Ms. Earnestine (pictured left), a 56-year old client in our Supportive Housing Program, has been searching for an opportunity to increase her reading skills. While adult reading programs in her area were unable to assist, her case manager and the director of the local Volunteers of America RSVP program developed a plan to help. Meet Ms. Joyce, an RSVP volunteer, who enjoys mentoring children in reading at Lyons Elementary. She jumped at the opportunity to help Ms. Earnestine!
Once a week, Ms. Earnestine and Ms. Joyce meet in the Volunteers of America office to work on reading skills. The two have not only served as teacher and student but also have become friends. They enjoy working together and look forward to their reading time each week. Through the efforts of Ms. Joyce, Ms. Earnestine’s outlook on life has improved as she obtains a goal that at one time seemed impossible to reach.
Terrell is a native of New Orleans. He proudly graduated from McDonough 42. While in high school Terrell always wanted to play football, but was not able to make the team due to having a mild intellectual disability and a hearing impairment. After graduation, he started working odd jobs. His mother moved to Mississippi and his father is not home much due to his occupation as a truck driver. Terrell’s family life lacked structure and he began to get mixed up in the wrong crowd. Although he knew better, he did not have the support of his family he needed with his disability.
In 2003, Terrell’s father found out about Volunteers of America’s Community Living Services Program, which provides community homes to adults and children with intellectual and physical disabilities. Terrell moved into the Gayoso Community home and instantly adapted to his new home and family. Not only has Terrell adapted, but he has thrived at the Gayoso Community Home!
He has his own room, daily chores and thinks of the other residents and the staff as his family. He found a job at a local McDonald’s cleaning the dining room, taking out trash and keeping the drink machines full of ice. He’s a hard worker and proud of his job. Terrell says that some of the regular customers give him tips because they are so impressed with his work ethic and his kind demeanor. Having a job at McDonald’s enables Terrell to feel good about himself, and to save money for his own place one day. He would love to get married and have a family one day.
In addition to the Community Living Services Program providing Terrell with a home, he has been able to achieve his life-long dream of being an athlete! He is a Special Olympics champion in volleyball, basketball and baseball. He was even invited to the National Special Olympics competition in Nebraska one year to complete in basketball. Terrell is very proud of his medals and looks forward to competing in the Special Olympics every year.
Terrell is just one example of the many lives being changed at Volunteers of America everyday. He is very happy at the Volunteers of America Gayoso Community home and appreciates everything Volunteers of America has helped him achieve.
Wilson is a man of few words, but do not underestimate him. He remembers the exact date of every significant day in his life. And if you tell him the date and year of your birthday, he can tell you what day of the week you were born. He loves to study maps and brochures from places all over the world and can estimate the distance between two points without even looking at a map. But despite his intelligence, Wilson’s disabilities, including Autism, Epilepsy, and Type 2 Diabetes, make it difficult for him to complete everyday tasks and interact in a normal social setting.
Wilson was born and raised in Metairie. His mother was a teacher and his father worked for a bus company, which may explain part of his penchant for maps. He attended St. Martin High School and Furman University in South Carolina. After college he moved back in with his parents, but like many young adults, wanted to live independently. However, Wilson needed assistance to make that possible.
Since 2008, Wilson has been living on his own with the help of Volunteers of America Supported Living Services. Wilson’s Personal Care Assistant, Courtney, spends a few hours with him almost everyday. She makes sure he gets to work on time, helps him grocery shop, and cooks him dinner. They also go on outings, often to the gym or a new restaurant, because unsurprisingly, Wilson likes to collect menus as well. Wilson thinks Courtney is wonderful.
Wilson has excelled with Supported Living Services. He appreciates all of Courtney’s help, especially since it allows him to be independent and support himself with a job. Recently, he received the 10 years of service award from P.F.Changs, where he works every morning. This is quite an accomplishment and a testament to his hard work. Although to be fair, Courtney deserves some recognition as well. She often calls him on nights before he has to work to remind him to go to bed because she knows he would sit up all night reading brochures.
With only 4 more days in the competition we have 975 votes. Help us finish strong and get us across the 1,000 votes line! Remember, every vote represents an opportunity to positively impact the life of a veteran who needs a 2nd chance.
Vote today and share it on your Facebook wall. Click here to vote!
We have 11 days remaining in the competition and we need to keep the energy up!!!
You can help by encouraging your friends and family to participate! It starts by logging into Facebook everyday and voting. Once you’re done voting, click the red box that says “Post on Facebook.” That will allow your Facebook followers to see that you’re helping a great organization and how they can join in the effort.
Think about what the $25,000 will mean – the first safe, stable place for a Veteran who has been homeless for months or longer to sleep; the security of knowing that you can count on 3 meals a day; the hope that a Veteran who has done so much for our country then lost their way can get back on their feet again. This competition is a way to change someone’s life and all of us can play a part in making this opportunity happen.
Have you voted to help our nation’s heroes today?
It’s the beginning of week 2 in our challenge to win the most votes in The Home Depot Foundation’s Aprons in Action campaign to win $25,000 for our Veterans Services Program but we NEED YOUR HELP!
With only 19 days left to vote, we need all of our supporters to log on to Facebook and vote for Volunteers of America Greater New Orleans in the Aprons in Action competition. Vote once a day, every day, and tell your friends to join in, too. Please share this posting on your Facebook timeline! With these funds we will be able to help veterans find a stable job, get back on their feet and be proud of who they are!
If we win the $25,000 grant, the money will be used to renovate our Veterans Transitional Housing Facility.
How to vote:
Go to The Home Depot Foundation Facebook page and click on the Aprons in Action tab to vote. Or, just click here!
Taylor Hardouin, a 28-year-old with autism, doesn’t have much to say. In fact, he rarely talks or shows emotion, even to Christy Cachere, his personal care assistant who works with him two days a week in Volunteers of America’s Supported Living Program.
But one thing brings Taylor out of his shell—airplanes and flying. Every Wednesday, Christy takes him to Lakefront Airport where he watches planes take off and land, as part of her committed search for ways to help develop Taylor’s abilities. “He could watch the
planes all day,” she says. “He grins from ear to ear. There’s something about the sound of the engines that gets him excited.”
Yet Taylor remained earth-bound. He had never actually flown. That is, until recently. Christy took Taylor to the airport so often they became a familiar presence to the staff, who spread the word about his dream of flying. Helicopter pilot Brayton Matthews decided to help and gave Taylor the thrill of his life. He took him up for a flight over Lake Pontchartrain and surrounding areas. Taylor sat in the co-pilot’s seat, and was animated and communicative throughout the afternoon. Taylor hopes to fly again soon and expand his horizons.
Helping people with disabilities like Taylor realize their full potential—whatever that may be—is the goal of our Supported Living Program. We help persons with activities that range from accomplishing the tasks of daily living to pursuing interests that unlock their minds. This sometimes is challenging, but it always is rewarding.
Volunteers of America’s services for people with disabilities like Taylor have recently experienced state budget cuts of 3.7 percent. Our challenge is how to financially manage support for persons with disabilities while maintaining the highest quality of services they deserve.
Billy is a New Orleans native who joined the Navy at age 18. After serving three years in the Navy working as a store-keeper, he was honorably discharged and returned home to New Orleans. Billy did not have many career options after returning home, but decided to start school at Delgado Community College. Not long after returning home, he began abusing drugs, dropped out of school and started working odd jobs to stay afloat. His uncontrolled lifestyle eventually led Billy to become incarcerated.
After serving time in prison, Billy returned home and began working at a restaurant in the French Quarter. One evening while at work he was injured. This injury requited surgery and he would be out of work for a while. After recovering, he was unable to find work. This stressful time caused Billy to become depressed, start using drugs again and eventually led to him becoming homeless. Billy felt as though he had truly hit rock bottom. He wanted to change his life, but was not sure how. A homeless shelter he frequented learned that he was a Navy veteran and recommended Volunteers of America as a place where veterans could receive support to rebuild their lives.
With the assistance of the VA, Billy became sober and qualified for the Volunteers of America Veterans Transitional Housing Program. In June of 2012, Billy moved into the Veterans Transitional Housing Facility, which provides housing, job training and supportive services to male veterans. Billy was determined to change his life and took full advantage of the many support services Volunteers of America provides. He maintained his sobriety and was focused on finding a job. With the support of his case manager, Chris Randall, Billy participated in the Work Readiness Program and was relentless in sending out his resume and attending job fairs.
When Chris offered to take Billy to a job fair for Blue Cross Blue Shield of Louisiana in Baton Rouge, Billy was eager to attend. During an icebreaker session at the job fair, Billy blew everyone away with a short speech about his past and his goals for the future. Recruiters could tell he was motivated and one manager was so touched by Billy that he asked Billy to interview on the spot for a position in their shipping/receiving department. Billy excelled in the interview and was offered the job a few days later.
After accepting the job with Blue Cross Blue Shield of Louisiana, Billy moved to Baton Rouge and is thriving. He now has a great job, his own place to live, and his life back. Volunteers of America is incredibly proud of him. The Veterans Transitional Facility provided Billy with the support and stability Billy needed to succeed.
Steve Dooley’s life took many twists and turns before he arrived at Volunteers of America. He went from “zero to hero”, rising up from a tough background to being a social worker with two master’s degrees and as Steve jokes, “a theoretical Ph.D from the streets”. But a couple years ago the harsh economy took its toll on Steve and he “flipped the script”. The counselor needed counseling; the social worker became a client.
Born and raised in New Orleans, Steve stayed close to home for college when he attended Southern University at New Orleans (SUNO) and Loyola where he graduated with a Bachelor’s degree in radio/tv communications. After college Steve joined the military where he was an airman/seaman for 3 years on the USS John F. Kennedy. He discovered his real passion for social work when he entered a master’s program at SUNO.
As a graduate student working towards becoming a social worker Steve participated in several community groups including Total Community Action (TCA), Big Brothers, and the Boys and Girls Club. When Hurricane Katrina hit he lived in a FEMA trailer on the SUNO campus with other hurricane affected students, faculty, and their families. He wanted to bring some relief to the emotional stress the children in the trailer park were facing and so he built a playground for the kids on the SUNO campus. The Louisiana Spirit’s “Unsung Hero” article praising him for his efforts gave him the credentials he needed to pursue another master’s degree in criminal justice.
Steve left for Colorado in 2010 to be with his girlfriend where he stayed until 2011. He was a lead treatment counselor at Shiloh House group home where he worked with traumatized youth (both the culprits and the victims). When his relationship started to wane he started feeling more and more isolated without his family and wanted to come back to New Orleans for their moral support. The kids were sad and crying when he left, but he knew it was time to go home.
Before he got back to New Orleans his mom had died with Alzheimer’s and Steve felt he was on his own for living arrangements. He could not find a job, became isolated for several months and found himself spending lots of time in his truck. Given his education and work experience Steve was shocked that so much time was going by and he couldn’t find any work in New Orleans. He was professional and educated but it just wasn’t happening. After so much searching and no success he became beleaguered with stress, duress, anger, frustration, and hurt. He didn’t need psychological help, he just needed a job.
At this point he turned to Volunteers of America where he was connected to a case worker. His social worker determined he was qualified for assistance as a veteran and he was given housing at Volunteers of America’s Veterans Transitional Housing Facility while he continued to search for work. Program Director of Supportive Services Melissa Haley recognized his abilities as a man of social work and soon hired him as an intake specialist at Volunteers of America’s Supportive Services for Veterans Families program (SSVF). Once again Steve “flipped the script” and is now back on an upswing. As an intake specialist Steve helps other veterans who are homeless to find permanent employment and housing. Although Steve was losing hope little by little during his period of unemployment, his new job has recharged his spirits. Ironically upon his Case Managers Ty’s departure Mr. Dooley replaced her as a Full Time Case Manager for the SSVF program.
Steve advises his clients not to get too caught up in handouts but to stay disciplined, be a go getter, and once you get what you’re looking for, make sure to maintain it. Throughout his low points in life Steve has remained optimistic, driven, determined, and realistic. He is working towards owning his own home, finding a great companion, and advancing in his career and of that he is “absolutely, positively hopeful”.