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Archive for the ‘Seniors’ 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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love

We love to talk about love in our society, especially this time of year around Valentine’s Day. Discussions of the trappings of love – the flowers, the dinners, diamond jewelry commercials on TV – seem inescapable. A new trend on social media focuses on increasingly elaborate proposals featuring flash mobs, show choirs and even some national talk show hosts. From the popularity of romantic comedies to the over-the-top – and expensive – weddings favored by many couples, “love” receives a great deal of attention long after Valentine’s Day is over.

Unfortunately, these examples focus less on true love and more on romance … which might explain why so many marriages end in divorce. True love persists after the romance and excitement have ended. True love doesn’t necessarily come with happiness. It can mean a lot of pain, sadness and sacrifice – experiences that can’t be easily summed up in a greeting card or a cute YouTube video.

Over the past year, I’ve had the great privilege to get to know Kim Campbell, wife of the legendary Glen Campbell. Since Glen’s diagnosis with Alzheimer’s in 2011, Kim has taken on the never-ending and often thankless role of caretaker for her husband. Her experiences reflect those of countless other caretakers supporting those with Alzheimer’s and other dementia-related diseases. These caretakers must express their love despite the fact that the memories and personality of their loved ones gradually slip away. Those with Alzheimer’s often can’t express their love or gratitude, and sometimes can’t even recognize the one taking care of them, but people like Kim carry on because of a bond that transcends superficial romantic gestures. This is the true meaning of love that gets ignored on Valentine’s Day.

And this love doesn’t just apply to married couples or between parent and children. At Volunteers of America, we employ a small army of caregivers who dedicate their professional lives to caring for others. They do this work out of a deep love and concern for other people, often when they could be doing something more lucrative and less emotionally taxing.

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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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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