Old habits are hard to break. No one knows this better than retired St. Tammany Parish residents Lou and Betty, married more than 60 years.
Outwardly, Lou was known as a good friend, popular and active in his community. But inwardly, a problem haunted him for most of his marriage. Often and without warning, he flew into extreme fits of verbal rage. Lou always felt ashamed and frustrated after an outburst. Betty felt hurt, helpless and alone. Their friends had no idea.
Over the years, Lou tried getting help through religion or therapists, but nothing worked. When his son tragically took his own life after struggling with depression, the crisis added to Lou’s burden and led him to Volunteers of America. It took a call to our Crisis Response Program for him to finally discover ways to control his rage.
He talked to Suzanne, a licensed social worker with the program, who listened carefully. Suzanne persistently reached out to help the couple, discussing coping skills and encouraging Lou to attend a 12-step program for those with similar challenges. She found him transportation to the meetings. Slowly, Lou learned ways to prevent his escalating anger. He admitted his struggles to others in the program and took responsibility for his actions. And, he discovered the painful truth that he had long suffered from untreated post traumatic stress since his Korean War combat service.
Lou sincerely apologized to Betty for the pain he’d caused over the years. Gradually–with the commitment of Suzanne and group support–Lou’s anger issues have begun to dissolve. Betty says Lou is truly a changed man. “Life is so much better now.”
The Crisis Response Program helps many in St. Tammany cope with behavioral health problems. The goal always is to intervene before a crisis escalates. Our staff is committed to offering hope and real-life solutions. As Lou’s experience shows, it’s never too late, or too early, to ask for help.
Start dusting off your Santa hats and breaking out the gift wrap! Volunteers of America Greater New Orleans is gearing up for our 15th Annual Christmas Wish Project to spread some holiday cheer to those in need this season. But we can’t do it without you!
How can you HELP? We are currently serving more than 55,000 individuals in need and over 1,000 will not receive a gift for Christmas. Help us make wishes come true by purchasing a present for one or more people in our programs! To see the joy your gift brings, check out pictures of last year’s Christmas Wish Project.
How can you GET INVOLVED? Let us know how many people you would like to adopt and we will send you their Wish List. We have asked those on the Christmas list to choose reasonably priced gifts they most need. Presents will need to be wrapped, labeled and delivered to our office by Tuesday, December 6th.
Don’t have time to SHOP? Make a monetary donation to the Christmas Wish Project by Wednesday, November 30, and we’ll do all the work for you! When entering your donation, please be sure to select “Christmas Wish Project” in the Gift Designation menu.
JOIN THE FUN! Email Victoria King, Community Outreach Coordinator, or call at (504) 486-8699.
Your support spreads Christmas joy! Thank you!
Every Thursday, you can find New Orleanian Gail Rouen at Terraces on Tulane, our Mid-City housing facility for seniors. Rouen began volunteering earlier this year. “I hit it off with everyone,” she says enthusiastically. “Their stories melt my heart I love listening to them and hearing about their backgrounds.”
Rouen’s interest in volunteering was piqued at a Volunteers of America Greater New Orleans breakfast, which she attended with a group from her husband’s company. Soon, she was volunteering at the Terraces, which serves lower-income persons 62 and over. Her assignment: be a friendly helper, doing whatever residents need, be it light housekeeping or sharing a meal. She quickly discovered she and the residents enjoyed their time together.
The staff then asked if she would take on a special project, working with resident Ronald, known for creating art from everyday objects. His apartment was overfilled with his late mother’s belongings and other items. Rouen began helping him sort out what to keep.
“We have a wonderful relationship,” she says. “We trust each other and have wonderful conversations.” All the while, Ronald’s apartment is being cleared and organized, with Rouen taking things he no longer needs to charity.
“Gail is God-sent,” Ronald exclaims. “She was sent to me right on time.” Ronald, who has lived at the Terraces for five years, remembers how depressed he was over his mother’s death. “I know how to clean and organize, I just couldn’t do it. Gail helped me see things better. She’s become a good friend and is highly intelligent. I don’t have to Google, I just ask Gail.”
Rouen encourages others to volunteer. “The rewards are so great. You feel like you’re doing something worthwhile. You can work out a plan to give however much time you have.”
Sandra Smith, at age 63, attends many concerts and football games. She works as an usher at the Superdome, and her part-time occupation suits her lighthearted, helpful nature perfectly.
Sandra understands how important living independently is, so three days a week she travels to Volunteers of America’s senior adult living facility on Tulane Avenue to help “make life a little easier,” for those who she knows have already worked so hard.
Her call to action began when her mother, age 86, began needing help with fine motor skill tasks such as retrieving dishes or doing laundry. Sandra says that her mother has done a lot in her life and, in fact, still drives. But Sandra saw the opportunity to relieve her from small burdens so that her day ran more efficiently. Sandra’s belief is: since she can lend a helping hand, she will—so she turned to Volunteers of America to extend her reach. Now, she makes regular visits to residents’ apartments to share her smile and her time, assisting with things like ironing or simply wiping a table—small, thoughtful actions that make a big difference in the flow and enjoyment of a senior adult’s day.
Senior independent living often includes small aids like handrails or walkers; but, what is equally important is connection to others—the ability to help and be helped. So as February, which is National Senior Independence Month, continues remember the ones who have paved the way directly or indirectly for you, and do as Sandra does: lend a helping hand.
Are you inspired by Sandra’s story and want to get involved, too? Contact our Volunteer Coordinator, Logan Ebel at firstname.lastname@example.org or (504) 486-8699 to learn more about volunteering with us.
Meet Mr. Fred Harper (pictured), who recently received services from our Repairs on Wheels program. Mr. Harper is a 75 year old New Orleans native confined to a wheelchair and has scant left his Mid-City home in the past twelve years. During Hurricane Katrina, Mr. Harper was evacuated to Alexandria, where he spent three months living in a hospital. Mr. Harper enjoys art, music & books, but had no way to leave his house to enjoy them. He sought help and was referred to Volunteers of America. Our Repairs on Wheels program, which provides minor home repairs to senior home owners in Orleans, Jefferson, St. Tammany and St. Charles, was able to fit his house with a ramp. Now, Mr. Harper can scoot safely out of his home with his new motorized wheelchair. “I now have the mobility to get outta here”, he says. Thanks to contributions from Home Depot, Lowe’s, & the Easter Seal Foundation, the cost of the ramp was only $265, a small price to pay for freedom.