Tag Archives: volunteer new orleans

Make a Christmas Wish Come True!

e-_blog-october_lighthouse_christmas_2013_websiteStart 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!

Pioneers Of Tomorrow Grasp Realities Of Today

003 BSpring break! Time to party and shirk your responsibilities—pretend to be someone else for a while, right? Well, students from Rice University, St. Mary’s University Law School and Cornell College decided instead to take on responsibilities, and not to pretend to be someone else, but to put themselves in someone else’s shoes. These volunteers came to work with Volunteers of America for three main reasons: to uplift others, to be immersed in a vibrant culture and to engage in a multi-faceted approach to human services.

Volunteers of America’s relationship with these colleges provided the opportunity to turn the students’ passion into participation. For five days, the students worked at our Community Living Services group homes for people with intellectual and developmental disabilities, Fresh Food Factor and our partner organization—Stoney Point Farm.


While on the farm they planted onions and peppers, organized the barn and harvested eggs. The students worked together to complete tasks, and a participant from St. Mary’s even taught the Cornell students techniques he had learned from the farmer.But the connections grew as the students worked at Fresh Food Factor. They cited their amazement at the volume of meals produced for at-risk youth— over 2,000 a day—and the sheer amount of effort necessary to pull it all off.

The students made it clear that their affinity for volunteerism was rooted in an awareness of the real challenges facing our communities and the potential for growth. Heidi, a site leader from Rice, told us that she wants to be an advocate for social change, and to do that she knew that she had to couple academics with real world experiences.Rice2

The students from St. Mary’s credited their school’s culture with instilling altruistic values in the student body. Group leader Bridget and her team from Cornell wanted be involved with an organization that has a broad reach and could encompass their interests in after-school enrichment, civic engagement and sustainable food service. For them, Volunteers of America was a perfect fit.

To learn about volunteer opportunities for your group, contact Logan Ebel at (504) 486-8699 or lebel@voagno.org.

Senior Living: Independent, Interconnected

Sandra Smith

Volunteer Sandra Smith

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.

Terraces On Tulane

The Terraces on Tulane Senior Housing Complex

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 lebel@voagno.org or (504) 486-8699 to learn more about volunteering with us.


The Value of Volunteering for Senior Adults

Ed & Mary Ann Brannan 2Ed and Mary Ann Brannan of Mandeville, LA, made it a point when they retired to stay involved in their community. More than ten years ago they began volunteering through Volunteers of America’s Retired and Senior Volunteer Program (RSVP), each pursuing opportunities that fit their individual interests and skills. They volunteer, on average, a combined twenty-five hours per week.

Ed dedicates time each week to our Faith In Action volunteer option, which focuses on transporting senior citizens who are unable to drive themselves to doctors’ appointments, grocery stores, and other essential errands and tasks. Ed happened upon this opportunity years ago when a neighbor asked him to fill in as a temporary volunteer while the neighbor was away. Ed agreed, and was soon hooked on the rewarding experience of serving others in need. He decided to continue transporting his fellow seniors, and over the years has made new and lifelong friendships with those he serves and their families.

Ed & Mary Ann Brannan 3Mary Ann enjoys serving as a volunteer in several capacities, including her RSVP assignment working as a hospice volunteer with St. Tammany Hospital Hospice. She currently visits with a particular hospice patient every week, sitting with the patient when family members need a break, and listening to the patient’s entertaining stories about her relatives. Mary Ann notes that although some may see hospice volunteering as challenging or sad, she sees it as a much-needed service that supports patients and their families during a most profound time of need.

The Brannans feel strongly that the personal benefits they receive from volunteering are significant. They have met a variety of interesting individuals through their volunteer work, and have made many friendships with those whom they’ve served throughout the years. A strong sense of personal fulfillment from their volunteer work is, in part, why they’ve both continued serving for over a decade.

Ed aims to encourage other seniors to  volunteer and “experience the great things you get out of volunteering, as well as the many ways you can contribute.”  He hopes that more seniors will become aware of the needs of the community and embrace the exceptional benefits that come from volunteering as a senior adult.

Ed & Mary Ann Brannan 1

 To learn more about our Retired and Senior Volunteer Program click here. 

Silent Auction

Need another reason to come to our Golf Star tournament this March 1? Check out a few of the of the sweet things we’ll be auctioning off at the Silent Auction during the tournament:

– $100 gift certificate to Atchafalaya Restaurant
– 8 guest passes to the Audubon Nature Institute
– Foursome (w/golf cart) to Chateau Golf & Country Club
– Wine Basket from Dorignac’s
– Ultimate Rum & Martini Parties by Glazer (at your own house, for 14 of your friends & family!)
– 16 tickets to a New Orleans Zephyrs game
– Breakfast for 2 @ Shula’s
– 1 night stay at the Royal Sonesta on Bourbon Street
– 1 enclosed minibus tour of New Orleans for 2

Sign up for the tournament today by calling Al Kohorst, 504.486.8670. All proceeds go directly to benefiting our Adoption & Maternity program, which creates loving families through adoption and serves birth parents and adoptive parents with counseling, support groups & community education.

Volunteers of America’s Holiday Food Drive

Click here or see below to watch WGNO’s coverage of Dorian Rawles, our Assistant Vice President of Programming, talking about Volunteers of America Greater New Orleans’s holiday food drive! Call Evie Simmons at our Veterans’ Transitional Housing facility – 504.899.1116 – for more information.

Volunteer Spotlight

Meet Leslie Mitchell, a volunteer in our Training program. Leslie has been volunteering for Lorraine Pitts, head of the Training department, since December when the program was re-started for the first time following Hurricane Katrina.

“I don’t like sitting at home-that’s why I’m a volunteer” she says, and she’s certainly kept very busy in the past. Leslie was an employee of Bell South for 35 years, where she was one of the first African-American women to achieve a high-ranking position in the company. Following her retirement in 2002, she cared for her granddaughter; when her granddaughter was ready to go to school, she decided to seek out volunteer opportunities. She learned about Volunteers of America through our voagno.org website, where she was matched to the Training department based on her abilities and interests.

She reports that the work she does for Volunteers of America is “thoroughly different” than her work at Bell South – “more relaxing”. Her duties include, but aren’t limited to, preparing training materials and grading tests for employees undergoing training.

“Leslie helps me to free up time to develop new classes”, says Lorraine Pitts. Prior to Katrina, her department comprised 3 people; now, with Leslie’s help, she’s working towards rebuilding capacity. Lorraine’s current programs include defensive driving, CPR, Crisis Intervention, and Health & Safety. Trainees’ curriculum is based on their position.

Of her volunteer experiences at Volunteers of America, Leslie says, “I enjoy being able to give back & keep my mind going…I like the people I work with”. How long does she plan on sticking with us? “Until Lorraine throws me out!”

Commemorating Katrina: Five Years Later

Read about Volunteers of America’s remarkable recovery from the losses of the storm. We have thousands of helpful friends to thank and much gratitude for our progress.

You can also watch a video detailing the destruction the storm caused to our facilities and city and Higher Ground, a video about the dedication of Direct Support Professionals during and after the storm.

Repairs on Wheels Consumer Gets Mobile

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.

Be a Mentor for a Child in Need

Mentoring Children of Promise (MCP), a program of Volunteers of America Greater New Orleans in collaboration with local churches in Orleans and Jefferson Parishes, was created in response to the need of children with incarcerated parents to have stable, caring adults in their lives. Children are matched with a positive adult volunteer.

Louisiana is second in the nation in the number of people incarcerated. Almost a third (31.5%) of Louisiana’s adult inmate population and almost half (41.3%) of the juvenile inmate population come from Orleans and Jefferson parishes. Unfortunately, records show that half of Louisiana’s former inmates return to prison within four to six years after they are released. An ominous prediction for the future is the national estimate that 70% of the children with a parent in prison will one day find themselves behind bars.

We need you to help make a difference in the life of a youth in your community. MCP has boys and girls between 4-18 years of age residing in Orleans and Jefferson Parish.

What can you do to become a mentor? It’s quite simple. Here are our mentor requirements:

– You must be at least 18 years old.

– A person with a sincere desire to be involved with a young person

– Be a caring and consistent adult in the life of a young person.

– Meet with your mentee for at least 8 hours a month for a minimum of one year

– Adherence to background checks for the safety of children

-Have fun!

Studies show that children in mentoring programs feel better about themselves, do a better job at resisting peer pressure and make better grades in school.

If you’re ready to make a difference in the life of a mentee in need, call Sherilyn Hughes, Program Coordinator, at 504-836-8700 or 504-239-0234 or e-mail shughes@voagno.org.