Are you looking for a way to make a lasting difference in your community? Volunteers of America Greater New Orleans’ Community Living Services (CLS) Program, which provides homes for people with intellectual and developmental disabilities, needs your help! There are two opportunities available to those wanting to make our community a better place.
If you are able-bodied and can spare a few hours once or twice a month, you can help CLS in a big way by receiving and unloading food donations. Volunteers need to be able to lift and carry boxes, sometimes up and down stairs.
CLS is also seeking college students that are interested in working one-on-one with residents, with the potential to turn the experience into a fulfilling career. Students will work a couple of hours two days a week in teams of two to transport residents to and from their doctors’ appointments and communicate important care information to CLS case managers. Because this opportunity requires extensive training, students should be able to volunteer at least one semester of service. Each resident transport will take about two hours to complete. Stellar performance and commitment to this opportunity could allow for the transition to a paid job.
For more information, please contact Victoria King at (504) 486-8699, or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
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.”
April is National Volunteer Month, and throughout the month we have been recognizing the contributions of our dedicated and selfless volunteers. While Volunteers of America is comprised of nearly 500 paid staff members, community volunteers are an indispensable part of the work we do. We are fortunate to have a partnership with the Americorps VISTA program which provides organizations with volunteers who make year-long, full-time commitments to serve on specific projects to enhance the organizational, administrative, and financial capacity of nonprofits. Gabryone “Gabby” Newman is currently serving as our Development VISTA Volunteer. In our Q & A below, Gabby shares what motivates her to volunteer in her own community, and what she’s learning during her term with Volunteers of America:
Q: Why did you choose to serve as a VISTA with Volunteers of America Greater New Orleans?
A: As a native of New Orleans, Louisiana, I wanted to serve in my own community, impacting the lives of ordinary people. My mother worked within the Human Services industry for 20 years. I wanted to transform lives and make a difference in the world like she did. Volunteers of America Greater New Orleans has given me that opportunity. As a Resource Development VISTA, I have expanded my volunteer/fundraising skills with one of New Orleans’ leading nonprofit organizations that focuses on moving underserved communities into self-sufficiency.
Q. What has been your favorite experience while working with Volunteers of Greater New Orleans?
A. My favorite experience has been preparing for the 2015 GolfStar Classic, our annual golf tournament which benefits our adoption program. Recruiting food and auction donations from businesses, hotels and restaurants was a challenging, yet exciting experience.
Q. From your time working with Volunteers of America Greater New Orleans, what have you gained so far?
A. I have learn new skills such as cultural competency, community outreach, event planning, database development and grant writing . Also, working within the nonprofit industry has opened up a secondary career option for me.
Q. What do your plans after finishing your VISTA term include?
A. Once my VISTA term is done, I plan on working for a nonprofit organization, radio/news station, or doing a second AmeriCorps VISTA term.
To Gabby and our many wonderful volunteers who do so much for our organization and our community: THANK YOU!
Ed 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.
Mary 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.
To learn more about our Retired and Senior Volunteer Program click here.
“Quiet Hero” David Garic is a retired U.S. Army major who has generously offered his time and talent to support veterans at Volunteers of America’s Veterans Transitional Housing Program.
Veterans make up 1/5th of the homeless population in the US and there are 1,200 to 2,800 homeless veterans living in New Orleans. Our Veterans Transitional Housing program helps homeless veterans rebuild their lives by providing housing, job training, support services, and more. We provide transitional housing for 56 veterans in New Orleans and outreach services to more than 300 homeless veterans in the area. With the help of our program, veterans are able to overcome post-traumatic stress disorder, substance abuse, and mental and physical health issues. Since the facility opened, 163 homeless veterans have transitioned into employment and self-sufficiency. As David Garic remarks, “For so long these guys served the needs of the nation. This is just a small, very small, way of trying to pay that gratitude and show that gratitude back to them.”
Join us at the Veterans facility for a Reach for the Stars Experience to tour some of the facility and learn first hand some of the many ways Volunteers of America Greater New Orleans is touching lives and building community! Click here for more info and to RSVP.
The following is a story about an individual who receives services from our Mental Health Services program, which serves people with chronic mental illness and who are homeless by helping them live independently in the community.
Bill started receiving services from Volunteers of America in August of 2006. He sought stability; he’d lost his home and all of his possessions after Hurricane Katrina hit. The relative with whom he was living at the time could no longer able accommodate Bill, his spouse, and their four sons.
Compounding this was a history of mental health illness. Bill suffered from depression, schizoaffective disorder, and bipolar disorder.
Despite this, Bill expressed his desire to become stable again and to be a healthy and caring father to his family. The road to recovery was difficult, however – Bill was hospitalized after not taking his medications properly, which affected his relationship with his family. Bill’s wife made several calls expressing her frustration at her husband’s behavior.
Bill realized that the only way to achieve the stability he sought was to comply with proper medication intake. Since then, he has been receiving injections once a month. This has had a dramatic effect on his behavior – he has returned to taking courses at school daily and will soon be testing for his GED.
After obtaining his GED, Bill plans to further his education by enrolling in college to study business. He would like to open a convenience store with his wife.
Bill has moved into new housing and reports that his relationship with his family has improved.
The Veterans’ Transitional Program recently held a graduation commencement which marked the end of an eight-week program of instruction and individual coaching for homeless veterans. The purpose of the program was to assist veterans with returning to the workforce. Curriculum included training in resume construction and writing, job applications, interviewing techniques and skills, and practice interviewing.
Left to right in photo:
Jim Leblanc, President/CEO Volunteers of America
Lenny Simmons, Board Member
Paul Graff, Board Member
Tom Grace, Board Member
Martha Huie, HR Consultant (volunteers for this program)
Ashley Gremillion, HR Director with Phelps Dunbar (volunteers for this program)
David Garic, Garic Consulting, Volunteer Team Leader for this program
Randolph A. Macabitas, Program Director, Veterans Services
Ms. Huie, Ms. Gremillion and Mr. Garic are dedicated volunteers to the Job Readiness program and are instrumental in its success. (Not pictured is Bob Billings, another volunteer with this project).
To view WGNO TV coverage of the event, please visit our YouTube page.
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.
Famed New Orleans singer Charmaine Neville stirred up excitement by appearing in our Spirit of Giving commercial. The Spirit of Giving is Volunteers of America’s holiday campaign to support our Adoption, Mentoring Children of Promise, Lighthouse After School, Community Homes, and Family Resource Center programs. Pictured is Charmaine with President/CEO Jim LeBlanc and children from our programs.
Watch for Charmaine on TV spots throughout the season on WWL-TV, our sponsor.
On Veterans’ Day, our Veterans’ Transitional Housing program showed their support for our veterans with a celebration at our Napoleon Avenue facility. Vets were treated to a lunch and a ceremony featuring membersof the United States Marines Band. Gifts were given out to residents ofthe facility. Pictured is Veterans’ Program Director Randolph Macabitas briefing WWL-TV’s Jill Hezeau on the many services provided to veterans by Volunteers of America.
Our Veterans’ Transitional Housing program helps homeless veterans rebuild their lives by providing housing, job training, support services, and more.