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Archive for September, 2014

Helping America’s Most Vulnerable™

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

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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

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