 700 families together, donating over 860 “Welcome Home” boxes filled with nonperishable food, coordinating a toy drive that yielded over 2,000 holiday toys, and cooking a wholesome Thanksgiving dinner for 3,500 hurricane-affected families struggling with poverty.
As the organization grew, Family-to-Family tapped into the volunteer pool provided by VolunteerMatch. “The energy, interest, and follow through on the part of volunteers helping with our giving programs or working with us in the office have been amazingly beneficial to our organization,” says Pam.
“Our postings on VolunteerMatch — especially ones for volunteer grant writers and public relations specialists — have brought us many talented volunteers over the last several years. We list opportunities volunteers can do from home or in the workplace.”
One volunteer that stands out to Pam is Sharon: a former head of HR at a major international corporation and, according to Pam, a priceless find. Sharon was looking for ways to give back to her community after an early retirement in 2015, so she went on VolunteerMatch to find an organization that was compatible with her skills and vision. After a quick search on our platform, she discovered Family-to-Family.
Sharon volunteers approximately 15 hours of her time each week by drafting compelling content to potential corporate partners and communicating the uniqueness of the organization’s model and value proposition.
Today, Family-to-Family helps connect struggling families across the U.S. with people and families who want to help. The organization is still run by Pam Koner and her team out of Hastings-on-Hudson, New York. Learn more and connect with Family-to-Family on VolunteerMatch today!
Through Family-to-Family's doorknob program, volunteers shop for groceries that
can make one dinner for a family of five.