Community

Landmark Title Talks with H.E.L.P. Founder Dawn Marie Rapaport

Landmark Title Talks with H.E.L.P. Founder Dawn Marie Rapaport

Landmark Title Talks with H.E.L.P. Founder Dawn Marie Rapaport

Dawn Marie Rapaport is a true inspiration. Growing up homeless between the age of five to 15, she understands the plight homeless children and families are facing in our community. Overcoming the challenges of her own childhood, inspired Dawn Marie and her husband to found H.E.L.P. (Homeless Engagement Lift Project) in 2012. The organization’s mission is to change the cycle of homelessness. Delivering support and services to children and families, H.E.L.P. offers a mix of programs and education to help make an impact and reduce the number of homeless.

Adopt-a-Family and HelpSnakz are two of the organization’s programs that Landmark Title has embraced. 2022 is the third  consecutive year that Landmark Title has sponsored Christmas in July, which is dedicated to promoting and signing up for the Adopt-a-Family program. Landmark Title employees and branches personally sign-up to adopt H.E.L.P. families for the 2022 holidays and they reach out to their customers and professional partners to enlist others to participate.

The HelpSnackz program is ongoing. Every month volunteers fill backpacks with food that is distributed to homeless and at-risk children each week. Working with schools, H.E.L.P. is able to give children that might otherwise go hungry, food that they can bring home and share with their families. 

We recently spoke with H.E.L.P. founder, Dawn Marie Rapaport to learn more about the organization and its programs. Read on to discover all the amazing work this charity is doing and how you can get involved and make a difference:

Tell us a little about your vision and how H.E.L.P. has grown over the past 10 years?

I was raised in Arizona by a single mom and there were periods of time where we were homeless, living in cars, hotels, sometimes with strangers. I went to so many schools. There were times I changed schools as many as four times in one school year. When I was 15, I got married to get off the streets. I worked three jobs and finished high school.  I knew that I didn’t want to live the way we’d been living, and I wasn’t ever going to let it happen to me again. I worked hard at everything to make sure I did well. I started H.E.L.P. to make sure others had resources and an opportunity to get out.

When I started, I knew the quickest way to help was to directly help the people living on the streets.  I would hold events and enlist volunteers to provide haircuts, clothes, food. Today we have volunteers donating 600 hours of time monthly. About four years ago, we secured a relationship with the schools in the Deer Valley School District, and we started the H.E.L.P. Snackz program where we are able to distribute HelpSnackz to students that are not guaranteed supper. We were delivering as much as 400 bags per month when we got the program started. Today, we are working with 23 school districts in Arizona and delivering 25,000 bags of food a month. Landmark Title is one of our sponsors for this program.

The work you are doing sounds incredible, but how do you change the cycle of homelessness?

Many kids don’t know life any other way and so it continues. Working with the schools, providing resources they need – food, emergency shelter, supplies, safety is the first step. We partner with other nonprofits to refer families and we host job fairs for kids, teaching them interview skills and helping them fill job openings so they can start earning money. We are also starting to develop life skills classes for students that will be held online and in person. Teaching basics such as the importance of hygiene, managing money and how to get a job are skills that will help break the cycle.

What is your Adopt-A-Family program?

Families are selected by the schools to benefit from our Adopt-A-Family program. Anyone can sign up to be an adopter and they are matched to a family in need. Our families fill out an intake form to share their stories and provide a list of wants and needs. We find that it not only helps the family in need, but our adopters also learn through giving and these stories help educate them. During the holidays it is especially nice for these families to receive some of the things they need, along with some things they want.

By hosting Christmas in July, Landmark Title is helping us get ready in advance and allowing us to help more families this coming holiday season.

What are some of the biggest misconceptions about the homeless?

One of the biggest misconceptions is thinking that people just don’t want to work. In many cases the homeless end up without shelter because of a loss – the death of a parent/spouse, one parent leaving the family or an illness. When there is a loss of income it is difficult to pay rent, food etc. When young children are involved, there is also a need for childcare to allow the parent to go to work. If they don’t have family or friends to help, it is difficult. And once you end up homeless, it is difficult to get back on your feet. Resources and support are imperative.

How can people get involved and support your organization?

There are multiple ways people can support H.E.L.P. We always need donations – socks, backpacks, food, and financial donations are extremely helpful. If you own or manage a business, we host team building events where the company makes a donation and brings staff and family members to help put together our Snackz packs. Every month we hold volunteer days where anyone can sign up on our website to volunteer. We appreciate any and all support you have to offer. As a nonprofit, we also qualify for the tax credit and for every $1 donated to H.E.L.P ninety-five cents goes directly to helping the homeless. 

To learn more about H.E.L.P and its volunteer opportunities visit HelpingTheHomelessNow.org. To participate in the 2022 Adopt-a-Family program contact one of Landmark Title’s Business Development Managers to sign-up or click on our QR code.

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