Archive for the ‘Intellectual Disabilities’ Category

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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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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