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Archive for the ‘Children’ Category

xmas

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

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Mother and DaughterThis time of year, Volunteers of America locations all over the country host special “I Remember Mama” luncheons to honor older women who, for a variety of reasons, are unable to spend Mother’s Day with their own children. These events have become beloved traditions for us, and speak to the true essence of our mission to uplift all people and help them live the most fulfilling, joyful lives possible. Mothers spend their lives putting the needs of others above their own, and I Remember Mama events provide an opportunity to let these women know that we care about them and appreciate their service.

While mothers represent pillars of love and support, we must never forget that often mothers need to be cared for, too. We see this at every level of service we offer at Volunteers of America. Many of our programs for low-income families focus on supporting single mothers with young children who need affordable housing, child care and other help. We know that housing forms the foundation for a successful life. By providing a safe and stable home, we help mothers to focus more time and attention on the care of their children.

Our programs for incarcerated women focus specifically on the relationship between these women and their children. We know that ending the cycle of intergenerational poverty depends in large part on maintaining and strengthening this bond between mother and child and ensuring that family connections don’t break down. Not only do children need care while their mothers are incarcerated, but the women need to know that they have a loving, nurturing household waiting for them once they return home. Volunteers of America is a leader nationally for innovative programs that strengthen whole communities by making sure that families affected by maternal incarceration don’t fall apart.

For older women, Volunteers of America is one of the leading providers of affordable housing and assisted living for low-income elderly people. After a lifetime spent caring for others, many women unfortunately find themselves alone without the resources available to provide for their own care. In addition to homes, we provide services like Program of All-Inclusive Care for the Elderly, which provide transportation, meals, access to health care and social interaction for seniors who might not have someone to provide this assistance.

At every stage of a mother’s life, we’re there to make sure she receives the same level of care and support that she provides to her own loved ones.

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

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Helping All Women Lean In

Lean In

In recent years, much has been said about “Lean In”, the 2013 book by Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg that aims to offer “compelling, commonsense solutions that can empower women to achieve their full potential.” The book, for the most part, directs its message of combining “professional achievement with personal fulfillment” toward women with professional jobs, higher levels of education and ample economic resources.

Unfortunately, in public discourse during the two years since the book’s publication, the “Lean In” mantra has often been applied to all women, regardless of their backgrounds or current situations, as a road map to living a better life. But sadly there is no one-size-fits-all answer to life’s problems, and too often well-intentioned people lose sight of the fact that their pathway to success won’t necessarily work for everyone. Many women barely have time to care for their families while working two low-paying jobs; spending time to build a group of peers for networking or support often becomes a luxury they can’t afford. Worries about salary negotiation or achieving gender-equity in the C-suite aren’t even on the agenda.

I say this not to dismiss messages like those presented in “Lean In”, but to place them in the proper context. Many Americans, both women and men, struggle simply with daily survival and fulfilling the most basic of needs. We can’t confine our thinking to just to those concerns in our immediate line of vision. What those of us sitting in a position of privilege think of as problems pale in comparison to the challenges faced by many of the women served by Volunteers of America every day – homelessness, substandard housing, incarceration, raising children alone with limited financial support. Leaning in means something much different to these women compared to those in other segments of our society.

This Women’s History Month (and throughout the year, as well), please keep in mind the needs of women and families who struggle with challenges many of us would find unimaginable. Learn more about Volunteers of America’s programs, including those benefiting women and families.

Thank you for your support.

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

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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

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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

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maudandchildren

Women are the glue that holds families and communities together. This is a truth that we’ve observed time and time again in our work with vulnerable people. When times are tough, it is typically women who make sure that children and elderly family members receive the necessary care, that shelter is provided and that social services are sought. It is usually a woman—whether she’s a mother, a grandmother or a daughter—who is the first point of contact for Volunteers of America when a family needs our support. If we can reach a woman, we can usually help not only her, but the other people in her life as well.

One program where the keystone role of women in families has been especially evident is “Look Up and Hope,” which aims to maintain bonds between mother and child when the mother is incarcerated. Usually in these situations, it is the grandmother or an aunt who takes care of the children after the mother has entered prison. Often, especially with younger children, their mother can be a complete stranger to them when she returns to the home several years later, further straining an already delicate family dynamic. By maintaining stronger bonds throughout the mother’s time in prison, in addition to providing other services to the caregiver, we hope to end the cycle of intergenerational poverty that plagues many families and ultimately nurture stronger communities.

During Women’s History Month each March, we typically take the opportunity to celebrate Volunteers of America’s co-founder, Maud Booth— a woman many years ahead of her time who paved the way for other women aiming to change the world. But it’s equally important to keep in mind those women who battle every day just to change their small corner of the world, their families or their homes. These women rarely receive the recognition they deserve, but their contributions are essential to the success of those closest to them.

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

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Young Girl

This time of year, notions of love get wrapped up in the trappings of Valentine’s Day, with its hearts and cupids and romantic proclamations. Unfortunately, all too often when people think of love, this is all that comes to mind … the superficial, rather than deeper and more long-lasting expressions of love. With love, it doesn’t matter so much what you say but rather what you do. Don’t tell me you love me; show me you love me, instead.

At Volunteers of America, we express our love for others by taking action to help society’s most vulnerable people. We house the poor and the homeless, provide treatment to those suffering from addiction or mental illness, and provide an extra helping hand to seniors who have no place else to turn.

As the scripture states in 1 Corinthians 13:4-8: “Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never ends. As for prophecies, they will pass away; as for tongues, they will cease; as for knowledge, it will pass away.”

Sometimes the greatest expressions of love come from caring for others who are hard to love. Many of those Volunteers of America serves are people who some caregivers might not be willing or able to help. But true love doesn’t always come easy, and we don’t turn away when the task seems too difficult.

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

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