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Posts Tagged ‘children’

Helping Children Get a Bright Start

Young Girl

We tend to imagine childhood as a time of carefree innocence, when youngsters play and go to school without the pressures and disappointments of adult life. Sadly, many children don’t enjoy this kind of idealized upbringing. For those in poverty, the harsh realities of the world become part of their day-to-day lives at an early age.

Annually, an estimated 2.5 million American children are homeless at some point in the year. Many more children have at least one parent incarcerated in jail or prison. Other families, while not homeless, are so poor that they struggle to provide food and other necessities to their children. Poverty is hard on anyone, but it is especially troubling when it affects children. Childhood builds the foundation for successful, healthy adult lives later on. If youngsters are deprived of a stable home life, an education, or a parent’s loving presence in their lives, they will sink deeper into a cycle of intergenerational poverty.

That’s why Volunteers of America offers so many programs to help children thrive at a young age, no matter what their circumstances might be. We take a holistic approach to care, knowing that children can’t thrive unless their parents and other family members receive the support they need to overcome their own troubles and provide a stable home environment.

We provide child care, Head Start and early literacy programs to help young children get a bright start. We serve school age children by providing before and after school programs, summer camps and mentoring. Leading to the start of the new school year each fall, many of our affiliates sponsor Operation Backpack drives to collect school supplies for low-income children to ensure that a lack of resources doesn’t stand in the way of a robust education.

I know it’s a cliché, but children truly are our future. If we help those in need early in life, we can avoid a number of devastating social ills later on … and that ultimately helps improve society for all of us. Learn more about Volunteers of America’s programs for children.

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

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Two Children

July 4th provides an opportunity every year to honor those serving in the military and reflect upon the sacrifices made to defend our country and its freedoms. While our thoughts naturally go to those currently serving, we often forget to think about those who returned home and fell on hard times.

Every night, thousands of veterans are homeless in cities all across the United States. It’s a national tragedy that those who served our country are now left forgotten and on the streets. For more than a century, Volunteers of America has been a leader in providing services to veterans in need, helping those who served as far back as the Civil War. Today, we are one of the largest providers of assistance to homeless vets, serving approximately 40,000 of these men and women each year. We pride ourselves not only on getting these folks off the streets, but also treating the underlying causes of their homelessness so they can live successful and independent lives over the long term. We’re also proud to work with a number of partners on this important mission, including a close relationship with the U.S. Department of Veteran Affairs.

But it’s not just homeless veterans who need our help. Children are another group who are disproportionately affected by homelessness. Summer is the time of year that many Volunteers of America affiliates are collecting school supplies for annual Operation Backpack campaigns. These campaigns ensure that all children, even those who are homeless, have the supplies they need to start school in the fall. Our largest campaign, in New York City, aims to collect enough supplies to provide backpacks to 20,000 children living in city homeless shelters.

I hope you’ll join me on our mission to ensure that no American, young or old, is forgotten and relegated to living life on the streets. Learn more about the work Volunteers of America does to help the most vulnerable among us. I also invite you to help support the mission of Operation Backpack.

– 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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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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