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Little Boy Client of Volunteers of America

Recently, Volunteers of America adopted a new tagline to describe our organization – “Helping America’s most vulnerable.” For an organization as large and diverse as ours, it’s never easy to decide on a simple statement that accurately describes the full scope of our service mission. It must be accurate and compelling without being too specific. With this new tagline, we acknowledge that we are focused specifically on the needs of people within the United States and we help vulnerable individuals in all their many forms, rather than focusing on just one group such as seniors or those experiencing homelessness. Often, the Americans we serve are those with which other charities hesitate to get involved.

Service to others should be part of everyone’s life. All over the country, wherever Volunteers of America has a presence, people from the local community are an important part of the work we do to help those who need us. For instance, many of our affiliates recently concluded another successful year of Operation Backpack, an annual initiative to collect school supplies and backpacks for homeless children heading back to school. In New York City, the largest of these efforts, an army of local volunteers and corporate sponsors helped collect a record 18,400 backpacks this year, which are now being distributed to 150 homeless shelters in the city.

Also underway is the annual Celebration of Service, a two-month effort to build and improve housing for homeless veterans. Volunteers of America has partnered with The Home Depot Foundation® at almost two dozen locations nationwide as part of this effort. Thousands of Team Depot associate volunteers will join others in their communities for projects like painting, landscaping and building recreation equipment, which will help improve the lives of veterans served by Volunteers of America. This year, The Home Depot Foundation plans to build or renovate more than 1,000 homes for veterans and their families, working with us and other partner nonprofit organizations.

We offer lot of ways for everyone to serve their communities by helping America’s most vulnerable. For more information about ways you can help Volunteers of America serve those in need, please visit www.voa.org/Get-Involved/Volunteer.

- By Mike King, National President and CEO, Volunteers of America

Veteran's Day

In the human service sector, much of our work today focuses on serving veterans struggling with homelessness, PTSD and other barriers that interfere with a successful return to civilian life. While this remains core to our effort, we at Volunteers of America are part of a rapidly growing movement that is engaging veterans to create solutions through opportunity.

For example, we have been piloting a program that leverages veterans as peer advocates who are specifically charged with dismantling barriers plaguing the health and human service sector. This program, the “Battle-Buddy-Bridge” or “B3″, trains, deploys and dispatches veterans as “battle buddies” who engage and provide resource navigation to fellow service members in distress.

While there are a number of peer-to-peer veteran programs throughout the country, Volunteers of America’s B3 efforts are unique because they leverage our well-established partnerships, seasoned expertise and extensive infrastructure. As such, Volunteers of America’s battle buddies have direct access to our network of services including: care coordination, case management, housing, training, employment placement, legal/benefits assistance, financial coaching, counseling and more.

This approach has already proven itself to be successful in transforming the lives of veterans like Nicola, a United States Air Force vet who spent 10 years battling for her VA benefits before she was paired with a battle buddy, Faye Lattimore-Shilling. “I had been told for years that I did not qualify for medical benefits because I was a reservist, ” said Nicola. This quickly changed, though, after Mrs. Shilling started to help Nicola navigate the VA hierarchy. “She verified my benefits … and took me to get my identification card. I could not believe that I was walking out of the office within 10 minutes after taking my picture. I had been given the runaround for years prior to her help! I cannot tell you how grateful I truly am.”

The program has also been tremendously therapeutic for the battle buddies themselves. “Helping other vets who are so much like me has given me more motivation than I’ve had since being in the Army,” said battle buddy John James. “Some days are surreal and I think ‘who am I to be sharing with them what to do when for so long I wouldn’t do it myself.’ I tell them that I was there too, and not very long ago was in the same place they are and it WILL get better. I will continue in the mode of helping and trying to make a difference in the world. I am now open to new adventures and have the confidence to move forward and not live life looking back.”

Veterans as a group are great allies of ours in the health and human services sector. Given this fact, Volunteers of America has long-term interest in creating more and more opportunities for veterans to work with and for us in pursuit of our mission to uplift America’s most vulnerable.

- By Jon Sherin Executive Vice President, Military Communities & Chief Medical Officer Volunteers of America

Glen Campbell I'll Be Me Movie

For as long as we’ve been in existence, Volunteers of America has served the needs of seniors who might have nowhere else to turn or require specialized care. This service can be as simple as an affordable place to live or a warm meal provided by Meals on Wheels volunteers. However, today we find more and more people turning to us because of the hands-on, highly-skilled nursing care we provide at locations throughout the country. This care covers a full continuum – from independent living apartments for active seniors, to around-the-clock care for those with memory issues or chronic health concerns – often provided on the same campus. This is an especially important field today as the Baby Boom generation ages and the number of Americans over the age of 65 is poised to skyrocket.

Increasingly, Volunteers of America has been called upon to include specialized services for those with Alzheimer’s and other dementia-related conditions into our senior residences. Typically, these are set aside in special “neighborhoods” with special monitoring and staff trained in the care of elders with profound memory impairment.

As part of our ongoing work with people with Alzheimer’s and their families and caregivers, Volunteers of America is supporting the documentary feature film, “I’ll Be Me,” chronicling Glen Campbell’s Goodbye Tour. Three years ago, legendary musician Glen Campbell was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s. Campbell and his wife Kim went public with the diagnosis and announced that he and his family would embark on a Goodbye Tour to embrace their remaining time together. The tour would celebrate Campbell’s extraordinary musical gifts and while raising awareness about Alzheimer’s. “I’ll Be Me” follows the Campbell family on their journey as they focus on living in the present while preparing for the future.

Volunteers of America is an exclusive nonprofit sponsor in the production, marketing and distribution of the film. We’re also helping to develop educational and learning opportunities for families and care givers to learn more about dealing with Alzheimer’s. Volunteers of America will host screening events in many communities across the country specifically aimed at promoting the film’s core values of community, understanding, acceptance and the drive to educate people about adults whose lives are affected by Alzheimer’s.

Learn more about our work with seniors, including those affected by Alzheimer’s.

- By Mike King, National President and CEO, Volunteers of America

Senior Female Client

The old cliché goes that “it takes a village” to help those in need. This originally referred to children, but it could also apply to low-income families, homeless veterans, frail seniors or any of the other people served by an organization like Volunteers of America. There is no way that one organization, even a very large organization, could make a lasting difference in the lives of all these people by itself. Our efforts are enriched by combining expertise and resources (both financial and human) with a variety of partners to tackle problems collectively.

Volunteers of America depends on a number of partners, both nationally and at our local affiliates, to amplify our efforts. We work closely with The Home Depot® Foundation to provide supportive housing to homeless veterans and their families. Through the Team Depot initiative, associates from the company’s stores have become a supplemental workforce across the country helping to improve housing in addition to providing donated supplies. Another partner, CBS EcoMedia®, has also provided volunteers and other resources to make Volunteers of America housing more environmentally friendly while also more comfortable and welcoming for residents. One of our oldest national partnerships, with the Major League Baseball Players Trust, has inspired more than 65,000 high school students to volunteer in their communities since 2002, helping over 205,000 people in need.

And it’s not just large corporations that support our work. We are always looking for local community partners to help with product donations, financial support, volunteer engagement and raising awareness. Many of our clients would not receive the help they need without the involvement of these valued partners. To learn more about how community and corporate partners support the work of Volunteers of America, as well as ways to get involved, visit http://www.voa.org/Get-Involved/Be-a-Partner.

- By Mike King, National President and CEO, Volunteers of America

PovertySometimes the tasks we take on at Volunteers of America can feel like pushing a boulder up a mountain. We’ve made a name for ourselves by taking on challenges others see as too difficult or even impossible. Standing at the base of a mountain, faced with the lofty heights ahead, many turn around before they even begin their journey. Others, however, feel called to trek on, pushing themselves to venture where few others have gone before.

It’s no wonder that the Bible is filled with verses referencing mountains – both because of their majesty, and because of the physical and metaphorical challenges they pose; 1 Corinthians 13:2 seems especially appropriate to our work: If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing.

I was reminded again of our efforts to “move mountains” during Volunteers of America’s national conference in Denver this past June. Summits, just beyond one’s reach, are everywhere you turn in Colorado. But moving mountains is what our 16,000 staff members do everyday. They’re constantly striving to reach new heights when it comes to meeting the needs of children, low-income families, the elderly, the homeless, veterans, those with disabilities and the incarcerated.

During the conference, we were treated to screening of “I’ll Be Me,” a soon-to-be released documentary on country legend Glen Campbell’s battle with Alzheimer’s. Talk about an uphill battle, but one that he and his family have taken on with love and a great deal of humor. Over the next several months, Volunteers of America affiliates will be working with the film’s producers to host special screenings of the documentary in locations throughout the U.S. as a way to educate others about the work we do to help vulnerable seniors, including many battling Alzheimer’s and other memory ailments. We find inspiration from those words in I Corinthians … when it comes to helping those in need, all the knowledge in the world means nothing if you don’t pair it with love and compassion.

To learn more about the many ways Volunteers of America “moves mountains” to help the most vulnerable, please visit www.voa.org.

- By Mike King, National President and CEO, Volunteers of America

Working Together Towards a Common Goal for Veterans

Around Memorial Day, there’s always a renewed focus on our service men and women and the sacrifices made by America’s veterans. The focus has been especially intense this year, as Congress and the media turn their attention to the recent controversies concerning the U.S Department of Veterans Affairs. While blame has been directed at the VA, I’m reminded that it’s not just the government’s responsibility to help veterans in need, but everyone’s responsibility … public and private sectors, government, nonprofits and for-profit companies working together toward a common goal.

The men and women of America’s armed forces have fought for freedom in the world’s most dangerous places, from the beaches of Normandy to the mountains of Kandahar. When they return home after years spent in harm’s way, our veterans deserve a home of their own, the support of their loved ones and the ability to earn a decent living. Recent reports by the Veterans’ Administration and the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development show that the number of veterans seeking emergency shelter or transitional housing continues to shrink. While it’s certainly encouraging, this drop is overshadowed by a looming catastrophe down the road. Middle-aged vets are moving off the streets, but younger vets from the current wars are only just now starting to demonstrate the mental and addiction disabilities that ultimately lead to homelessness. Many of these young vets remain ignored because their injuries are on the inside, in the form of PTSD and other mental traumas, without any visible disfigurement.

Women veterans have also been under-assisted and at risk historically. They often feel uncomfortable approaching traditionally male-dominated veterans’ organizations for help in times of crisis and suffer silently in the shadows.

Services to veterans should begin before someone reaches a moment of crisis. Volunteers of America is one of many private service providers working on the front lines, in collaboration with government agencies like the VA and HUD, to bring veterans off the streets and provide the help they need. In this age of budget cuts, it is crucial that we protect funding for private organizations that help veterans overcome poverty and the disabilities of battle today instead of waiting for them to sink into homelessness.

We encounter a wealth of opportunity every day to make a difference … one life at a time. Volunteers of America weaves a safety net around veterans that helps return them whole into mainstream society. Thousands of soldiers will be coming back from Iraq and Afghanistan, and we must anticipate their needs. Now is the time to tackle this challenge. Learn more about Volunteers of America’s programs for veterans at www.voa.org/Veterans.

- By Mike King, National President and CEO, Volunteers of America

Trailside I - Community Building

After five years, it seems the sluggish economy is starting to turn itself around. That’s the good news, and certainly benefits the vulnerable people who depend on Volunteers of America for assistance. But there’s also a flip side. With a recovering economy comes real estate prices that start to move upward … which is great if you’re a homeowner wanting to build equity, but not so great for those in need of affordable housing. This upward price pressure is especially evident in the rental markets of many American cities. Reduced home building in recent years, coupled with stricter mortgage lending practices, has led to a tremendous demand for rental properties, driving prices above the means of many lower income families.

At Volunteers of America, we believe decent affordable homes create the foundation for a successful life. We’re committed to building housing that not only supports our residents, but also fits the needs of the whole community. Volunteers of America is committed to providing low-income families, seniors and people with disabilities a decent and affordable place to live. With more than 17,300 units under our management, we are one of the largest providers of quality affordable housing in the country. Nationally, Volunteers of America owns and operates approximately 380 affordable housing communities from coast to coast and in Puerto Rico that are home to almost 25,000 people.

As demographics change and our nation’s senior population grows significantly, Volunteers of America is also a national leader in providing care and housing to these seniors. In the U.S. today, we are one of largest nonprofit providers of affordable senior housing, skilled nursing care and assisted living for seniors. The needs of our senior population are certain to become even more pressing in the coming decades, as the number of Americans age 65 and older is expected to double by the year 2030.

Our commitment to affordable rental housing – for families, seniors and many others – remains unwavering. For more information about Volunteers of America’s national portfolio of housing and related supportive services, please visit www.VolunteersofAmerica.org/housing.

- By Mike King, National President and CEO, Volunteers of America

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