History Timeline

1982: Karen Olson, a Manhattan marketing executive, encountered a homeless woman, someone she’d seen over and over again on her way to work.

She decided to buy a sandwich for the woman. The stranger accepted the sandwich but asked Karen for something else – a moment to be heard, to be comforted, and to be considered as more than a mere statistic on a cold street corner.

Soon, Karen and her two young sons began frequent trips to New York to hand out sandwiches to the homeless. Olson learned that there were hundreds of homeless people, including families, in her home community of Union County, New Jersey.

She turned to the religious community for help, convinced that there were many who shared her concern and that together they could do what they couldn’t do alone.  Within ten months, eleven area congregations came forward to provide hospitality space within their buildings. The local YMCA agreed to provide showers and a day center for families. A car dealer discounted a van.

1986: The first Interfaith Hospitality Network opened its doors.

As word spread, ten more congregations formed a second Network.  Programs for transitional housing, childcare, and family mentoring followed – outgrowths of increased awareness and involvement.

1988: The Network Goes National

The success of the first Networks led other congregations to seek help in developing similar programs.


the organization changed its name to Family Promise to reflect a broader range of programs and reaffirm its core commitment to helping families realize their own potential.


Former KU Ethics professor Joe Reitz serves as CEO of  a local healthcare provider for under-insured in Lawrence. It is there that he realized that there were homeless children in our community. Joe then gathered a group of committed citizens to research effective models for dealing with this issue. They began working with the national Family Promise organization to establish an affiliate here in 2008.


Hired Valerie Miller-Coleman as the Executive Director and opened before the first snowfall.


Served 18 families in 2011 – the most served in one year in Lawrence.  In September, 2011 hired Dana Ortiz as Executive Director.