Stand Down aims to reduce Veteran homelessness

Medical care, mental health professionals and housing providers will all be present at the annual Operation Stand Down as Shreveport works toward eliminating homelessness among Veterans by the end of 2015.

The event will be held from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Friday (Oct. 24) at HOPE Connections, 2350 Levy St., Shreveport.

All homeless Veterans and their families, or those who are facing impending homelessness, are eligible for services.

Services available that day will include medical care, benefits assistance, housing providers, job placement, legal aid, and others. Veterans will also be able to take advantage of food, showers and hair cuts at HOPE Connections.

This year’s event is sponsored by the Department of Veteran Affairs, HOPE for the Homeless and Volunteers of America of North Louisiana.

SONY DSCHome Depot renovates Veterans complex

Orange shirts took over the Embassy Apartments Oct. 17, as more than 100 Home Depot volunteers participated in a landscaping and renovation project for Veterans.

This effort in Shreveport is a part of The Home Depot’s fourth annual Celebration of Service campaign, when Team Depot volunteers put their talents to work to transform more than 1,000 homes for veterans across the country from 9/11 to Veterans Day.

The Apartments, owned by Volunteers of America, provide permanent, affordable housing for Veterans and their families.

“Our core values are about giving back,” said Frank Webb, district manager. “We want to be there anytime we can make a difference for people who sacrificed so much for us.”
The Shreveport project brought together employees from nine different stores to landscape the property and renovate the community room of the building.

As music blared, dirt flew, sod was laid and new paint applied. By the end of the morning, the whole complex had a more welcoming feel.

Richard, a resident of Volunteers of America’s Transitional Living Program was touched by their willingness to work for Veterans like himself.

“It makes you feel good inside.”

Title: Tour the Veterans Home
Location: 453 Jordan St.
Link out: Click here
Description: Every night, about 70 Veterans in North Louisiana have no place to call home. Honor our Veterans this month by learning about how you can help them regain their independence.
Start Time: 11:00
Date: 2014-11-05
End Time: 12:00

Title: Tour the LightHouse
Location: 802 Travis St.
Link out: Click here
Description: Each day lives are changed at our after-school program. Come see where the magic happens and hear from someone whose life is different because of the services you help us provide.
Start Time: 11:00
Date: 2014-12-03
End Time: 12:00

Home Depot will transform Veteran Apartments

125 store volunteers partner with Volunteers of America to improve housing for local veterans

WHAT:          On Oct. 17, Team Depot, The Home Depot’s associate-led volunteer force, will work together with Volunteers of America of North Louisiana to transform The Embassy Apartments. The Apartments, located on Dee Street, provide permanent, affordable housing for veterans and their families.

This effort in Shreveport is a part of The Home Depot’s fourth annual Celebration of Service campaign, when Team Depot volunteers put their talents to work to transform more than 1,000 homes for veterans across the country from 9/11 to Veterans Day. This particular project will completed by 125 employees from nine stores.

Volunteer projects throughout the day will include:

  • Landscaping overhaul including sod and reconstructing flowerbeds
  • Renovation of the community room
  • Possible building of outdoor patio area

WHERE:        Volunteers of America Embassy Apartments

                     2901 Dee St. (just behind the McDonalds on Shreveport-Barksdale Highway)


WHEN:          Friday, Oct. 17

The team will gather at 8 a.m. and work will begin shortly thereafter.


  • This project was chosen as a district-wide effort, so it will include nine different stores
  • The Embassy was purchased in 2013 and has 40 units, with 20 of them reserved for Veterans.
  • This marks Volunteers of America of North Louisiana’s 4th project with The Home Depot.
  • The Home Depot has allowed us to improve the lives of veterans through improved living spaces, outdoor facilities and renovations to a home
  • Since 2010 because of partnerships like this, Northwest Louisiana has reduced the number of homeless veterans by 62%
  • Other partners donating items for lunch include Wing Zone, Jimmy Johns, Raising Canes, Spriggs Sprinkles and Staples – Shreveport

About Giving Back at The Home Depot

Since the first The Home Depot store opened in 1979, giving back has been a core value for the Company and a passion for its associates. Today, The Home Depot, in partnership with The Home Depot Foundation, focuses its philanthropic efforts on improving the homes and lives of U.S. military veterans and their families and aiding communities affected by natural disasters. Through Team Depot, the Company’s associate-led volunteer force, thousands of associates dedicate their time and talents to these efforts in the communities where they live and work.

Since 2011, The Home Depot Foundation has invested more than $80 million to provide safe housing to veterans, and along with the help of Team Depot volunteers, has transformed more than 12,000 homes for veterans. To learn more and see Team Depot in action, visit

About Volunteers of America

Founded in 1935, Volunteers of America of North Louisiana serves the needy and vulnerable in our community by promoting self-sufficiency. Our target markets are children and families, people with disabilities, veterans, and the elderly. We operate more than 40 programs and serve 8,000 individuals annually.


Happy birthday LightHouse!

Three women, a single vision and unique passion launched a program for children in Ledbetter Heights nearly 30 years ago.

They along with dozens of other volunteers and donors gathered this week to celebrate the LightHouse, which has been part of Volunteers of America for 25 years this year. In that time thousands of children have found academic help, guidance with life and lots of love.

“This is a story of faith that everyone has something to give for the benefit of this community, faith that the community would bring assets to help our most vulnerable members, and faith that in showing love to others there is no stumbling,” said Founder Paula Hickman, now executive director of the Community Foundation.

Hickman along with Jeanie Hamel and Leslie Akin each shared their early memories of coming together in the mid-1980s with a mission to help the children in the Ledbetter Heights. All they knew was education had to be the starting point.

“None of us knew how we were going to do it,” Hamel said. “We just kept our vision.”

Akin quickly realized the children wouldn’t be the only ones getting an education in tenacity, love and dignity.

“They refused to be defined by their environment,” she said.

And current LightHouse kids prove their risks were well worth it. Last year, the program served about 600 children at six different sites. Of those, 99 percent stayed in school and the average GPA was 2.9.

Mar’tavious, a fifth grader who has attended the program since he was in Kindergarten, credits the LIghtHouse with helping him excel in school. To those who make the program a reality, he said thank you.

“They have done a wonderful job,” he said. “These are some of the best people.”

Hamel encouraged anyone who hasn’t spend time in the LightHouse to volunteer.

“You will live a richer life because of it.”

Volunteers of America of North Louisiana is one of five organizations throughout the country chosen by the Department of Veterans Affairs for a pilot program to assist Veterans and their families who are transitioning from military service to civilian life in rural or underserved communities.

The Rural Veterans Coordination Pilot (RVCP) is a two-year program that awards up to $2 million. Volunteers of America intends to reach more than 400 Veterans by connecting them to quality medical and mental health services, as well as other critical resources such as housing and employment assistance.

More than 43,000 veterans live in the rural areas covered by the program, which includes 26 parishes/counties in North Louisiana, Southern Arkansas and East Texas.

“We are very excited to reach this population because they have been grossly underserved,” said Gary Jaynes, Director of Veteran Services for Volunteers of America North Louisiana.

Volunteers of America will bring veterans in rural areas to existing resources (through referral and transportation initiatives) and take resources directly to veterans (through telemedicine technologies and peer case management). In collaboration with Overton Brooks VA Medical Center, the program will also bring health care to veterans through telemedicine. With a mobile “health service center” equipped with telemed technology as well as a medical professional, Volunteers of America will be able to connect veterans with doctors and other health professionals to attend to routine health procedures.

VA will use the pilot program to evaluate the effectiveness of using community-based organizations and local and State government entities to improve services to transitioning Veterans and their families.

“We want to do everything that we can do to support our Veterans and their families,” said VA Secretary Robert A. McDonald. “We are looking forward to working with these organizations. This 2-year pilot will not only be beneficial to those Veterans we currently serve, but to future Veterans as we learn best practices to replicate it in other rural communities.”

Also selected are:

  • Maine Department of Labor – State Entity;
  • Westcare Washington, Inc. – (Washington State to include Oregon) – Non-Profit Organization;
  • New Mexico Department of Veterans’ Services – State Entity; and
  • Nebraska Association of Local Health Directors – Non-Profit Organization

Celebrate 25 years of LightHouse services!

sistersTwenty-five years ago, Volunteers of America of North Louisiana merged with the LightHouse and made a special commitment to help children escape poverty.

Please join us the week of Sept. 8-12 to officially celebrate the anniversary of our merger with the LightHouse with an open house, volunteering and other events.

Here are some of the highlights:

  • 5 p.m. Sept. 9 – Open House at 802 Travis St., Shreveport. The three original founders of the LightHouse will be present and we will reflect on the impact of the program and its future.
  • Sept. 10 – Birthday parties at the LightHouse sites. Each of the community-based and school-based sites will have a birthday party for the LightHouse as part of their program.
  • All week:
  • We encourage community members to donate 25 minutes of time to one of the sites. You can show up at any of the sites between 3:30 and 5 p.m. to read to a child, help with homework or play a game!
  • Children in the program will be asked to perform 25 random acts of kindness and they will be tracking that throughout the week.

Since the merger, the LightHouse has been a flagship program of Volunteers of America. We currently serve about 600 children in three community-based sites and three school-based sites.

For the 2013-14 school year, the average GPA was 2.9, and 99 percent stayed in school. As well, 99 percent of children avoided any involvement in teen pregnancy or the juvenile justice system.

The program focuses on academics first with homework help, tutors and enrichment activities meant to reinforce what they are learning in school. From there the staff emphasizes enrichment, character and service.

School partnership will serve hundreds

Children in three Caddo Parish schools will receive more intensive community support through a partnership between Volunteers of America of North Louisiana and Communities in Schools starting this school year.

The partnership will use the proven CIS model to connect students with resources so they stay in school and succeed. In the first year, the partnership will address students at JS Clark Elementary School, Booker T. Washington High School and Linwood Public Charter School.

“We are thrilled to be launching this partnership,” said Chris Gabriel, executive vice president for Volunteers of America. “CIS has demonstrated success around the country. Combining their model and our experience with The LightHouse, we can make a positive difference in the lives of these students.”

CIS and Volunteers of America share a belief that any child can succeed if he or she has these five basics:

* A one-on-one relationship with a caring adult
* A safe place to learn and grow
* A healthy start and a healthy future
* A marketable skill to use upon graduation
* A chance to give back to peers and community

With that framework, the school-based program centers around a site coordinator who will be placed at each school. She will facilitate the two-pronged CIS approach. First, the model evaluates whole school needs and addresses those through larger scale projects such as a clothes closet, college fairs or health screenings.

Then the site coordinator will provide more intensive assistance to selected students, usually referred by teachers or counselors. The coordinator will link those students with necessary resources ranging from tutors to counselors to regular goal setting meetings.

CIS was founded more than 30 years ago and now operates in 2200 schools around the country. Last year, of the student receiving intensive services, 75 percent met their attendance improvement goals, 86 percent met their behavior goals, 97 percent advanced to the next grade, and 99 percent stayed in school.

The partnership is funded in part through grants from The Community Foundation, the United Way fund of The Community Foundation and The Grayson Foundation.

Teen Outreach Program expands

A program for teenagers, proven to keep students in school and successful, will expand its services for the 2014-15 school year.

Volunteers of America of North Louisiana implemented the national Wyman’s Teen Outreach Program®, focused on life skills, healthy behaviors, and community service for the first time last year. It served 115 teenagers in six different groups throughout the city.

For the upcoming year, we will be able to serve up to 200 students, and we expect to expand the number and location of groups. Pre-registration began July 1.

TOP is open to teens ages 12-17. The free program emphasizes life skills such as resiliency, academic achievement, compassion, values, conflict resolution, and goal setting. Teens are divided by age groups and participate in clubs once a week after school for activities, discussion and community service projects.

The Wyman Center has been addressing the needs of economically disadvantaged teens in St. Louis for more than 100 years. Eventually, they started replicating TOP® with community agencies around the country. Through their studies, the program has produced the following results:

52% lower risk of suspension

60% lower risk of class failure

53% lower risk of teen pregnancy

To pre-register or for more information, see the website or call Jennifer Stinson at 221-8404.