Scottsdale native Lisa Randall likes to say she is “a simple girl with a simple story,” but it’s more than that.
Randall is currently the community relations manager at Family Promise of Greater Phoenix, a nonprofit organization that serves as an emergency shelter for homeless families in the Valley and that has helped more than 1,100 families and 3,800 individuals since its inception in 2000.
Though she has held her position for two years – the first that pays a salary – Randall has dedicated 32 years to helping people in a volunteer capacity in Scottsdale.
She started in 1986 at Scottsdale Bible Church, where she volunteered 29 years.
In all, Randall volunteered for 15 different organizations.
Randall started volunteering to supplement her life as a stay-at-home mother.
“I was blessed to be a homemaker and so I feel for those who stay home with your kids,” Randall said. “It is our job to fill those volunteer roles to help support the moms that have to be at work.”
At Partners for Paiute, a nonprofit organization that supports the Paiute Neighborhood Center, Randall served as secretary for two years, then president for another two years and finally executive director for four years, from 2012 to 2016.
In 2012, she became a founding board member of Keep Scottsdale Beautiful, a nonprofit, volunteer-run organization committed to enhancing the image and appearance of Scottsdale through education, programs and community engagement.
Randall was also a founder/board member of the National Charity League’s 100th chapter, the Sonoran Centennial.
“Probably one of the overarching things I’m most proud of was my involvement with National Charity League,” she said of the mother-daughter organization committed to community service, leadership development and cultural experiences.
“To this day, it’s going strong,” Randall added. “It’s a real legacy for the main gal who started it and those of us who got it off the ground.”
Randall continues to meet with the chapter’s other sustainers once a month, in addition to her continued involvement with the annual Parada del Sol Parade as an announcer and Scottsdale Historical Society as a board member.
Randall has been volunteering with the historical society since 2016 and plans to stay on for as long as she can.
“I am just really passionate about making sure that we have the next generation of board members and our younger folks at Scottsdale, that they understand our Scottsdale history and want to preserve it.”
Randall admitted her extensive volunteering came at “great sacrifice.”
“My husband always worked two jobs so I could be home,” she said, adding that he also served on several nonprofit boards. “I only became the community volunteer because of my husband and his sacrifice and example. I have not thanked him adequately for that.”
Randall volunteered just once with Family Promise, but in November 2016, she was hired on as development director. In May, her role changed to community relations manager and now she is a grant writer and admin to Family Promise Executive Director Ted Taylor.
Randall was attracted to Family Promise for two reasons.
“The mission,” Randall said. “It’s simply a profound and inspired way to rescue and serve families experiencing homelessness.”
“And to be honest, the executive director,” Randall continued. “He is an amazingly charismatic man.”
What sets Family Promise’s shelter apart is its interfaith network of congregations that provide the food and overnight lodging for homeless families.
“The profound thing about the Family Promise is our partnership with the faith community,” Randall said. “What we hear time and time again for our families is how it has restored their faith in people, that the volunteers of the congregation were so kind to them and that they came away feeling – and this sounds corny, but – loved.”
The program can shelter families for 60 days, but the average length of stay is 43, Randall said.
“It’s a tough program,” she said, adding that families are awoken at 5 a.m. daily and head to work or job hunt. “If you came here during the day, the [day centers] are empty because everyone’s at school or work or looking for work, but each family has a couch and an area with bins for their belongings.”
The living quarters are small, and families have limited space for personal items. But once they graduate, families earn the opportunity to pick up free items from Family Promise’s Blessings Store, a warehouse in Tempe with 17 rooms that contain everything they might need, from dishes and linens to clothing.
Had it not been for her decades of volunteering, Randall wouldn’t have been able to enter the next phase of her life: starting a career at age 55.
“The opportunity with Family Promise came out of relationships through volunteering,” she said. “I think what has always kept me going is the people that I serve alongside with so many mentors here in town that have provided their experience and wisdom and mentoring to me.”
But volunteering has also allowed Randall to give back to people in need.
“I just don’t understand why people wouldn’t [volunteer] because you’re not only making a difference in other people’s lives, it’s something that it does to fulfill your heart,” she said.
On Dec. 1, families at the shelter will be attending “Christmas with a Cause,” sponsored by H.E.M.P. Legacy Foundation.
Families that have graduated the program will have the opportunity to shop the Blessings Store for household items, clothing and toys for the holidays. Treats and crafts will be set out for the kids, and families will leave their items gift-wrapped by volunteers.
“To know that our families who are struggling with the homelessness are still valued in the community is awesome,” said Joy Hale, director of social work at Family Promise. “Watching the smiles on the faces of the children and the relief in the eyes of the parents is immeasurable.”
Abiding Savior Lutheran Church and Bethany Lutheran Church have also adopted families in the Village, where families who have graduated reside.
“After several meetings with Family Promise leadership, we chose to follow our motto: ‘God’s work. Our hands,’” said Mary Anne Clark of Bethany Lutheran Church. “With our friends from Holy Cross Lutheran Church, our part in the Family Promise program is to provide hot meals and a safe place to sleep for parents and children in crisis.”
“We trust our hot food, kind words, smiles and hugs give them hope for better days ahead,” Clark added.
Family Promise has an ongoing needs list, which includes everyday necessities and could use tax credit donations.
“Family Promise relies solely on donations for our operating budget,” she said. “So, to expand and to do what we do, we have to run a really aggressive Arizona tax charitable campaign.”
Family Promise’s long-term goal is twofold: to break the cycle of homelessness and to create a sense of community for the families that participate in the program.
To make it possible, thousands of volunteers have contributed to the program over the years, including Randall.
“I’m a born and raised Scottsdale native, and most people think of it as an affluent community, which of course it is, but over 12 percent of our families live below the poverty level,” Randall said. “Once you get connected and know the needs here, I don’t know how people can’t [volunteer].”