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!
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.
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.
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!”
Click here to read a piece from WWL about New Orleans’ mental health delivery system post-Katrina, featuring Rebecca Thees, our Coordinator of Disaster Related Services.
Click here to read a piece from the Times-Picayune about mental health issues in post-Katrina New Orleans, also featuring Rebecca Thees.