the gazette - Volunteers of America
Volunteers of America
In print since 1896
2016 Issue 1
On March 8, Volunteers of America will celebrate its 120th
year of service to America’s most vulnerable people. I sometimes
wonder what our founders, Maud and Ballington Booth, would
think of the world today.
During our founding year, 1896, Wilhelm Röntgen announced his
discovery of X-rays. Today, the medical field has advanced to CT
scans and MRIs, technology Röntgen could only dream about. In
1896, the nation was watching the evolution of the telegraph to the
telephone. Today, cell phones have replaced landlines; texting has
replaced phone calls; and Twitter tweets connect people to an immediate expression of a moment in time. In 1896, Fannie Farmer
published her first cookbook, and today, you can turn to the Food
Channel and watch a chef prepare your favorite dish step by step.
In 1896, Puccini’s opera “La Boheme” premiered, and today, The
Voice, an inspiring television show, allows millions of Americans
to witness, in real time, talented singers blossom as they compete
for a chance at stardom. YouTube has replaced Nickelodeon,
and, well, you get the idea. So, what would Maud and Ballington
think of the world today? I believe they would look around and
say, “There are still a lot of people in need here in America, and we
are here to serve them. Let’s get busy!” And we are.
We continue to address many of the same needs that our founders
were addressing 120 years ago—homelessness, poverty, employment, food and shelter. We are taking all that we have learned from
our past efforts and are continuing to hone our skills to provide the
best possible care for those living on the margins of society. Support
from our beautiful partnerships with The Home Depot Foundation, Niagara Bottling, CBS Ecomedia, HSBC and the Major
League Baseball Players Trust (to name a few) allows us to do more
than ever before. We hope to share our mission with others in 2016.
The Volunteers of America legacy was built on a strong work ethic;
an ideology that everyone deserves a second chance; a promise to
empower others to be the best version of themselves; to always give
a hand up, and not a handout. Today, 120 years later, we are still
living out this legacy. I personally invite you to join us in helping
America’s most vulnerable. This year is going to be another year of
change, and you can be a part of it with us.
God bless you,
Children and Youth................................. 2
Community Enhancement...................... 4
Developmental Disabilities...................... 6
Emergency Services................................. 7
Employment and Training....................... 8
Health Care............................................. 9
Mental Health....................................... 13
Older Adults.......................................... 17
Substance Abuse.................................... 18
Ballington and Maud Booth
Children and Youth
nurturing the heart, body, mind—and ultimately the spirit—of those we serve
In Anchorage, Alaska, Volunteers of America’s Trailside Heights
housing community provides a place to call home for both families
with children and seniors who reside in the Lumen Park building
of the community. Stephanie Dale, the service coordinator for both
properties, organized a children’s lunchbox program at Trailside
Heights that would provide all the children in the community a free
lunch and afternoon snack throughout the summer. Help for this
big undertaking came from the Lumen Park seniors, who want to
be a part of a caring community.
Each day, one of the most involved seniors, Jane, would come and
help Dale set up, and then spend time with the kids. She asked
them about their day and told them how special they were. It was a
perfect fit. A couple weeks into the program, Jane came to Dale and
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confided in her that she has been suffering from severe depression,
to the point of taking her life. Her voice quivered as she described
her plan to take all her pills and end her life because she didn’t feel
like she had a purpose anymore. She told Dale that since she had
been asked to help with the lunch program, she felt needed again.
She said she loved working with her new colleague, getting to know
the kids and being a part of something with a purpose. She told
Dale that she saved her life and gave her a reason to live again.
The goal that summer may have been to feed hungry children
but, in the end, it brought generations together, providing support for mothers and a safe and nurturing place for children to
be, and also saved a life.
Children and Youth
For almost 12 decades, Volunteers of America has been providing healthy experiences for children, starting long ago with “Fresh
Air Camps.” These camps gave many youth living in the cities of
America an opportunity to enjoy the outdoors and participate in
team-building exercises. Continuing on in that tradition, Volunteers of America of Upstate New York partnered with the City of
Rochester Police Department and the Fire Department to launch
a new youth-focused initiative called Camp HEROES.
The free, weeklong summer camp hosted more than 20 fifth and
sixth grade students living in the city of Rochester. Held at the
Rotary Sunshine Camp, the event provided a positive experience for
the at-risk youth, helping them build relationships, learn life skills
and develop greater self-confidence. Staffed solely by law enforce-
ment officers and firefighters, these dedicated volunteers worked
to create trust, while bridging the gap often associated with law
enforcement and youth. Both officers and firefighters directed and
encouraged Camp HEROES’ girls and boys to stay on the right
track at a critical point in their lives.
“The kids that came to the camp are our future,” said Volunteers of
America Upstate New York CEO JoAnne Ryan. “They are the next
generation that will define us as a city. They will become our future
leaders. If we invest in our youth well, and with the right amount of
support, direction and encouragement, their potential will continue
to emerge. We will all benefit from a stronger, more cohesive and,
God willing, more peaceful city.”
volunteers of america
a community needs a piazza like a pizza needs a crust • by rick steves
Okay, so you’ve got your piazza. Now it’s time for pizza. Pizza is so
easy to love. And the crust, which holds all those tasty ingredients
together, is the unsung hero. No crust…lousy meal. When it comes
to a community addressing the needs of its people, there’s plenty of
love. Like tasty ingredients need a good crust, love brings the most
joy with collaboration. Without individuals working together to address local needs, a community’s well-intentioned love is in disarray
and community needs are not met.
Let me explain why I’m so enthusiastic about collaborating with
Volunteers of America Western Washington, The Boys and Girls
Club of Snohomish County, and my church (Trinity Lutheran
in Lynnwood). In my travels, I find the measure of the caliber of a
society is how they care for their seniors. Are they given dignity? Is
their wisdom honored? Are their social needs addressed? Are they
incorporated into the action or siloed away? Do they have a place
to gather and spread their collective wings?
In my travels, I’m inspired by the “piazza.” In Italy, ever since
ancient Roman times, a town’s main square is where the magic of
community happens—where people come together. With all the
greatness of our modern American society, the piazza is something
we are weak on. The new multi-generational Community Center—
envisioned in South Snohomish County by Volunteers of America
Western Washington and its partners—is a perfect example of
bringing a convivial sparkle of the piazza to our community.
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There’s no shortage of love in our community. And for it to get
traction, we’re building a center where people (seniors, families and
youth) can come together and help make the fabric of our community stronger. Volunteers of America understands how such a center
will fill many needs. They understand the wisdom of prevention:
providing services and support for youth, seniors and families before
a challenge becomes a crisis. They know the importance of diagnosing the unique needs of a particular community and designing
a program to complement rather than overlap services provided by
existing organizations. And they understand how designing a physical place for people to come together (which is rare) enables caring
people (which are plentiful) to make their community healthier.
I support Volunteers of America Western Washington’s vision
financially because their experience and savvy leverage my donations. I see Volunteers of America not as a charity but as a service to
help me get the most community bang for my compassionate buck.
If you need help turning your love into action, join us. And then,
before too long, I’ll see you at the piazza…for pizza!
changing perspective and paying it forward
When Qourtney Bush was at Theodora House from August 2006
to May 2007, she never thought she could have the life she is currently living; it never crossed her mind.
experience and certifications to add to her resumé, she does medical
billing. She is looking forward to starting the process to expunge her
record so that she may become even more employable.
“Volunteers of America of Indiana helped me change my perspective,” said Bush. “I didn’t make any progress until I thought
things into existence and affirmed things into reality. Getting
out of my hard situation wasn’t a cakewalk, but I arrived at it
daily. I changed my thinking and focused on what I have rather
than what I don’t have.”
Bush has many passions, including workforce development, reentry
services, organ donations and transplants, as well as motivational
speaking. She is participating in fundraising walks for those in need
of organ transplants. She would like to start her own nonprofit one
day to provide more opportunities for men and women coming
out of prison—to help them overcome barriers resulting from
their criminal records.
Bush learned two fundamental lessons during the time she spent
with Volunteers of America staff and the other residents. First, she
realized that she isn’t the only ex-offender out there and “having
your own pity party is pointless.” Second, she realized that nobody
owes her anything and that it’s up to her to accomplish things.
After leaving Theodora House in 2007 and overcoming many
other obstacles (including a kidney transplant) she became a certified pharmacy tech in December 2014. While Bush gains more
“I greatly appreciate the work that Volunteers of America of Indiana
did for me,” Bush said. “I volunteer with them and also with my
church.” Bush is truly paying it forward, from discussing issues and
giving positive advice to fellow residents as she helps the staff, to her
involvement in the Second Chance Mentoring Program.
“I am passionate about sharing my story so that I can help other
women at Theodora House to know what is possible for them.”
volunteers of america
achieving dreams together
Christopher Chilton is 24 years old. He has deep blue eyes,
honesty, humility and a tenacity for animal care. He works hard
to overcome the challenges that are inherent in his developmental
disability known as Asperger’s syndrome, which falls on the autism
spectrum. With continued support and assistance from Volunteers
of America’s Supported Living Services Program, Chilton is on his
way to achieving his dream of becoming a veterinary technician.
Because Volunteers of America understands that career preparedness
is an important part of a successful life, direct support professionals
worked with Chilton while he was still in high school. Every day
he received guidance and support from Specialist Christy Chachere
as she helped him with the tasks of note taking and information
dissemination. Chilton soon learned how to navigate the academic
portion of his life. With the proper support systems, such as those
provided by Chachere and the Supportive Living Services program,
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Chilton learned to harness the power of his strengths. Chilton’s
dream of becoming a veterinary technician soon seemed attainable.
Because animal care is more than just textbook analysis, Chilton
volunteered at the Metairie Small Animal Hospital to gain the
practical skills his chosen profession would need. He felt at home
there. But the academics associated with becoming a veterinary
technician remained extremely demanding. Chilton enrolled in a
time-management course to aid him in overcoming the difficulties presented by Asperger’s syndrome. He continues to keep his
dream at the forefront, taking on his biggest challenge to date—
NOTE: Latasha Marshall, Chilton’s previous facilitator, said that
he “opened her eyes” to her vision and dream. She is now working
towards her masters of business administration.
care crisis chat
Interested in psychology, Jessica Christian was looking for a
way to stay active and engaged while recovering from an injury.
What she found was an opportunity to help other young people
who feel isolated and in need of support.
Volunteers of America Western Washington has a 24-hour crisis
line that offers emotional support and crisis intervention to individuals in crisis or considering suicide. In addition to the crisis line,
they also offer crisis services through Care Crisis Chat, an online
service for crisis counseling. The chat service offers an outlet for
people that prefer communication online rather than by telephone.
With so many young people accessing and utilizing technology on
a daily basis, it is important to reach people who need help where
they are, using the tools with which they are most comfortable.
This is why Care Crisis Chat exists.
“A lot of times people are reaching out to chat because they don’t
have a support system,” says Crisis Chat Specialist Christian. “So
we are that support system. Without chat, some people might not
have another place to turn.” Care Crisis Chat is a great service to
give the younger generation a comfortable and familiar way to
communicate with others when they are feeling discouraged,
depressed or suicidal.
Suicide cuts across all boundaries—age, economic, social and ethnic. It’s important to understand that suicide is preventable. Most
suicidal individuals desperately want to live; they are just unable to
see alternatives to their problems. If you or someone you love is having suicidal thoughts, please go to www.suicidepreventionlifeline.
org or call 1.800.273.8255. You may also visit https://youtu.be/ryx9S3eN6sE to view a video highlighting the program and volunteer.
volunteers of america
Employment and Training
from eritrea to colorado
Seeing Menghisteab Berhane in the Volunteers of America
kitchen, one might guess he had been cooking his whole life. However, Berhane, in fact, spent most of his career as an accountant,
overcoming a long journey to make it to where he is today.
“Sometimes life drives you so you have to follow. You have to
be flexible,” Berhane said, reflecting on the past year. A native of
Asmara, Eritrea, Berhane was forced to flee his home country when
political unrest heightened nearly a decade ago. A long history of
fighting between Eritrea and Ethiopia meant war had been a reality
his entire life. His 10-year career as an accountant for the European
Commission had, for many years, given him immunity from fighting in the war. However, in 2006, it became clear to Berhane that
if he stayed in Eritrea he would be forced into the fighting under
the oppressive regime with no chance of ever leaving the Eritrean
military. “When you join the army, you don’t come out,” Berhane
said, “There was no constitution, there was no sharing of power,
there was no multiparty system, there was no press freedom.”
Sending his wife and three daughters ahead by plane, Berhane escaped Eritrea the only way a man of eligible military age could—by
foot. He met his family in Kenya, where they stayed until last year
when Berhane was accepted to a food-industry training program for
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refugees in Colorado. Berhane and his daughters made the move
to Denver in June 2014 where he began the African Community
Center’s Commercial Food and Safety Service Training Program,
a program equipping refugees with necessary skills to work in the
food industry. He says he hopes his wife will receive documents to
come to the United States and be reunited with their family soon.
After graduating from the program, Berhane was hired as a pantry
assembly worker at Volunteers of America Colorado and quickly
was promoted to a cook’s position. Moving from accounting to
cooking was not too much of a jump for Berhane, who said he has
always enjoyed cooking at home. “I like to cook; it is my passion,”
Berhane said. He cooks all of the lunches for the preschoolers in
Volunteers of America’s Head Start program, amounting to more
than 23,000 meals a year. “When you know where the food is going, it gives you satisfaction,” Berhane said.
“We are very grateful to have Menghis in the Volunteers of America
family,” said Rich Anderson, associate division director of aging and
nutrition services at Volunteers of America. “He is an incredibly
hardworking individual who has brought such positive energy to
our workplace,” Anderson said.
groundbreaking ceremony for aurora on france senior living
Aurora on France Senior Living, located in Edina, Minn., will
offer independent senior living, assisted living, memory support,
care suites and transitional care—all within one beautiful community. Fifty-four transitional care suites will be located near a state-ofthe-art therapy center offering short-term rehabilitative therapies.
Eight care suites will provide an alternative to a nursing home for
those needing higher levels of assisted living and personal care, or
inpatient rehabilitation to recovery from an injury, illness or surgery.
Amenities within the community include heated, underground
parking, fitness center with scheduled classes and wellness programs,
in-house pharmacy, guest rooms, movie theater and bistro café. The
facility will be connected to Fairview Southdale Hospital, a multispecialty hospital known for outstanding heart, stroke and cancer
care, and rated one of the best hospitals in the country for knee and
hip replacement surgeries by Consumer Reports news.
Aurora on France is projected to open in fall 2016.
volunteers of america
buckets of love
For families who are transitioning from homelessness, securing a
home should be a happy time, but it can also be a time filled with
anxiety caused by financial strain. With a limited income, furnishing even the most basic of household supplies is a major challenge.
Quota International’s Region 9, one of the oldest international
service organizations for women, recognized this need and saw a
great opportunity to partner with Volunteers of America Greater
Baton Rouge. Together, they are helping struggling families while
giving their members a “hands-on” way to serve. It is called the
“Buckets of Love” program, serving families within the Volunteers
of America housing program.
Each decorated bucket is filled with housewarming gifts that
include shower curtains, cooking utensils, hygiene products,
and kitchen towels and cleaning supplies. A handwritten note of
congratulations and encouragement for its recipient family is also
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lovingly tucked into each bucket. Baton Rouge Quota Club member Suzanne Rouvalis was amazed at the generosity of her fellow
members. Rouvalis said, “There was just this ‘wow’ moment when
we all realized that each family receiving a bucket would know that
they were loved.”
The road to self-sufficiency can be a long one for these families
in need. Buckets of Love provides a cushion so that families can
concentrate on other basic needs such as medical care, clothing
and furniture. Rouvalis was excited to learn that a Quota club
in Australia is already planning to replicate the Buckets of Love
project in their own community, and says that the Baton Rouge
club has plans to make Buckets of Love an ongoing project. She
said, “The only complaint that I heard from our members was
that we should have made more buckets!”
a hand up and out of homelessness
After 20 years living on the streets, the dream of a steady job
and a warm apartment to call home might seem impossible. U.S.
Marine veteran Richard Leyba meets many people on the streets
who say it sounds too good to be true. “I am living proof that
it can happen,” Leyba said just three weeks after settling into
his new apartment.
After a serious injury and surgery, Leyba realized he was too old and
too tired to be living on the streets. He decided he needed to make
a plan, and he entered Volunteers of America’s Back Home program
for homeless veterans and their families. Once he was connected
with his case manager, John Shaw, who is a veteran himself and a
Lead Veteran Specialist, the two stayed in contact nearly every day.
“Mr. Leyba’s is a remarkable story of perseverance,” said Shaw. “Unfortunately, Mr. Leyba’s challenges of finding affordable housing are
all too common for those experiencing homelessness or trying to
make it on a limited income. The reality of the situation is that finding housing continues to become more and more difficult.”
When a unit finally became available, Shaw immediately went into
action, tracking Lebya down, who immediately signed the lease.
After seven months of looking for a place and 20 years in homelessness, he finally had a place of his own. Since securing his apartment,
Leyba has been able to accomplish many things, including starting a
second job, opening a savings account, starting an emergency fund
and making his apartment into a home.
“I am not much for taking handouts, but this is a hand up,”
said Leyba. “John and the team gave me a hand up and I am
taking full advantage of it, and I am sharing it with anybody and
everybody I find.”
volunteers of america
providing hope and housing in shreveport
Janelle and her rescue dog, Coco, were the first residents to
move into South Pointe Place, a new affordable housing community for low-income older adults and families in Shreveport, La. Like
so many older adults on a limited income, Janelle could not find
an apartment she could afford until a friend told her about South
Pointe Place. “I watched it being built, and I was the third person
on the waiting list. I knew this would be my home.”
Before finding her way to Volunteers of America North Louisiana,
Janelle was living with her daughter and grandson. “It was nice living with them, but I never got to meet anyone, especially someone
my own age!” Today, Janelle has made many new friends with her
next-door neighbors. They share cookbook recipes in their kitchens,
work puzzles, watch television shows, and take long walks around
the building for their daily exercise.
Built in a convenient location close to the Red River, South Pointe
Place is the result of a 5-year collaborative project with Volunteers of
America and the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Devel-
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opment. It offers maintenance-free living in a smoke-free community. Amenities include 50 spacious one-bedroom/one-bathroom
apartments, laundry facility and large community room with
indoor and outdoor patio seating, wheelchair accessibility and a
computer/arts and crafts room, all overseen by a professional, quality, friendly management team on site 24 hours a day. All apartment
homes are for qualifying persons 62 years of age and older with rent
based on 30 percent of adjusted gross monthly income. In addition, the Ballington Center, the new home for the adult day health
program, is located on the first floor, providing daily activities and
medical supervision for adults with physical or mental limitations.
Chuck Meehan, Volunteers of America North Louisiana president and CEO, said this is the most excited he’s been about a
project in his 27-year tenure. “Frankly, we’re just scratching the
surface. The need [for affordable housing] is so incredible that
we have to keep at it.”
powerful tools for caregivers
Martha Williams, one of Harris’ volunteer facilitators, describes the new services at an event co-sponsored by the affiliate.
A PBS Documentary—Caring for Mom and Dad—first aired in
May 2015. One of the segments of the documentary was filmed at
Volunteers of America Minnesota and Wisconsin’s Monroe Village
in Minneapolis. The film highlights and explores the challenges of
working caregivers, especially those who provide dementia care for
older adults at home.
Dorothea Harris, head of caregiver services for African American
families in Minnesota, initiated a program called “Powerful Tools
for Caregivers.” The film showcases Harris’ intervention and mediation services in working with Rochelle Harris, daughter of Odester
Robinson, who also is featured in the film, and Odester’s son,
Anthony. Volunteers of America recently mailed DVD copies of
Caring for Mom and Dad to leaders in the field of aging, including each of the Volunteers of America affiliates, to inspire further
dialogue on the topic.
“We invite you to join in the conversation to further develop innovative solutions like those described in the film,” said Volunteers of America Minnesota and Wisconsin’s President and CEO
Paula Hart in her cover letter. “Let’s keep talking about this—and
You may view the film at www.pbs.org/wgbh/caringformomanddad/. The film is narrated by Oscar-winning star Meryl Streep.
Dorothea Harris can provide more information at [email protected]
org or call 952.945.4175.
volunteers of america
volunteers of america receives international award
Jane Danner (second from right) receives the IAHSA Excellence in Ageing Services Award.
The International Association of Homes and Services for the
Ageing (IAHSA) recognized Volunteers of America with its Excellence in Ageing Services Award at its Global Ageing Conference,
held in Perth, Australia. Jane Danner, director of psychosocial
development and support, attended the conference to receive the
award. The award recognized Volunteers of America’s efforts to
tailor care and services to the needs of lesbian, gay, bisexual and
transgender (LGBT) clients, patients and residents in our health
care programs and facilities.
In 2012, Volunteers of America was awarded a grant through
Minnesota’s Department of Human Services to provide diversity
training to employees in its care centers. Volunteers of America
partnered with Training to Serve in this initiative. Training to Serve
is a nonprofit organization whose mission is to provide education,
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tools and resources to improve the quality of life of LGBT people as
they age. The training is designed to help individuals and organizations become more culturally knowledgeable of, and sensitive to,
the needs of LGBT older adults. Volunteers of America embraced
the opportunity to better serve a vulnerable population by creating
an environment that is welcoming and inclusive.
“Our commitment to this initiative expanded when we took the
trainings to facilities and programs outside of Minnesota,” said
Wayne Olson, executive vice president of healthcare operations
and development. “Online training modules have been created in
order that newly hired employees can receive the information that
is presented in the ‘live’ training sessions. We are honored to receive
this prestigious award. Inclusiveness has always been a cornerstone
within Volunteers of America.”
wendy kohler receives the transformational leader award
Wendy Kohler, Volunteers of America vice president of human
resources—healthcare, has been presented with the 2015 Volunteers of America Transformational Leader Award. This prestigious
award recognizes and honors individuals who have made outstanding contributions to the organization in performance of position
responsibilities. Eligibility requirements include demonstrating the
ability to change, and to manage change; success in bringing others
along to promote positive change and to work toward common
goals; and making accomplishments that had identifiable impact of
positive and lasting quality.
“Throughout the 10 years that Wendy has worked for Volunteers
of America, she has always shown the highest level of commitment
and professionalism in whatever project and assignment she has
been given,” said Wayne Olson, senior vice president of healthcare
operations and development, who presented the award to Kohler.
“Her work with stabilizing operations and leading the human
resources aspects of managing three facility receiverships in Minnesota merits particular recognition. She helped create an environment of trust and confidence with staff and residents of the facilities
Volunteers of America was managing.”
volunteers of america
interfaith relationships bring a community closer together
From left to right: Martin Brooks with Peace Catalyst; Miraç Özkir with the American Turkish Friendship
Association; Ias Esat Omer Demirel and his father, Mehmet Demirel of the ATFA; and Jennifer Hancock,
President and CEO of Volunteers of America Mid-States
Last September, Donna Trabue, chaplain of Volunteers of
America Mid-States, attended a press conference along with approximately 50 others at the Louisville Islamic Center, which had
been vandalized the night before with the spray-painting of antiIslamic messages. This act, characterized as a hate crime by the FBI,
was heartily condemned and the public was invited to attend and
participate in painting over the graffiti the following afternoon.
“Louisville’s compassion showed up in the form of several hundred
citizens—interfaith leaders, schoolchildren, mothers and fathers
with small children, elderly, government officials and others,” said
Trabue. “We all joined in solidarity with members of the Islamic
Center, proving, in the words of Bishop Tutu, ‘goodness is stronger
than evil; love is stronger than hate; light is stronger than darkness;
life is stronger than death.’”
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During the Mayor’s Week of Service in April, members of the
American Turkish Friendship Association (ATFA) demonstrated
their depth of care and compassion for the homeless families Volunteers of America serves by volunteering to serve a meal. During the
observance of Eid al-Adha (Feast of the Sacrifice), the ATFA and
some Christian churches in Louisville sponsored the donation of
the meat—a cow and lambs. Volunteers from these faith communities also served an evening meal to homeless parents and children at
Volunteers of America’s Louisville Family Housing Services.
“I am deeply grateful to our Turkish American friends and other
Muslims for the neighborly compassion they have shown,” said
Trabue. “They put their faith into action, ably demonstrating the
depth of their caring by nourishing the bodies and spirits of our
city’s homeless families living at Volunteers of America’s Louisville
Family Housing Services. I look forward to continuing this journey
of interfaith collaboration and partnership.”
gulf coast village breaks ground for new assisted living and memory support center
A new assisted living and memory support center is coming to
Southwest Florida, part of a three-phase redevelopment project at
Gulf Coast Village, a continuing care retirement community in
Cape Coral. A groundbreaking event was held on Sept. 15, 2015,
for Palmview at Gulf Coast Village.
Inspired from the old Florida architecture of a seaside resort, the
new assisted living and memory support residences at Gulf Coast
Village are designed as places where older adult residents can discover a mix of engaging activities, encouraging an active lifestyle and
enriching their daily experience. Metal roofs merge with modern
materials to create a quaint, state-of-the-art property, while large
porches and expansive courtyards invite both residents and their
guests to explore and relax.
“The groundbreaking of our new residences marks the beginning
of an exciting three-phase redevelopment project expanding our
community to meet the growing needs of older adults,” said Executive Director Kevin Ahmadi. “Palmview at Gulf Coast Village will
provide improved access to health care services as well as all of the
amenities and lifestyle choices desired. Our hope is this will be a
place where their needs are met, so they can focus on friends, family
and the activities they enjoy most.”
Palmview is projected to open in spring 2017.
volunteers of america
“even in here, i know i have god’s favor.”
After drugs, divorce and prison, 58-year-old ordained minister
Anthony has finally become the man he always wanted to be.
Raised by his single mother along with his six siblings, Anthony was
involved in church and sports. In all things, he made God a central
part of his life. But, as sometimes happens, as a teen he fell into the
wrong crowd and began experimenting with drugs. Seeing the path
of destruction ahead, Anthony decided to move away and work on
becoming a better man.
He got sober, met his wife, found a good job and purchased his
first home. Reunited with God, Anthony also became an ordained
minister. “Everything was going well for me. I was married, had
a four-bedroom, two-bath home and a brand new truck in the
driveway. But I was selfish, and I broke myself along the way.”
Eventually, his job and marriage began falling apart. “I should
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have surrendered to God then, but I didn’t. I was seeking the answers in the wrong places.” Anthony began using drugs again, and
was eventually apprehended, facing even more serious charges.
Anthony is currently finishing up his prison sentence at Volunteers
of America of Greater Ohio’s Residential Reentry program. He
is employed, continues to work on being a better man by taking
advantage of the many programs available and is connecting with
local community mentors to help him when he is released.
“In retrospect, being arrested was the best thing that happened to
me,” Anthony said. “Volunteers of America gave me the advantages
to do what I need to do and be what I need to be. They have given
me nothing but respect since the beginning. Even in here, I know
I have God’s favor.”
arch: a place to help youth get back on the right path
Jennifer Warner photo
Micah Burnett poses for a photo with his dad, John, after the 4A state cross-country championships.
“On an early October day in Anchorage, with the ground caked
in mud, Micah Burnett never felt more alive,” wrote sports writer
Derek Clarkston for the Kodiak Daily Mirror. “The Kodiak High
School senior with a contagious smile was doing something
he never thought was possible—running at the 4A state cross
“John, who would sometimes sleep outside Micah’s bedroom
door to make sure he didn’t sneak out, traveled to Anchorage
and watched his son compete at the state championship meet,”
Clarkston wrote. “The two embraced minutes after the race. It
symbolized so much more than a father hugging his son.”
Clarkston went on to report that just a year and a half before that
race, Burnett started the process of regaining control of his life.
The young man’s addiction to drugs and alcohol had landed him
into some bad experiences, as his father, John Burnett, confirmed,
telling Clarkston, “He went through some significant troubles.
There were lots of nights just wondering where he was.” It was a
failed drug test that sent young Burnett to Volunteers of America
Alaska’s Adolescent Residential Center for Help (ARCH) in Eagle
River. ARCH is a residential treatment program for youths with
drug and alcohol addictions.
“He was there for nine months, and initially fought it,” wrote
Clarkston. “Micah met a guy who told him that running saved
his life. So, Micah started running. Micah has been clean for more
than a year. He said every time he has urges to drink and use
drugs he goes for a run.”
ARCH has a proven track record for putting youth back on the
right track. “Now that cross country is over (the team is training to
compete in Lower 48 races in November), he is training for track
and wants to work towards running in college next fall, something
that he never thought was possible two years ago,” Clarkston concluded. “Micah finally found a path with a happy ending.”
volunteers of america
the mission continues
On Oct. 17, 2015, more than 150 newly recruited veteran fellows
with The Mission Continues showed up with their supporters
to improve the reentry facility on Avenue J in Fort Worth, Texas.
More than 200 strong, The Mission Continues members and other
volunteers embarked on their third and largest service project with
Volunteers of America Texas. However, the group announced that
it would not stop at what was done that day; a local platoon committed to at least a year of service to Avenue J, inaugurating that
commitment on Nov. 7 for the Veterans Day holiday.
ects. Joining the teams were additional volunteers from Lockheed
Martin and Southwest Airlines. After securing donations for the
majority of the materials, the teams painted the inside and outside
of the Mothers and Infants Nurturing Together (MINT) building; painted the cafeteria, community room and classroom; built
picnic tables, raised garden beds, benches, chairs and a fire pit; hung
a shade structure; created an improved exercise area and walking
track; and set up a new computer lab with donated computers and
bookshelves they built.
The Mission Continues is a nonprofit group dedicated to mobilizing veterans to volunteer in their local communities. Each veteran
chooses a platoon in their community to volunteer with, and
each platoon decides on a focus area in which to dedicate their
efforts. After a conference in Dallas to initiate the new fellows
from throughout the country, a combat veterans motorcycle group
escorted three buses of veterans to Avenue J to work on several proj-
In a briefing with the veterans before the project, The Mission Continues talked to the other volunteers about the Avenue J program.
They expressed that there is a real connection that they can find
with the clients Volunteers of America serves. They understand
living with a stigma, and that many of Volunteers of America clients
live with one as well. In true selflessness, the mission continues.
gazette 2016 issue 1
out of the “woods” and into clermont commons
Colleen Woods waited for her daughter to get back from summer camp, dreading the moment that she would have to tell the
13-year-old that they no longer had a home. Woods, a U.S. Army
veteran, and her daughter, Arleigh, became homeless in 2012 after
Woods suddenly found herself without work and living in a shelter.
“You’re just surviving,” Woods said, reflecting on the first days in the
shelter. You’re not thinking of yourself as a veteran. Because, why
would a veteran be here? Why would someone who had so much
going for them be here?”
Working with Volunteers of America Female Veteran Program staff,
Woods identified her primary goal as finding housing for her and
her daughter before Arleigh had to go back to school. With this
goal in mind, one of the women veterans advocates told Woods that
Volunteers of America’s Clermont Commons might be a good fit
for her family. Clermont Commons is made up of three adjacent
homes in east Denver that Volunteers of America built to serve as
transitional housing for female veterans and their children.
Woods and her daughter enthusiastically moved into Clermont
Commons, where they stayed for almost two years. During that
time, Woods was able to secure work, pay off her debt and significant car repair bills, and still save money for her and Arleigh to
move into their own apartment.
“It gives you time to breathe. You’re out of crisis mode because you
have a roof over your head, you have food in your mouth, and
you’re able to step back and really look at your situation,” Woods
said. “Clermont Commons saved us from being exactly where we
were before. That would have devastated us again. The security this
program has provided for us is immeasurable, and it still continues.”
volunteers of america
volunteers of america helped me weather the storm
For many, Hurricane Sandy is a distant memory—but not for
Kyle Williams. The 2012 storm pummeled the East Coast and
ravaged countless homes, including Williams’ sister’s home, where
he had been staying.
A 25-year Army veteran, Williams had lost his full-time job earlier
that year, and moved in with his sister while looking for a new
one. After Hurricane Sandy hit, his sister was relocated, but he
was not so fortunate. He spent the next year “couch-surfing,”
grateful for the generosity of friends.
With the onset of developing health issues, some due to stress,
Williams visited the Veterans Affairs (VA) Hospital. It was there
he learned about Patriot House, Volunteers of America transitional housing for veterans. He arrived with little more than the
clothes on his back and a small suitcase, focused and eager for the
chance to start anew.
gazette 2016 issue 1
His case manager immediately connected him with the Supportive Services for Veteran Families program to begin the search
for stable, affordable housing. Because Williams was eager to find
employment, he enrolled in the Homeless Veterans Reintegration
Program, which helps servicemen and women reenter the workforce. Within a short time, Williams secured a full-time job at a
large social services agency. The anticipation of a steady paycheck
expanded his housing options and a few months later, with help
from the team at Patriot House, he moved into an apartment of
his own. To ease the transition, Volunteers of America assisted
Williams with a rental allowance, some furnishings for his apartment and a stipend for transportation to and from his job.
Now that Williams is working again, he is diligently saving money
for an “emergency” fund. And who knows better how important
it is to plan for an emergency.
first lady commends volunteers of america ssvf program
On April 20, the city of New Orleans received high praise from
First Lady Michelle Obama for being the first city in the country
to eradicate veteran homelessness. Volunteers of America Greater
New Orleans was among the agencies honored by the first lady
for helping to house veterans last year as part of the Mayor’s Challenge to End Veteran Homelessness.
Since 1997, Volunteers of America has been a leader in addressing the needs of homeless veterans through multiple programs.
The Supportive Services for Veteran Families (SSVF) program
was instrumental in accomplishing New Orleans Mayor Mitch
Landrieu’s challenge. This program offers assistance to any honorably discharged veteran who is in danger of becoming homeless
or is homeless in the state of Louisiana. In 2014, this program
housed or prevented homelessness for 310 veterans in the
Greater New Orleans community.
DaVaughn Phillips, a case manager with the SSVF program, was
also named Case Manager of the Year for New Orleans in recognition of exemplary services in providing housing to homeless
veterans. When asked what led him to choose a career in social
work, DaVaughn responded that he did not choose this path, it
chose him. His easy-going smile, acceptance of others, knowledge and eagerness to help are key to his success in working with
veterans in need.
Volunteers of America is proud to offer services to those who have
given so much to our country and will continue to work to ensure
that no veteran is left without a place to call home or without a
livable wage job. Because, as Mayor Landrieu said, “All of us know
the hard truth, this job is never going to end.”
giving veterans something to smile about
Mobile, Ala., dentist Dr. James Whatley has made a positive
impact in the lives of several veterans at Eagle’s Landing, a 38-unit,
transitional housing community with supportive services designed
to meet the unique needs of homeless veterans. After visiting the
program, he thought, “I really want to do something to give back to
the veterans that have served our country.” He offered his professional skills to serve the men in the program, and has since had a
positive influence on many of the veterans’ lives.
A brand new sense of confidence.
One veteran reported that he feels “a brand new sense of confidence” now that he has a nice smile. He was overjoyed after a visit
with his son, who told him, “You have a smile that shows how nice
a man you are.” In another instance, Whatley made a life-changing
discovery. During a routine check-up, he discovered a mouth cancer
in one veteran. He used his personal contacts to link this veteran to
The University of Alabama at Birmingham (UAB) and a team of
surgeons considered the best in the state. After several appointments
and surgeries at UAB Medical Center, the cancer has been removed
and the veteran is now cancer free.
volunteers of america
Volunteers of America is the charity that always steps
forward to help the most vulnerable. Founded in 1896, we’re a
national, nonprofit, faith-based organization dedicated to helping
those in need live healthy, safe and productive lives. Through hundreds of human service programs, including housing and health
care, Volunteers of America helps more than 2 million people in
over 400 communities, including veterans, seniors, people with
disabilities, at-risk youth, men and women returning from prison,
homeless individuals and families, those recovering from addictions and many others. Our work touches the mind, body, heart
and ultimately the spirit of those we serve.
Mark your calendars!
The 2016 Volunteers of America National Conference
will be held just outside of Chicago, at the Hyatt Regency
Hotel located at the O’Hare Airport in Rosemont, Ill.,
June 25 through June 28, 2016. Looking forward to
seeing you there!
The Gazette is a newsletter for employees, volunteers, board members
and supporters of Volunteers of America.
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Hope J. Gibbs
president and ceo
executive vice president of external affairs
Jatrice Martel Gaiter
vice president, communications
April 25 - May 1, 2016
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For more information,
The Gazette is published two times a year by:
Volunteers of America
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(703) 341–5000 fax: (703) 341–7000
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