Rising unemployment means more families across the country are facing the possibility of homelessness. That’s top of mind at Family Promise, a national nonprofit working 24/7 to help.

“Everything is so fragile,” says Gary Chan, 70, who joined the organization last May as a virtual Encore Fellow and the interim Chief Technology Officer (CTO).

“A number of the families that we work with had professional and good-paying blue-collar jobs. It didn’t take much to unbalance them,” Chan says. “It really humbled me. I had a stereotype of what our homeless population looks like, and the reality is much more nuanced and relatable.”

Chan spent his career working in technology in Silicon Valley. Family Promise hired him to identify new ways that technology can help them meet and measure their strategic goals.

“It’s a refreshing change from the corporate world where everything is bottom line, and you can sort of lose sight of what’s the value to society. Here,” Chan says, “I’m applying everything I’ve learned in my professional life, and the accomplishment is helping the families who need it.”

In addition to providing food and emergency shelter, Family Promise helps people with tasks like negotiating lower rates with mortgage companies and banks. Once families get back on their feet, Family Promise supports them with lessons in financial management, applying for jobs, and more. The national office is in Summit New Jersey, but Chan has been working remotely from Fremont, California.

While his fellowship was officially supposed to wrap in May, Chan is staying on through the end of July to ensure all the work he’s been planning with the team gets done.

Claas Ehlers, the CEO of Family Promise, is grateful for Chan’s contribution. “When Covid came, our whole world changed—work and school from home exposed the technology divide that penalizes families in poverty even further,” he says. “The advancements Gary helped us plan could be accelerated so we could offer ready made websites, digital training and many other crucial resources to ensure our programs could thrive in a time of social distancing.”

Chan says it feels good to be working on something that’s transforming so many lives, including his own. “I’m probably listening to the news too much right now,” he says, “and the news is so negative. This keeps me grounded — the reminder that there is goodness in this world. There are people who want to serve and help others.”

Encore Fellowships match skilled, seasoned professionals with social sector organizations in high-impact, paid engagements lasting from three months to one year. Interested in hosting or becoming an Encore Fellow? Learn more or contact Jim Emerman at [email protected]

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