With the unseasonably warm weather in most of the country this December, many have complained about how difficult it has been to get into the Christmas spirit. For those of us who grew up in the Northern Hemisphere, it’s hard to believe that the season of joy is upon us when it feels more like Easter outside. (Also, theologians note that the birth of Jesus most likely occurred in the spring, and I don’t think they have ever had a white Christmas in Israel!)

This year’s warmth provides an important reminder – Christmas is about much more than snow, caroling and a roaring fire. Christmas is a season of generosity, not just when it comes to material goods, but generosity of one’s time, spirit and love. During this time of the year, we remember those less fortunate who may not experience the same blessings we enjoy. We gather donations for the homeless and provide gifts to children living in poverty who might not otherwise have a festive Christmas. We feed the hungry, and care for the elderly who may not have loved ones with whom to share the holiday.

The importance of donations from individuals like you can never be overstated. Your support makes a critical difference in the lives of people we serve. It helps us fill gaps in existing funding to create new services in response to emerging needs. Our nation has a strong tradition of giving that has broadened access to health and human services, fostered an appreciation for our history and cultural heritage, advanced scientific and medical research, and supported a variety of other programs vital to the health of our nation.

Also, please remember that need knows no season. The people we serve turn to us for help all 12 months of the year and will still need help come March or April, long after the Christmas season has passed.

So despite the warm temperatures, remember to focus on the warmth of the season that radiates from within each of us. During this Christmas season, or any time of year, we at Volunteers of America hope everyone remembers the true spirit of giving and focuses on helping those in need. To help us make a difference in people’s lives, please visit www.voa.org/spiritofgiving.

Thank you for your support.

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

Happy Thanksgiving

With everything going on in the world right now – terrorist attacks in Paris and Mali, a harrowing presidential campaign with no end in sight – it’s easy to forget that this is a time when we are supposed to count our blessings and give thanks. For years, the November season of giving thanks seems to have gotten lost as we segue from Turkey Day to Black Friday and the month-long buying frenzy leading up to Christmas.

For many, the traditions of Thanksgiving and Christmas include helping the less fortunate, and support from individuals makes a critical difference in the lives of people served by organizations like Volunteers of America. It helps us fill gaps in existing funding and to create new services in response to emerging needs. Donations not only allow organizations like Volunteers of America to serve more people, but also to address the quality as well as the quantity of services. It is the factor that turns public housing into family homes, and makes the difference between simply keeping people alive and giving them a life.

A few years back, a coalition of charitable organizations rallied together to establish “GivingTuesday,” a national social media movement scheduled the Tuesday following Thanksgiving to encourage others to give back to their communities. Volunteers of America is a partner of the GivingTuesday effort, and I encourage others to get involved as well. Learn more about our GivingTuesday efforts.

As the holidays approach, we at Volunteers of America hope everyone will keep in mind the true spirit of the season, remember those who have experienced pain and loss, and focus on helping those in need. For more information on ways you can support Volunteers of America, please visit www.voa.org/Get-Involved/Give.

Have a Happy Thanksgiving!

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



With the changing leaves and dipping temperatures, autumn symbolizes the periods of transition experienced by all of us. While we usually think of spring as a transitional time of rebirth, the fall can represent something of even greater substance. This is the traditional time of the harvest, when the fruits of our labors during the preceding year come to fruition. It’s also a time of preparation, as we move from the time of plenty into the barren winter. This is a great metaphor for life – you work hard and strengthen yourself so that you are better prepared during times of challenge and adversity.

At Volunteers of America, we help our clients navigate their own personal periods of transition and adversity, helping them harvest their inner strength and prepare for the challenges ahead. This is especially true in our correctional programs, which we have operated for more than a century. With programs including residential re-entry centers and monitored home release, we help those people leaving the correctional system to successfully transition back to society and work to change some of the personal problems that led to incarceration in the first place. And Volunteers of America’s work with the incarcerated doesn’t stop at the prison gate. Incarceration takes a significant toll on families, and especially children. Many of our programs aim to preserve the relationships between children and their incarcerated parents. For those leaving prison, we want to ensure they have stable and supportive homes where they can return to build productive lives and avoid future criminal activity. For their children, we want to end the cycle of intergenerational poverty and incarceration that plagues many families.

Everyone deserves a fresh start and a positive future, but preparing for success often requires a lot of hard work and guidance. In this season of change, when we look forward to the joy and blessings of the holidays, please support us in our work to move people in need from situations of adversity to productive and happy lives. Learn more about Volunteers of America’s programs to help the most vulnerable. 

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

Young Girl

We tend to imagine childhood as a time of carefree innocence, when youngsters play and go to school without the pressures and disappointments of adult life. Sadly, many children don’t enjoy this kind of idealized upbringing. For those in poverty, the harsh realities of the world become part of their day-to-day lives at an early age.

Annually, an estimated 2.5 million American children are homeless at some point in the year. Many more children have at least one parent incarcerated in jail or prison. Other families, while not homeless, are so poor that they struggle to provide food and other necessities to their children. Poverty is hard on anyone, but it is especially troubling when it affects children. Childhood builds the foundation for successful, healthy adult lives later on. If youngsters are deprived of a stable home life, an education, or a parent’s loving presence in their lives, they will sink deeper into a cycle of intergenerational poverty.

That’s why Volunteers of America offers so many programs to help children thrive at a young age, no matter what their circumstances might be. We take a holistic approach to care, knowing that children can’t thrive unless their parents and other family members receive the support they need to overcome their own troubles and provide a stable home environment.

We provide child care, Head Start and early literacy programs to help young children get a bright start. We serve school age children by providing before and after school programs, summer camps and mentoring. Leading to the start of the new school year each fall, many of our affiliates sponsor Operation Backpack drives to collect school supplies for low-income children to ensure that a lack of resources doesn’t stand in the way of a robust education.

I know it’s a cliché, but children truly are our future. If we help those in need early in life, we can avoid a number of devastating social ills later on … and that ultimately helps improve society for all of us. Learn more about Volunteers of America’s programs for children.

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

Hurricane Katrina

A decade ago, I had recently joined Volunteers of America as CEO of our Texas affiliate when Hurricane Katrina barreled toward the Gulf Coast. Hundreds of our clients in New Orleans, many of them elderly or physically disabled, had to be hastily evacuated to Houston for what at the time was expected to be a three- or four-day exile. Before the storm made landfall, we had no idea of the destruction that was soon to come, with levees breaking and flood waters covering much of New Orleans. Ultimately, as we now know, the exile was much longer. The last of our clients to return home left Texas in late October, two months after Hurricane Katrina moved through.

During those first few days and the two months that followed, the Volunteers of America family did what we always do in times of great need and crisis – we rallied together and worked day and night to help each other and support the vulnerable people we serve. Affiliates from Texas to Kentucky pitched in to house displaced clients, send supplies and provide their expertise. When hotels in Houston could no longer house our displaced New Orleans clients, we worked together to find new places for them to stay. We pooled our collective resources to contact family members and locate apartments and other temporary living arrangements.

While we always try to take a localized, program-by-program approach to serving our clients’ unique needs, there remains a great value to the network that comes from being part of a national organization the size of Volunteers of America. No matter the crisis at hand, no one in our organization is ever alone. This month, as we observe the 10-year anniversary of Hurricane Katrina, I’m reminded of the cooperation and dedication demonstrated by the Volunteers of America family during those harrowing days. These efforts demonstrated our people at their best, and I remain immensely proud to be part of such a wonderful group.

Learn more about Volunteers of America’s response during and after Hurricane Katrina.

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