Archive for the ‘Women’ Category

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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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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