The non-denominational Ormond Beach congregation provides resources and support to at-risk families with informal referrals from the Florida Department of Children and Families.
Jennifer Adcox had suffered a number of injuries in an abusive relationship. Her elbow had been fractured. Teeth were knocked out.
After years in the relationship, she made an attempt to leave. She packed two bags of clothes for her and her 10-year-old son, and hurried to her car. She and the young boy then headed to a domestic violence shelter in the small Pennsylvania town where she lived.
The shelter housed Adcox and her son for two days and one night, before sending them on a two-hour flight to Jacksonville. Adcox and her son then traveled another hour to her childhood home in Flagler Beach, which became available after her grandmother died. The pair was safe, but fear still followed behind them.
“I was absolutely terrified,” Adcox said, noting that she was deeply concerned about how the move would affect her son. “He was uprooted from everything that he’s ever known. He was born out there, and for me to have to leave in such panic was really hard.”
Adcox and her son were one of the hundreds of families who would meet members of Salty Church at a critical time in their lives. The non-denominational Ormond Beach church provides resources and support to at-risk families in the area through its family services program.
The program, which like some others in Volusia and Flagler counties, accepts informal referrals from the Department of Children and Families, seeks to prevent children from being removed from their homes and placed into foster care.
The Salty Family Services program, however, does not receive any public funding. Its operations are supported through donations.
Jeff Chaisson, director of Salty Family Services, noted that the program has created a network of volunteers across Volusia County who families can contact for resources. Some volunteers have provided gift cards for food and gas. Others have opened their homes to families in need.
“The core of what we do is build relationships with people,” Chaisson said. “We believe through relationships, we can help guide people to empowerment.”
Some volunteers have been recruited from Salty Church’s seven partner churches, including Christ Church in Port Orange, Atlantic Coast Church in New Smyrna Beach and Oasis Church in Ormond Beach.
The program also pairs families with mentors who help connect them with employment or permanent housing opportunities. Mentors also help families develop a money management plan, allowing them to see where they can reduce costs.
It had been almost a week since Adcox moved back into her childhood home. But the familiar memories would not comfort her for long. Her grandmother had died, and the home would soon fall into foreclosure.
Uncertainty hung over her head. But she still trudged forward.
One morning, she walked 17 blocks to a Flagler Beach laundromat, where she hoped to clean the few articles of clothing she had carried from Pennsylvania. Once inside, she encountered several members of Salty Church, who offered to pay for her clothes to be washed and dried.
Travis Pauley, the Flagler Beach campus pastor for Salty Church, handed Adcox a phone number for the church’s family services program. She called the next day and was later connected with a mentor.
Her mentor often stopped by her childhood home, where now she was the head of the household. Pauley helped her create a budget or fill out job applications.
Adcox spent months moving from one job to another. But throughout all the changes she saved enough money to buy a car and move into her own home in Palm Coast.
Months continued to pass, and it would soon be two years since she had left her abusive relationship that she remembers as isolating. When she looks back, she sees the ugly picture she left behind.
Adcox lost touch with her loved ones and her sense of independence.
“I really thought I had nowhere to go, like I couldn’t do it on my own,” she said.
But the past two years showed her otherwise. And her efforts, she learned, never went unnoticed. Nearly a month after settling into her Palm Coast home, her son told her: “We did it, Mom.”