When his wife Pam died Sept. 30, 2008, Charles McKinsey was determined to keep her memory and a piece of her giving spirit alive.
Completely by chance he met Cheryl Farr, who was involved with Crawfordsville’s HUB Ministries. The two began talking about getting a transitional housing program going in Montgomery County — Farr had long had a passion for such missions, and Pam McKinsey had been one who, despite her own illnesses and physical limitations, always stepped up to take care of others in need.
Together, McKinsey and Farr formed Pam’s Promise Transitional Housing. Since April 2009 the not-for-profit organization has helped homeless people in Montgomery County with transitional housing while also teaching them about budgeting, prioritizing and basic living skills.
“This was Pam’s dream,” McKinsey said, smiling even as tears welled in his eyes. “This and many more things.”
The McKinseys had been married for nearly 30 years when Pam succumbed to complications of severe diabetes.
“The last 28 days she spent in the ICU,” McKinsey said.
Pam’s Promise is funded by grants and donations, and on Wednesday received an early holiday gift in the form of a $5,000 grant check from the Realtor Foundation, the philanthropic arm of the Metropolitan Indianapolis Board of Realtors. The check was presented to Farr by Lynn Ringis, broker-owner of F.C. Tucker West Central in Crawfordsville.
Ringis was recently appointed to the Realtor Foundation’s Board of Directors for 2012 — she is the first Montgomery County representative to be so appointed.
The mission of the Realtor Foundation is to transition individuals and families in central Indiana from homelessness or inadequate or unsafe housing to permanent housing solutions that will improve their quality of life.
“It’s an exciting time for us here in Crawfordsville,” Ringis said with a smile. “I am so happy to be able to present grant money to a Montgomery County organization.”
Farr never met Pam McKinsey, but has come to feel like she knows her through the stories Pam’s husband tells.
“(McKinsey) had this beautiful story to tell,” Farr said. “He talked about how Pam would always take people in. Before she died, she told him she wanted him to continue doing good for people.”
Currently, the three adults and one child utilizing the services of Pam’s Promise live in one of two homes rented through local Realtors by the organization. The ultimate goal, Farr said is for the organization to purchase homes.
“Right now we pay $710 a month for one house and $535 for the other,” she said. “If we owned the houses, the payments would probably be lower.”
The family Farr wrote about in her grant application to the Realtor Foundation now own their own home.
“They were true success stories,” McKinsey said.
Farr said more homes are needed because she has had to turn men away.
“When we have women already in the homes, we obviously can’t put men in with them,” she said.
“I know of three men that need a place right now,” he said. “They’re being taken care of in different ways, but they’re not comfortable.”
Farr said many of the people who have been helped by Pam’s Promise have been in jail or prison and were on probation.
“They’ve done their time and paid their debt to society, and they need time to get back on their feet,” she said.
Many people, McKinsey pointed out, have the wrong idea about what being homeless can mean.
“It doesn’t mean you’re living under a bridge,” he said. “You can be homeless if you’re couch-surfing. You’re welcome at people’s homes at first, but eventually your welcome wears out.”
Farr stressed that the people living in Pam’s Promise homes had to pay rent (30 percent of their income; a maximum of $300 a month for individuals or $350 per month for families) and had to adhere to strict rules and guidelines.
“We don’t have someone there to supervise all the time, but they know we could drop by any time,” she said.
McKinsey said he makes regular visits to the houses.
McKinsey said seeing Pam’s Promise grow has been heartening for him.
“It makes me feel good, but at the same time I don’t want people to think I’m doing this for glory,” he said. “Pam’s dream was to have an orphan’s ranch ... we never got to do that because she got ill. But even when she was sick, nothing stopped her from helping other people. She went right ahead and done things. And what I’m doing now ... it’s all for her.”