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Archive for the ‘Community Corrections’ Category

Corrections

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

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The Many Faces of Volunteers of AmericaOne of Volunteers of America’s greatest strengths is our diversity. Our work touches a wide variety of needs, including homelessness, addiction, disability and incarceration. We work in many different types of communities, from inner-city neighborhoods to small towns to suburban areas where poverty at one time may have been unthinkable. We help families and singles alike, children and the frail elderly, people with disabilities and veterans struggling with reintegration to civilian life.

While adapting to the unique needs present in different parts of the country, our work has also expanded to focus on a diverse group of immigrant communities, such as Somali refugees living in Columbus, Ohio, or the Hmong people of Southeast Asia who now live in Minneapolis. For these people, their needs extend beyond matters related to poverty or housing to the more amorphous challenges that come from adapting to a new culture.

These are the many faces of Volunteers of America. This diversity makes it impossible to apply a one-size-fits-all solution to any of the problems we try to tackle. What makes our organization so unique, today and as far back as our founding in the late 19th century, is that we take a decentralized approach to helping those in need. Our people on the front lines design programs that meet the distinct needs of those in their local communities, but might not work other places where Volunteers of America has a presence. And that’s okay … there are sometimes as many diverse and creative ways to solve a problem as there are unique people seeking our help.

Only by taking a flexible approach that addresses local needs, big and small, can we make real progress toward helping America’s most vulnerable live prosperous, more successful lives. For more information about the many faces of Volunteers of America and our diverse variety of programs, please visit http://www.voa.org/services-we-provide.

– 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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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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Enhancement

Let’s be honest about the “fiscal cliff” and the faulty logic that claims that charitable tax deduction is a benefit for the wealthy that won’t be missed. Political leaders touting this bromide are justifying proposals to redirect these dollars away from important work happening in communities nationwide.

Congress is seriously considering caps or cuts to the charitable deduction. The potential result—millions served by America’s nonprofit sector will be hit with the double whammy of government cutbacks and decline in the support of organizations like Volunteers of America, American Red Cross, the Salvation Army, the Boys & Girls Clubs and the American Cancer Society.

Quietly and humbly carrying out extraordinary missions every day, it may be easy to overlook the nonprofit sector as a growth industry and vital part of America’s social and economic fabric. Limiting or doing away with the charitable deduction at a time when people are still reeling from the recession and budget cutbacks simply makes no sense. It won’t help the federal government avoid the fiscal cliff. It will simply shift it to the nonprofit sector and communities that depend on it.

Hundreds of leaders serving our communities will travel to our nation’s capital December 4-5 to make sure elected officials understand what is at stake. These leaders of the Charitable Giving Coalition include more than 50 of America’s most active charities, nonprofits and other organizations. We are speaking out to protect a 100-year American philanthropic tradition that encourages giving back and strengthening communities. We’re also urging anyone committed to protecting the charitable deduction and the communities served by charitable giving to make sure their voices are heard.

We aim to pierce the “inside-the-beltway” bubble with a reality check from thousands of communities outside the beltway about what is at stake—crucial programs and services, from food pantries and medical research to youth programs and seed grants to support new businesses and job creation.

Data suggests that for every dollar deducted through this incentive, communities receive $3 of benefit. No other tax provision generates the kind of positive impact. But, if donors have less incentive to give, donations decline. The result is the loss of billions of dollars to support worthy causes, the jobs they provide, and the millions they serve.

According to Giving USA individual contributions to charitable causes in America account for 73 percent of all giving. These donations help achieve breakthroughs and benefits that put our country on a path of continuous improvement. A new public opinion poll commissioned by the United Way found that most Americans (79 percent) believe reducing or eliminating the charitable tax deduction would have a negative impact on charities and the people they serve. Of those who indicate they would reduce charitable giving, the majority (62 percent) indicate they would have to reduce their contributions by a significant amount—by 25 percent or more. Two out of every three Americans (67 percent) are opposed to reducing the charitable tax deduction.

The message is clear. Americans want to protect the charitable deduction.

And, consider this: Nonprofits generate $1.1 trillion every year through human services and provide 13.5 million jobs. They account for 5.4 percent of the GDP and 9 percent of all wages paid. The diverse nonprofit sector supports efforts to, for example, develop technology and medications to improve our health—like insulin, the polio vaccine, the MRI, electron microscope and pacemaker, provide educational opportunities and access to health services and ensure housing and shelter for the most vulnerable. Other nonprofits enhance the arts and cultural activities, conserve wetlands and protect the environment, protect civil and voting rights, and preserve historic treasures.

Now is not the time for Congress to dismantle a tradition that supports America’s nonprofits and the people and causes they serve. No doubt our nation faces a fiscal crisis that must be addressed, but Congress should stop seeing the charitable deduction as an easy mark and acknowledge the fiscal cliff they will create for America’s most vulnerable at a time they can least afford it. Giving strengthens our communities. Urge your members of Congress to preserve the charitable deduction.

Click here to add writing to your member of Congress to preserve charitable giving to your GOOD “to-do” list.


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

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Volunteers of America cofounder Maud Booth made quite the name for herself in the early years of our organization’s existence, doing things in the name of Christian charity that most proper Victorian women would never dream to consider. She became known as the “little mother of the prisons” because she would go into Sing Sing prison in New York to minister to the inmates – something most men of the era would never imagine doing, let alone women. In fact, Volunteers of America was one of the first, and for a long time one of the only, organizations that made outreach to the incarcerated one of its core service areas.

But Maud didn’t care if she was doing work others might consider unseemly. She felt a calling to seek out those needs that were being ignored and to help those who no one else would help. That’s just the kind of maverick she was … and that’s the mission to which Volunteers of America continues to aspire today.

As you might know, March is Women’s History Month. But at Volunteers of America, it’s also Founders Month. We were founded March 8, 1896, and each year we spend this time reflecting upon the history of our organization and ways in which our work has evolved, or remained the same, over the years. Ours is a history of strong women leaders from the same mold as Maud, who have been willing to move beyond what is considered to be the mainstream to make a difference in the lives of people in need.

This perspective has allowed us to identify new needs that may not get as much attention as they deserve. In recent years, one of these has been the plight of women veterans, whose numbers are growing but traditionally have been overlooked in the services provided to veterans. Many of these women have now started to appear in our homeless programs, but they bring with them a set of needs and challenges that are often totally separate from their male veteran counterparts. We’re creating new programs and facilities uniquely tailored to them, and in the process providing services that few other organizations are providing. We continue to be mavericks in this way … which is exactly what I believe Maud would want.

To learn more about Maud Booth and Volunteers of America’s history, please visit http://www.voa.org/About-Us/Our-History.

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

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