Archive for September, 2013

Serving Those in Need Helps All People

Home Depot Foundation Transforming Female Veterans Housing

Home Depot Foundation transforming our Los Angeles’ office’s Home for Female Veterans & their kids

When Volunteers of America was first founded more than a century ago, we defined ourselves as God’s Christian volunteers, going out into the world like a militia to save souls and uplift the lives of the most needy.  Today, the pseudo-military themes of our organization have long been relegated to history but the notion that we are all called into service to help others remains very much alive.

Service, to us, means more than just “volunteering” as most people think of it today … occasional community service activities performed here and there in one’s spare time. Service is a lifelong, often professional pursuit aimed at solving long-term and deeply-rooted problems.

Starting September 11th and continuing until Veterans’ Day, Volunteers of America and our partners at The Home Depot Foundation have joined together for “Celebration of Service,” a two-month series of projects nationwide to help build or repair homes for America’s veterans and their families.  This is the third year we’ve participated in Celebration of Service, which we kicked off earlier this month with a project in Los Angeles to help homeless women vets and their children.  Similar events are planned in Baton Rouge, Florida and beyond. This is part of our ongoing organizational service to veterans, many of them homeless or struggling with challenges like addiction or mental illness.  They served us by protecting our country, and now we serve them in return.

But we don’t just stop with veterans.  Service to us means helping everyone in a community who might be struggling, from low-income families and children to frail seniors or those with disabilities.  By serving all people, we build stronger communities that ultimately benefit everyone.

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

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More than 100 years ago, Volunteers of America founder Maud Booth acquired the nickname “Little Mother of the Prisons” for her groundbreaking work with inmates at New York’s Sing Sing prison. At the time, she was one of a very small group in the U.S. providing any kind of counseling or support to the incarcerated, and caused something of a scandal as a Victorian-era woman going into a men’s prison.

A century later, counseling to prisoners remains a touchy and sometimes controversial subject. Many still argue that prison is intended as punishment, and that time and resources should not be spent helping those who have broken the law. While it is true that incarceration is a punitive measure, and the crimes that lead people into prison should not be discounted, we also understand that the best interests of everyone (the prisoner, his or her family members and others in the community as a whole) are served by helping inmates successfully transition back into society and working to change some of the personal problems that might have led to incarceration in the first place.

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.

Among the many innovative programs we offer that are aimed at helping the children of incarcerated parents is an exciting new partnership between Volunteers of America and the Sesame Workshop, the organization behind Sesame Street. This new partnership will combine furry, fuzzy and friendly Muppets and the power of media to help make a meaningful difference for children and the adults in their lives.

Learn more about our work with individuals and families affected by incarceration.

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

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