Volunteers honored at annual lunch
A ukulele band, high school students and long-time supporters were among those honored for exceptional service to Volunteers of America of North Louisiana during the annual Volunteer Luncheon today. About 160 people gathered for the celebration at East Ridge Country Club.
“Together we are changing our community for the better as children learn to succeed in school, people with disabilities reclaim their dignity, seniors live more independently and our national Veterans rebuild their lives,” CEO/President Chuck Meehan told the crowd. “We could not do what we do without your sacrifice and support.”
Last year, about 2,300 volunteers donated more than 5,000 hours to the organization.
Altrusa Award: Ukulele Gumbo
The Ukulele Gumbo Band first approached us asking to do a Christmas community service show and they quickly became part of the family. The music seems to strike a special chord with our senior adults. Some who don’t even remember their address will recall every word to the songs. Always Ukulele Gumbo brings a kind spirit and love for their art, proving music is a universal language.
Ellen Brown Spirit of Volunteerism Award: Caddo Magnet High School
This award honors the first director of the Highland Center, and continues to honor those who invest in the Highland Community. Magnet High students organized a partnership with the Highland Center LightHouse last year. They surpassed our expectations, spending 270 hours in the last year doing homework, reading and playing with our kids. Program coordinator Dewanna Lovelace called them “marvelous.” “I’ve found the volunteer spirit is deep seated at Magnet and we’re thankful for the opportunity,” student Cameron Wallace said.
Champion of Dignity Award: The Simple Church
A small group from The Simple Church made a shelter feel like home in honor of a member’s father who was a Veteran. They contacted Gary Jaynes, who suggested sprucing up the common room in the new Safe Haven. Within a week, the team from The Simple Church had paint for the common room plus lamps, rugs and artwork for each of the resident’s rooms. Those simple touches remind the Veterans that someone believes in their worth.
Rachel Sparks Memorial Award: Junior League of Shreveport-Bossier
Named for Volunteers of America’s longtime executive director, this award honors those who continue her legacy of leadership and excellence. Throughout our archives, the Junior League of Shreveport-Bossier appears as volunteers and contributors to the Pregnancy Service Center, The LightHouse and always by training young women who have gone on to become some of our most ardent supporters and leaders. This year we honor them for a several projects they are leading with our LightHouse youth teaching them healthy habits, babysitting skills and life skills for young women.
Beacon of Hope Award: The David and Peggy Murphy family
This couple understands many children don’t have the finances to pursue dreams and may not have a parent reminding them of the possibilities. Through their support of the LightHouse, they ensure children have a place to dream. Additionally, Peggy has coached our graduates and reminded them they have lots of people in their corner. And they have also passed on their passion for education and service to their children. Their daughter, Carolyn, now volunteers two days a week at the Highland LightHouse, where she has become indispensable.
Humanitarian Award: Brammer Engineering and Keith and Karen Evans
Brammer Engineering proudly displays its motto of “Service. Service. Service.” They have regularly proven that idea extends far beyond customers. Last spring Brammer offered eight employees a chance to spend an hour of their workday once a week tutoring LightHouse children. The employees were paired with children and they did homework, read books and played games. The children had a new role model and the employees left feeling like they had gained far more than what they gave. The Brammer model continues this year with 10 employees helping children prepare for the LEAP test. “It’s been an honor to be associated with The LightHouse,” said Ellen Alley, director of human resources for Brammer. “We have been blessed.”
These students have paid to travel the country doing service projects instead of laying on the beach for Spring Break, and we want them to feel welcome. But we need your help!Every year, you help feed these students who provide invaluable assistance to our programs. This year we have three groups staying at the Highland Center. The groups will arrive the evening and then work the next morning.
March 3-4: John Carroll University (30 students)
March 10-11: University of Illinois (40 students)
March 16-17: University of Iowa (40 students) – lunch is covered!
Each group has requested breakfast and bagged lunches. The group from Iowa also asked if we could provide dinner when they arrive.
Meals do not have to be extravagant. Cereal/bagels for breakfast and sandwiches they can take on the bus to their next location will be great.
Elderly Apartments accepting applications
South Pointe Place, the new elderly housing complex of Volunteers of America is now officially accepting applications.
The 50-unit complex will house low income seniors, who can live independently. Located at 1133 South Pointe Parkway in Shreveport (behind the Shreve City Walmart), South Pointe should open later this spring.
All units are one-bedroom and include a living area, kitchen with granite counter tops, refrigerator, pantry, built in closets, and heat and air. Community rooms will be located on each floor, and the facility is non-smoking.
As well, the Volunteers of America Adult Day Health Center will move to the complex and be housed on the first floor.
Rent will be based on the family’s income. Tenants will pay 30% of monthly adjusted income for the family.
To qualify for the apartment, resident households must include at least one person who is 62 years of age or more at the time of occupancy and whose household adjusted income is at or below $20,400.
Prior to completion, applications will be mailed to those on the waiting list first and then to others. Contact Linda Jarrell at 318-221-8404 ext. 176 for more information.
LEAP Tutors needed
Local fourth and eighth graders need the community’s help to get ready for the LEAP test. It only takes two hours a week and you can make a huge difference.
Volunteers of America of North Louisiana is seeking tutors for students who will be taking the LEAP test in April. Tutors will be assigned to a particular student, and the pairs will review skills the students will need for the test. A workbook is provided.
Last year, those who received the extra help were more likely to pass than their peers at the same school.
Tutoring begins Feb. 17 and will take place Tuesdays and Thursdays until April 30. We will not have tutoring during the first LEAP testing week (March 16- 20) and Spring Break week (April 6- 10). Volunteers can choose to tutor at one of the following places in Shreveport:
- Lakeshore Middle School (1807 San Jacinto Avenue)- 3:00 to 4:00 PM; 8th grade students
- Forest Hill Elementary (2005 Francais Dr)- 3:30 to 4:30 PM; 4th grade students
- Travis St. Downtown LightHouse (802 Travis Street)- anytime between 4:00 to 5:30 PM; 4th and 8th grade students.
Because of the testing format this year and the recent change in school curriculum, we are requiring all interested tutors to attend a one-hour LEAP tutoring training on Thursday, Feb. 12, at either noon OR 5:15 p.m. at the Highland Center, 520 Olive Street, Shreveport (parking is available in the back parking lot off Stephens Street).
If you are interested contact Tricia Jowell at Tricia.Jowell@voanorthla.org or call 318-221-2669.
LightHouse alumni share advice, stories
It’s been 20 years since Myron Harris was spending Saturdays at the LightHouse, but he still remembers the lessons he learned.
“Focus and keep aiming high,” he said.
He was among about two dozen alumni who came back for the annual LightHouse reunion to share updates on their life and some advice with the current group of seniors.
Harris works for State Farm Insurance, traveling the country after disasters, and he is thrilled to know the LightHouse is there for the next generation of children who need a little direction.
His advice to them: “Be a blessing to someone else.”
The Rev. Don Webb began the program of lessons learned and New Years Resolutions with a childhood story about a Christmas Pageant gone wrong when the innkeeper said there was plenty of room. But he said someone started to laugh and all the children knew it would be OK.
Alumnus Myron Harris catches up with CEO Chuck Meehan.
“If things go wrong this year, laugh it off and love life anyway,” he said.
The students followed with often short but poignant advice: “Do better.” “Don’t give up.” “Be on time.”
Most of the students are still in college, and the dangers of procrastination seemed to be the lesson learned as many resolved to avoid it in 2015. Sarah Noe, a senior at LSUS, presented her Dean’s List report card as proof of what can be accomplished with planning ahead.
Noe will complete her psychology degree in May and said The LightHouse inspired her to her chosen profession. She hopes to be a school psychologist and encourage others.
“You can start from nothing and you can be someone,” she said.
Hospital sponsors Christmas shopping spree
Confusion, excitement and disbelief all flashed on the faces of students from the Communities In Schools program Saturday at this year’s Shop with a Doc.
Once again, Specialists Hospital Shreveport generously donated a $300 shopping spree to fifty of the neediest children Volunteers of America serves. The shopping adventure was a surprise to the children, who couldn’t figure out why they were at Target.
“I thought maybe we were going to eat first,” said Toyreyun, 10.
But it didn’t take long for them to figure out how to use their gift cards. Each child was paired with a Specialist volunteer to do their shopping, and by the end of the morning, 12 new bikes lined the front of the store. And shopping carts were piled high with new shoes, clothes, dolls and gifts.
Tears filled some of the volunteers’ eyes as they heard stories of children who recently lost a parent and watched others put basics like bread and coffee in their carts.
“At Christmas it’s our pleasure to share joy,” Dr. William Overdyke said. “We look forward to it every year.”
Quintoria, 9, was especially happy for the chance to buy a robe for her mom and clothes for her new baby brother.
“I love everybody that came,” she said. “I thank them all.”
Flip through the Gallery for more pictures…
Simple Church renovates Veterans shelter
The Veterans Safe Haven feels a lot more like home instead of a shelter, after The Simple Church spent a morning painting and decorating.
Inspired by her best friend’s father, who was a Veteran, member Shannon Nichols pulled together three small groups to do the work at the shelter, which houses Veterans who had been living on the street.
“We wanted to do something good in her dad’s name,” Nichols said. “Our pastor challenged us to give as much as we have been given. I could never do that, but I can do something.”
Nichols originally just googled Veteran services in Shreveport and found Volunteers of America. She toured the facility, which just moved to a larger location and needed some cosmetic improvements.
Within a couple of weeks, she rallied class members who owned a painting company, collected artwork and solicited donations to buy lamps and rugs.
The result: a warm, welcoming living area and some homey touches for each of the 23 bedrooms.
2015 Tour Locations announced
New locations have been added to the schedule for our 2015 Cherish the Children of God tours!
You will still have the chance to see our programs and hear from those you have served, but across a wider variety of programs. In particular we added the McAdoo, which provides housing and support for people with Mental Illness, and the new Veterans Safe Haven, a short-term shelter for those Veterans living on the streets.
As always, each tour will only last an hour and we will not ask for money. All we ask is that you come and see the good work being done for our children, seniors, veterans and people with disabilities. Here is the schedule:
||1002 Texas St.
||Adult Day Center
||1700 Buckner Sq.
||453 Jordan St.
||520 Olive St.
||Veterans Safe Haven
||725 Jordan St.
||LightHouse – Bossier
||2101 Scott St.
||453 Jordan St.
||2350 Levy St.
||Ballington Center at
South Pointe Place
|1133 South Pointe Parkway
||520 Olive St.
||2101 Scott St.
||453 Jordan St.
||802 Travis St.
The Shreveport-Bossier Community came out in force to support our Veterans yesterday! Here’s a 30-second video recapping all the smiles.
For Wayne, the Veterans Transitional Living Program was set up perfectly.
Follow the rules. Be in on time. Take advantage of the opportunity.
It was also his fourth attempt at treatment and the first time he was really ready for a change.
Wayne grew up in Philadelphia, and upon high school graduation he had a choice: military or the streets.
So at 17, he packed up for boot camp.
The Army sent him to Korea, where he started drinking in part to deal with homesickness.
He trained in communications then as a mechanic and finally in personnel, where he was tapped to make death notifications and serve at funerals. He would sometimes dream about reciting the speech he had to give at notifications.
His drinking got worse. It cost him three marriages and eventually he left the military.
Wayne didn’t even want to be called a Veteran. So he took off and wandered from city to city until he landed at a homeless shelter in Texarkana.
“I was going to just give in to my addiction,” he said. “I wasn’t a bad person. I just couldn’t deal with the stuff in my head.”
But the staff there saw something in him and talked him into going to the VA and then to Volunteers of America’s Transitional Housing Program.
The 56-bed program provides the basics of food, shelter and support, while physical and mental health needs are taken care of by the VA. All clients are required to save a portion of their income and either work, go to school or volunteer during the day.
Between the structure of the program and the staff, Wayne knew he could succeed.
“If they care about me, I thought maybe I can learn to care about myself,” he said.
He worked the program and now has his own car, is working on certifications for heating and air conditioning repair and even has plans to visit his mom at Christmas.
“Nothing’s going to stop me now.”