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Archive for April, 2012

Mike King, National President and CEO, Volunteers of America

The work we perform at Volunteers of America is centered on people who give their hearts, minds and spirits to our mission to help those most in need. This includes two special groups of people – those who work for our organization as employees, and those unpaid people engaged in what we think of more traditionally as “volunteer work.” Both groups working together are essential to the success of our programs and ensuring that our clients receive care that’s well-rounded.

Our volunteers also provide a much-needed connection to local communities. Volunteer involvement allows us to introduce the needs of our clients to those who might not know fully understand the extent of hunger or homelessness in their backyards – and in the process, make sure our clients don’t remain hidden and invisible.

Nationally, we depend on an army of nearly 65,000 volunteers who offer their free time to support our programs nationwide. These volunteers provided more than 900,000 hours of service during 2011 alone, performing work such as delivering Meals on Wheels; providing administrative support such as answering phones; collecting food or clothing; and providing professional services such as legal counsel, public relations, training and motivational speaking.

That’s not to say we’re only staffed by volunteers … despite common confusion about our name. Most Volunteers of America programs are staffed by a family of 16,000 full-time, paid professionals who have adopted a mission of service as their full-time job. This approach reflects our century-long history. When Volunteers of America was founded 116 years ago, the term “volunteer” had a very different meaning than it does today. Our name related back to our historical ties to the Salvation Army and their pseudo-military terminology. The early members of our movement thought of their involvement as a full-time, life-long endeavor.

While few people in 1896 spent their spare time volunteering to help others, I’m pleased to say that today community service has become quite common. Today, we continue to keep the spirit of our founders alive by fostering a new generation of volunteers and encouraging people of all ages to make service to others a lifelong priority. Only by all of us working together – trained professionals and everyday folks – that we will be able to make a real difference in the lives of all those who need our help.

For more information on how to get involved with a Volunteers of America program in your community, visit http://www.voa.org/Get-Involved/Volunteer/Everyone_Can_Help.

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

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