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Archive for the ‘Homeless’ 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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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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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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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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Image

When tragedy strikes, like the recent tornado in Oklahoma, I’m reminded of the very serious responsibility we at Volunteers of America assume in the lives of the people we serve. While we’re not a first responder in times of emergency, like The Red Cross, we do have clients in facilities all over the country who often find themselves in harm’s ways when a natural disaster occurs.

Many of these people – be they children, the elderly or people with intellectual or physical disabilities – are truly dependent on us for their day-to-day care, and it’s up to us to ensure that they remain safe and accounted for. Others, like our homeless clients or residents in Volunteers of America affordable housing communities, may not be under our direct guardianship, but still need our help to find new places to live when homes are destroyed by fire, weather or other catastrophes.

Volunteers of America is an organization that’s often at its best when things are at their worst. In the days and weeks following Hurricane Katrina, when I was still CEO of our Texas affiliate, all members of our “family” joined together to help those displaced in New Orleans and elsewhere along the Gulf Coast. In many cases, this required moving disabled and elderly clients to Texas or Kentucky or other far-off places where they could be accommodated in the aftermath of the storm. For many it was a long road back to normalcy, but we stood by them to make sure their needs were met. Even though this meant, for many of us, long hours away from family and friends who were also reeling from the aftermath of the storm, we didn’t give it a second thought. It’s just what we do.

For those who lost their homes and belongings in the Oklahoma tornado, as well as other natural disasters, the road to recovery will be long, as well. Fortunately, Volunteers of America clients and facilities in the region were largely unaffected by the recent storm … but as we know, the potential for another emergency is always on the horizon and we must be prepared to react quickly to protect the people we serve.

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

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HomelessFamilyDespite signs that the economy continues to make a sluggish recovery, some measures – like the disappointing employment report released this month – demonstrate that the recovery has failed so far to touch many Americans. More than four years after the start of the recession, many still struggle to make a prosperous life for themselves and their families. Even paying for necessities like housing, food and health care has become out of reach for many.

At Volunteers of America, we often say that quality affordable housing forms the foundation for a successful life. But having a good job is also an essential part of that foundation. Not only is a job important for the obvious financial reasons … it also builds up people emotionally by giving their lives a sense of purpose and self-worth. Self-sufficiency is the end goal for participants in most of our programs, and that depends on a steady job.

Often, homelessness can be traced back to a lack of job skills and an inability to find employment. This is especially true among America’s veterans, many of whom return home and find it difficult to transition back into civilian life. We’re working to help in that transition by providing services like job training and placement in areas of the country especially hard-hit by unemployment.

One such program is in Ohio, where services are offered in Cleveland, Columbus and Dayton to help veterans find employment. These Homeless Veterans Reintegration Programs provide assistance like job skill development; resume writing; job searching, placement and coaching; career clothing; transportation assistance; and referrals to community resources. These Ohio programs have placed 1,630 veterans in jobs since 2009.

At a time when so many people are looking for work, or have become so discouraged that they’ve dropped out of the job market altogether, Volunteers of America is there to make sure they receive the support needed to get back on their feet.

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

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