Volunteers of America North and Central Louisiana http://www.voanorthla.org Donate Thu, 11 Jan 2018 17:35:49 +0000 en-US hourly 1 https://wordpress.org/?v=4.8.5 Vets for Pets http://www.voanorthla.org/vets-for-pets/ Thu, 26 Oct 2017 15:53:18 +0000 http://www.voanorthla.org/?p=4744 Every Tuesday around 8:45 a.m., Veterans travel to the Bossier City Animal Control. Veteran, Jason says, “It’s very rewarding and the dogs love to see people. They start running around and getting excited when you get there.”

The group of Veterans live at our Veterans Transitional Living Facility. The 56-bed program provides the basics of food, shelter and support, while the Overton Brooks VA Medical Center takes care of their physical and mental health needs. All Veterans are required to save a portion of their income and either work, go to school or volunteer during the day.

Case manager, Chanel, wrote, “The idea behind this [Vets for Pets] is the link between animal and human interaction and its therapeutic benefit. It also directly impacts our city by helping these animals become more desirable for adoption.” She adds, “I also found that it increases a sense of belonging and responsibility within the Veteran.”

“I don’t like people, but I like Lucky,” Sean shares. “I’ve lived at the Veterans Home for almost a year. Feelings and emotions are all new to me and I sometimes shut off completely.” Yet when Sean sees Lucky, he sees a friend and a kindred spirit. Together, they run and play outside. And although Sean enjoys spending time with him, he says, “I hope Lucky finds a good home.”

At the Bossier City Animal Control, the Veterans are registered volunteers and assist with every day task such as bathing animals, walking animals and teaching basic commands. However, they are giving much more than their time – they are giving their hearts.

Most of the Veterans work with the dogs, but David says he is the “Cat Man”. “My main job is to cuddle them. That makes them more adoptable.”

Whether it is cats or dogs, these furry animals now have a few more best friends until they find a new home.

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Camella’s Story http://www.voanorthla.org/camellas-story/ Tue, 19 Sep 2017 14:32:10 +0000 http://www.voanorthla.org/?p=4674

Camella, age 11, is a shining star.

Last year, she won Student of the Year at Bossier Elementary. “I had to write an essay. Our principal picked the top 3 essays and she chose mine as the best one,” Camella said with a big smile.

She began attending our Bossier LightHouse, after-school and summer program, in the 3rd grade.

Her older brother, Jamarian, started the program first and would come home to share stories.

“When my brother told me about it, I told my mom I wanted to come,” Camella added. “I didn’t want to be stuck at home!”

At the LightHouse, academics come first. Staff and tutors are ready to assist students with homework each day, yet there is always time to relax and play.

“We have free time. We write in our journals and go   outside to play together. I like it when we partner       together to do activities.”

Camella is very grateful for this program.

“Thank you for supporting the LightHouse, because we really enjoy it!”

Today, she is prepared and excited to be in the 6th grade at Greenacres Middle School. And she is already looking forward to her future.

“When I grow up, I want to go to Dillard University and be a lawyer.”

The LightHouse is funded in part by grants from The Community Foundation of North Louisiana and the United Way Fund of the Community Foundation.

 

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$250,000 Grant Awarded to Children and Families Programs http://www.voanorthla.org/245000-grant-awarded-to-children-and-families-programs-2/ Fri, 14 Jul 2017 20:14:42 +0000 http://www.voanorthla.org/?p=4611 $250,000 Grant Awarded to Children and Families Programs

Volunteers of America North Louisiana’s children and families programs, The LightHouse and partnership with Communities In Schools, secures a $250,000 grant from the Community Foundation of North Louisiana and United Way of Northwest Louisiana.

Jennifer Steadman, Director of External Relations for the Community Foundation, presented the check at Volunteers of America’s annual Board of Directors meeting. “Congratulations to your staff for the valuable work you do and the outcomes you are accomplishing,” Steadman said. “Your support for at-risk children in pivotal in paving the way to the brighter future they all deserve.”

Since 1989, Volunteers of America North Louisiana has been providing academic support, family services, and cultural experiences to children and their families through the LightHouse program. The program operates during after school hours and in the summer providing students and families with academic support and wrap around services with the goal of improving academic performance.

During the 2014-2015 school year, the LightHouse program expanded its services via a new collaboration with Communities In Schools (CIS). CIS is a national organization serving 1.5 million students in 25 states and the District of Columbia. It is the nation’s largest and most effective organization dedicated to keeping kids in school and helping them succeed in life.

According to U.S. Census Bureau, there are over 25,000 children living in poverty in Caddo and Bossier Parishes.  In addition, Louisiana has some of the country’s highest rates of children in poverty and teen pregnancy. The CIS and LightHouse programs address the issues facing low-income children who are falling behind academically giving each child an opportunity to graduate on time and be successful in life. In the 2016-17 academic year, Volunteers of America North Louisiana served over 3,500 children in need.

This year’s award breakdown is $40,000 from the United Way of Northwest Louisiana and $210,000 allocated from the Annie Lowe Stiles Trust, the Stiles Mineral Reserve, and the Gloria and Lane Sartor funds. Steadman shared, “When looking for an avenue to ensure their ideals would continue to be supported for generations to come, the Sartors turned to the Community Foundation to create their fund. They preferred that grants from their fund benefit organizations with which they were involved.” She added, “Among the highlights of Mrs. Sartor’s work with Volunteers of America was the creation of special needs adoption program for minority and disabled children.”

Volunteers of America North Louisiana’s relationship with the Community Foundation started more than 45 years ago – in 1971. Since that time, more than $4.8 million has been granted to support children and families in our communities. These two organizations are blessings to our community and those who find their way to us.

 

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PR & Development Coordinator Hired in Central Louisiana http://www.voanorthla.org/pr-development-coordinator-hired-in-central-louisiana/ Mon, 10 Jul 2017 21:10:19 +0000 http://www.voanorthla.org/?p=4583 Volunteers of America in Central Louisiana is pleased to announce the hiring of Meghan Odom, Public Relations and Development Coordinator.

 

Odom shares, “There are so many reasons I was initially attracted to Volunteers of America. Growing up all I wanted was to help impact the lives of others in a positive manner and eventually that turned into a passion for reaching others through Public Relations and Nonprofit work. When I discovered Volunteers of America, the mission and values so closely aligned with everything I hold dear that I knew this was an organization where I would love to serve.” She adds, “I’ve always wanted to make the world a better place and help those most critically in need. I couldn’t think of a better way to do so than with Volunteers of America.”

 

Odom recently moved from Florida to Louisiana. She brings a breadth of knowledge in event planning, as well as excellent customer service and public relations skills to the agency. Previously, she has worked at The Walt Disney Company, Orlando Magic, AmericanKidz Adoption Services and Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

 

In her new role, Odom will be assisting Regional Vice President, Joshua Blackwell, in the community. Blackwell writes, “As Volunteers of America in Central Louisiana expands its reach in our community to include more individuals needing our ministry of service, we are beyond excited to announce the newest member of our team, Meghan Odom.  Meghan will be at the forefront of our marketing and fundraising initiatives as we seek to increase involvement from our community to serving the most vulnerable.

 

Odom is also ready to begin her new career opportunity. “I am most looking forward to helping Volunteers of America in Central Louisiana grow and impact the lives of even more people in need within our area,” Odom said. “As I am brand new to Central Louisiana, I really look forward to making meaningful and long-lasting connections in the community!”

 

About Volunteers of America in Central Louisiana:

For 30 years, Volunteers of America in Central Louisiana has transformed lives by providing opportunity and offering support, so each person can reach their full potential. Central Louisiana services began in 1986 with just one program, adoption and crisis pregnancy services. Today, we have over 10 programs touching the lives of over 1,500 children and families, Veterans, people with disabilities, and those seeking affordable housing each year. For more information, visit www.voacenla.org or call 1-318-442-8026.

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Quinn’s Story http://www.voanorthla.org/quinns-story/ Fri, 30 Jun 2017 15:44:04 +0000 http://www.voanorthla.org/?p=4564

One year ago, Quinn, age 56, was living underneath the Market Street Bridge in Shreveport, Louisiana.

As a homeless Veteran, he was uncomfortable letting others know about his situation. “I was telling people that I stayed at the Hilton and they would be in disbelief,” Quinn shares. “Yet, it is true because I stayed at the Hilton, not IN the Hilton.”

Quinn grew up in a rural Northeast Louisiana town working on his parent’s farm before they moved the family to Monroe, LA. His father instilled a very tough work ethic in all of his children, including Quinn. Consequently, he can always remember working and never having a lack of money. Money led to buying drugs and hanging with the wrong crowd at a very early age in life.

Dropping out of high school, Quinn chose to attend the Job Corp and afterwards, he joined the military at age 17 as a supply specialist for the U.S. National Guard in hopes of finding a new beginning. However, his drug addiction continued to haunt him. After the military, Quinn’s life spiraled out of control and he “made a lot of wrong turns and bad decisions.” At age 24, Quinn was arrested for the first time on a drug-related charge. Later in his life, he stayed sober for a few years and then his addiction was too much to handle. “By using drugs, I can’t really function when I use them, so I couldn’t keep a job.”

In 2015, Quinn inevitably found his way to back to jail and stayed for two months. As part of his parole hearing, the judge ordered him to attend the Volunteers of America North Louisiana’s Veterans Treatment Court.
Veterans Treatment Court, established in February 2015, is a collaborative effort between Volunteers of America North Louisiana, Caddo District Court, Veterans Affairs Office, and State Probation and Parole.

Presiding Judge Craig Marcotte explains the program, “The court provides a means to successfully rehabilitate veterans by diverting them from the traditional criminal justice system and providing them with the tools they need to lead a productive and law-abiding life through treatment, rehabilitative programming, reinforcement and judicial monitoring.”

Quinn explains it, “Veterans Court is tough. You have to go every two weeks,” he said. “You have to stay clean and take a urine test every week. It is hard, because I have been living a lifestyle doing what I want to do, so you naturally want to resist. It is so structured. You have take it slow.”

As Quinn attended court each week, he talked to Judge Marcotte about living under the bridge. “He did not force me to do anything. He just kept saying it is hot out there and you know he was right! Under the bridge, the concrete absorbs heat. So in the winter time, it keeps you warm, but in the summer time it’s hot all night long. Therefore, you constantly have to wipe yourself down with cold water, so you can sleep.”

Finally, after 15 months in Veterans Treatment Court and staying sober, Quinn was ready to make a move.

The VA Homeless Program coordinated the transition.

Veteran Justice Outreach specialist, Joni Crawford, picked Quinn up one day and together, they walked through the front doors of the Volunteers of America North Louisiana’s Veterans Transitional Living Facility for a tour. “The atmosphere felt peaceful, so I wanted to try it. I didn’t have a problem following the rules.”

It did not take long before Quinn settled in to a new normal. He began taking computer classes every week at the Broadmoor library, so he could get online and find jobs. With the help from Chanel, his caseworker, and other community partnerships, he was able to find work, save a portion of his income and six months ago, Quinn moved into his own one-bedroom studio apartment.

Today, Quinn attends Celebration Recovery at two local churches as he continues to overcome his adversities and keep moving forward. “I’m devoting my life to Christ, reading the Word and being consistent in my prayer life.” He is also working fulltime at Hoglands Landscaping. “I always loved helping on the farm growing up, so this job has brought me back to things I really truly love.”

Moving forward, Quinn wants to be patient, humble and take it one day at a time. He is so thankful for all of the love and support. “It’s like a savior. It saved me from my miserable, heartbreaking life. It has completely turned my life around. It brought many helpful people in my life and I’m so grateful.”

His advice to other Veterans who might be going through similar pain and addiction struggles is to, “stop blaming other people and really take responsibility then life will come easy.”

Quinn will graduate from the Veterans Treatment Court program this summer. Since the program began, 7 Veterans have successfully completed the program. Soon, it will be 8 Veterans.

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Brammer Engineering Volunteers Give Back http://www.voanorthla.org/brammer-engineering-volunteers-give-back/ Fri, 02 Jun 2017 16:08:39 +0000 http://www.voanorthla.org/?p=4535 brammer thank you poster

This is Brammer Engineering’s fourth year to allow their employees to have an hour a week of company time during the spring to work with students at the LightHouse, after-school and summer program, as a way to give back to children in our community.

During the 6-week volunteer period, each Brammer employee was paired with a student one-on-one. They started their afternoons with homework and then moved on to other academic activities to help the students prepare for assessment testing. And sometimes they just had a lot of fun!

Deb McCuller is 1 of ten employees who volunteered this year and it was her first time to visit the LightHouse program. “I was nervous at first, but it went really well,” McCuller said. “I wasn’t sure I was smart enough to do math, but volunteering was so rewarding and I hope to be able to do it again.”

For McCuller, volunteering at the LightHouse was a very fulfilling experience and a full circle moment in her life. “Before I was asked about the tutoring, I had been thinking about volunteering in some capacity with Volunteers of America North Louisiana,” she shared. “I am an adopted baby from Volunteers of America in August of 1963. I volunteer at my church, but I also wanted to give back to the place that brought me together with my parents. I believe it is our duty to help others.”

McCuller also added she absolutely loved the experience. After the 6-week program concluded at the end of April, the children made a special poster (pictured) for the Brammer volunteers and personally wrote a thank you note to their tutors.

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Congrats to our Teen Club Graduates! http://www.voanorthla.org/congrats-to-our-teen-club-graduates/ Thu, 01 Jun 2017 20:47:51 +0000 http://www.voanorthla.org/?p=4530 LightHouse Grads 2017

From left to right: Cameron, Brandy, Casey. Kiara, Jamariyea, Victoria, Khoury, and Najee.

Khoury first walked into the LightHouse, after-school and summer program, as a shy 12 year old boy starting the 6th grade. “The LigthHouse introduced me into sports. It was just a fun place to be,” he remembers.

As Khoury grew up and began high school, he started attending our Teen Club program. “It’s way different and a big step, because it is a lot more academics,” Khoury said. “They make sure your grades are good, so you can start building your future.”

Today, Khoury is a proud graduate of Byrd High School and one of 8 Teen Club seniors who recently walked across the graduation stage to carry on the lessons they learned to college and careers beyond. Khoury has plans to attend Northwestern State University and major in nursing. If he could give any advice to the younger kids, Khoury said “When you get in high school, take it serious!”

Each graduate has plans to attend college or join the military with career goals. Many of the graduates will receive LightHouse college scholarships in the fall to help them with their future endeavors. In the meantime, all of the graduates will stay with the LightHouse as employees over the summer, helping the younger children in our summer program.

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Organizations, individuals honored at 2017 Volunteer Appreciation Lunch http://www.voanorthla.org/organizations-individuals-honored-at-2017-volunteer-appreciation-lunch/ Thu, 09 Mar 2017 17:54:04 +0000 http://www.voanorthla.org/?p=4432 Organizations, individuals honored at 2017 Volunteer Appreciation Lunch

On Tuesday, March 7th, Volunteers of America honored special volunteers in North Louisiana for their selfless service during the annual Volunteer Appreciation Luncheon this week. Approximately 130 people gathered for the celebration at East Ridge Country Club.

“As a new year begins, we are strategically looking for more ways and means to help the most vulnerable in our community. From providing life’s most basic needs – such as shelter, food and clothing – to eliminating barriers so that children graduate on time and succeed in life,” said President and CEO, Chuck Meehan. “Support from all of our volunteers makes this work possible.”

Last year, over 1,300 volunteers donated more than 7,300 hours to the organization.

 

Ellen Brown Spirit of Volunteerism Award: Mike Mawhinney and Loyola College Prep Key Club

This award honors the first director of the Highland Center, and continues to honor those who invest in the Highland Community.  Loyola College Prep Key Club and its longtime Faculty Sponsor, Mike Mawhinney, received this award for its many years of outstanding service to Volunteers of America. Under Mike’s leadership, this organization has always been committed to finding ways to serve the most vulnerable.  Mike sets the example of what it means to be a servant leader in our community.

 

Altrusa Award: Shelley Booker

The Altrusa award recognizes an individual or group that has given of themselves to bring life to the community while seeking nothing in return. For many years, Shelley Booker’s Sunday school class at First United Methodist Church hosted a LARGE party every Christmas season for Volunteers of America’s mentors and their mentees as a way to bring everyone together and give the children a holiday to remember. Today, she can be found helping out wherever she is needed – whether that’s sponsoring a family in need during Christmas or dropping off treats and hosting parties for LightHouse kids to make them feel special and encouraged. You will never meet an individual who avoids the spotlight quite like she can, yet still shines bright.

 

Rachel Sparks Memorial Award: Ashley Sutton

Named for Volunteers of America’s longtime executive director, this award honors those who continue her legacy of leadership and excellence. Ashley Sutton is one of our most consistent volunteers and she has quietly helped any way she could for many, many years. She served on our Board of Directors for six years and then continued serving as Secretary of the board for an additional five years.  She has been a Table Captain at our Cherish the Children of God breakfast for several years and has hosted special events in her beautiful home helping us honor those who support our special work.  She never sits still or slows down. Three years ago, she began volunteering at our Corbitt Lodge apartments that offer permanent housing for individuals with disabilities.  At the time, we were in need of someone to host a bingo game once a month with our residents and she accepted this opportunity without reservation.

 

Champion of Dignity Award: Jon and Tonya Katz

The Champion for Dignity award recognizes those volunteers who work with some of our neediest populations. Jon and Tonya Katz have faithfully served some of our most vulnerable clients, including children, families and homeless Veterans. Every month, Tonya bakes delicious desserts for those who find their way to Safe Haven, our low-barrier shelter for chronically homeless Veterans. In a world where these men may feel like they go unnoticed, the Katz family go beyond to make sure they know someone honors their service and cares about them. In addition to working with Veterans, Jon has been a mentor for one of our LightHouse kids for over three years.  He has developed a very special bond with his mentee and we know that he has made a profound impact in this young man’s life.

 

Beacon of Hope Award: Tara Love and the High School Ministry of First Baptist Bossier

This year, the LightHouse program celebrates 28 years of being a part of Volunteers of America serving as a beacon of hope to children and communities in desperate need of more light. This year’s honoree is a group of individuals whose passion to serve their community has created true and lasting friendships with the children at our Bossier LightHouse. Tara Love and the High School Ministry of First Baptist Bossier have selflessly served our LightHouse children for two years and counting. Their dedication to serve goes beyond the walls of the Scott Street LightHouse site.  A few of the students who are part of the Airline High School Student Council were responsible for nominating the Bossier LightHouse to be their Community Non-Profit Organization.  As a result, they donated over 6,500 items and $3,000 to our LightHouse program. Tara and her High School Ministry of First Bossier invests love, faith, and encouragement into our LightHouse kids.

 

Humanitarian Award: Judge Thomas Eaton Stagg, Jr.

Philanthropy is too often oversimplified as just donating to charity. In reality, it is about making an investment in the community that will result in long-term change. This year’s honoree had a long, rich and distinguished history in this community.  We honored posthumously Thomas Eaton Stagg, Jr. He was an attorney, businessperson, politician and jurist who served for many years on the United States 5th Circuit Court of Appeals. Prior to his appointment as a federal judge, he did the work he enjoyed more than anything he ever did – serving as Volunteers of America North Louisiana’s adoption attorney.  In so doing so, he helped create many loving families in our community. Judge Stagg died in June of 2017 at the age of ninety-two. He blessed our special ministry of service with his legal adoption work over 60 years ago – with his ongoing financial support – and after his death with a generous gift from his estate. His loving wife, Miki, honored her husband and his military service by donating his extensive wardrobe to benefit Veterans in our programs. It is truly a great pleasure to recognize a true humanitarian by presenting Volunteers of America’s 2017 Humanitarian Award to Judge Stagg’s family.

 

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LightHouse Program Teams Up with the Cyber Innovation Center http://www.voanorthla.org/lighthouse-program-teams-up-with-the-cyber-innovation-center/ Mon, 20 Feb 2017 21:43:44 +0000 http://www.voanorthla.org/?p=4420 LightHouse Program Teams Up with the Cyber Innovation Center

Volunteers of America North Louisiana’s program, the LightHouse, is the first after-school provider to team up with The National Integrated Cyber Education Research Center (NICERC), the academic division of the Cyber Innovation Center.

Last month, NICERC trained the Lighthouse staff in integrating STEM, Liberal Arts, and Cyber projects into their after-school curriculum.

“We believe that education should be engaging, relevant, and inspire curiosity and excitement for learning at all ages”, says Kevin Nolten, Director of Academic Outreach for the Cyber Innovation Center. “This approach allows students to connect STEM and Liberal Arts fundamentals to real world applications and future job opportunities for our students, not only in our community, but across the country.”

This training provides the Lighthouse staff the confidence to begin building upon the fundamentals that students are learning each day in the classroom and it ultimately introduces students at an early age to the STEM and Cyber job opportunities in our community.

“Within our LightHouse program, it is our desire to provide the students we serve with quality programming which focuses on academic enrichment. We understand that knowledge in the areas of STEM are of utmost importance and vital for our students who will contribute to the 21st Century workforce.  Therefore, we want our after-school staff to have the ‘STEM tools’ necessary to build the minds of our kids in an engaging way,” said Toccara Huckaby, Program Director for School-Based LightHouse Sites.

“The curriculum and professional development offered by NICERC and the Cyber Innovation team align perfectly with our goals, and we look forward to the growth of this partnership.”

Together, the two organizations have organized Cyber Day during the after-school program at Forest Hill Elementary on Thursday, Feb. 23rd at 4 pm. Kids will have the opportunity to participate in STEM activities and expand their imaginations.

In the 2015-16 academic year, 100% of the 741 LightHouse kids stayed in school, 2.87 was their average GPA, and 100% of LightHouse children avoided the juvenile justice system and teen pregnancy. The LightHouse is funded in part by grants from The Community Foundation of North Louisiana, The Grayson Foundation and the United Way of Northwest Louisiana. For more information about Volunteers of America North Louisiana, visit www.voanorthla.org.

 

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LightHouse Middle School Boys Deliver “Survival Kits” To Shreveport City Police http://www.voanorthla.org/lighthouse-middle-school-boys-deliver-survival-kits-to-shreveport-city-police/ Wed, 21 Dec 2016 21:08:35 +0000 http://www.voanorthla.org/?p=4105 LightHouse Middle School Boys Deliver “Survival Kits” To Shreveport City Police

 

As a gesture of appreciation and thankfulness, middle school boys who attend the Volunteers of America LightHouse after-school program at the University of Lakeshore Middle School and Broadmoor Middle School recently came together to deliver “survival kits” to the Shreveport City Police department.

“It’s definitely nice to have our kids interact with the police especially with everything going on right now in the media. Sometimes it paints a really bad picture.” said Corporal Corey Sullivan. “So for or us to come together in this way… this is awesome and very needed.”

The survival kits included LifeSavers to remind officers of the many times they have been one, Gum to help the department stick together, Smarties to give wisdom for making split second decisions, and Hershey Kisses to show love.

All of the officers were very touched and this simple act of kindness reminds all of us to take a second during this busy holiday season to say thank you, especially to those who keep us safe.

The LightHouse is funded in part by grants from The Community Foundation of North Louisiana and the United Way of Northwest Louisiana. In the 2015-16 academic year, 100% of the 741 LightHouse kids stayed in school, 2.87 was their average GPA, and 100% of LightHouse children avoided the juvenile justice system and teen pregnancy. For more information about Volunteers of America North Louisiana or to make a year-end donation, visit www.voanorthla.org.

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