Written and shared by Carolyn Hammond, President and CEO
It is with excitement and a bit of trepidation that I step into the shoes of President and CEO of Volunteers of America North Louisiana.
It is an honor to succeed Chuck Meehan after his 33 years of servant leadership. Although my shoe has a higher heel than his, I am humbled to follow his example.
It’s a beautiful sight to see so many smiling faces; my own friends and colleagues, as well as so many of our Volunteers of America family.
I’ve been asked a number of times over the past couple of months: Why I’ve taken this position?
It is a big job that I see as an exciting challenge.
Here are a few reasons I said yes:
- First is my belief in and love of our important work here at Volunteers of America.
I believe we ALL have a responsibility to serve and everyone has something they can offer. There is nowhere like Volunteers of America to do that.
- A second reason is my responsibility to my daughter Lauren. She’s nine years old (going on 19!). I want her to grow up alongside a working mom who loves and believes in her work. A mom who is able to make a difference every day. A mom who believes we CAN create a stronger community.
- Finally, I believe I have the right background and history after working for Volunteers of America nearly 12 years.
I’m ready for the challenge of taking our life-changing work to the next level of success for each child and adult who comes to us for support.
In the last 12 years, Volunteers of America and I have grown together..
Thanks to YOUR investments:
- We’ve expanded services to children and families in poverty.
- Built critical relationships to maximize opportunities.
- And every day we foster a culture of servant leadership in our staff and volunteers.
Whether you are a Cherish the Children Society donor, an Evergreen or Evergreen Forever donor or this is your first experience with Volunteers of America please know we can NOT do our important work without you.
As I look at our team and our work I see three strengths that set Volunteers of America apart:
These strengths are exactly what is needed to address our community’s most pressing issues.
Right here in Shreveport-Bossier:
- One in three families with children under 5 live in poverty
- More than half of renters spend more than 35% of their income on housing
- 62% of adults with mental illness do not receive treatment
Solutions start with quality services.
At Volunteers of America, we believe quality is about addressing more than surface level needs. We walk alongside each person as long as it takes.
Jerry is an example of achieving independence even as he deals with mental illness. He grew up in south Louisiana and left school in about the 8th grade. For years, Jerry worked hard painting and laying tile.
Without family support and a stable community — like most of us have — Jerry made unhealthy choices. Eventually his addictions and mental illness took such a strong hold he couldn’t keep a job.
When Jerry came to our McAdoo housing facility he would get sober, go to a job interview, and pledge to do better.
But, the fear of failure was too much. Jerry couldn’t follow through — even with the love and encouragement of his case managers.
It seemed everyone believed in Jerry except Jerry.
Fortunately, we don’t stop supporting anyone – no matter their circumstances.
Last fall when Jerry started a new job something finally clicked.
Maybe it was our dedicated staff? Maybe it was other residents? Whatever it was, he went back to his job the next day, and the next.
Six months later Jerry is still working and looking for his own apartment.
He’s told us he loves his work and says “it’s one of the best decisions I’ve ever made.”
Jerry’s story isn’t the only success. Last year:
- 151 Veterans found homes through our Veteran Services
- 95% of those we house with mental illness stayed out of the hospital
- 81% of Communities In Schools students made progress on their academic goals.
While ALL of our programs are important to me – I have a special place in my heart for our Children and Families division.
I spent the last nine years of my career there being inspired daily by the dedication of our professional staff.
I’ve seen firsthand the BEST way to break the cycle of poverty is through education.
That means keeping kids in school and helping them overcome heartbreaking barriers.
Quinn is a soft-spoken senior at Woodlawn High School. She faced the unimaginable last summer. Within weeks of each other, both her mother and her older sister died of Covid.
When Quinn started school this year, she was already struggling after a year of virtual school. Along with her elderly aunt, she now has the primary responsibility for her teenage brother, second-grade sister, and two nieces under the age of 3.
I can’t imagine her courage and ability to navigate through each day.
Fortunately, in August, our Communities In Schools partnership began at Woodlawn and that’s where Quinn began to feel less overwhelmed and alone.
Lauren, the site coordinator, is awesome! She literally and figuratively has wrapped her arms around Quinn and her family.
Lauren has picked her up for school when her car wouldn’t start, explained complicated government benefits, and asked for help when Quinn didn’t know how.
Before her mother passed away, Quinn promised her mom she would graduate from high school.
I’m so proud to tell you that next month Quinn will keep that promise. She has dreams of being a nurse practitioner and I know Lauren will be there cheering her all the way.
Perhaps the best kept secret at Volunteers of America is our culture of ministry.
In everything we do, we see the goodness God sees and work to demonstrate his mercy. OUR ministry is what helps bring a second chance to Jerry and unwavering hope for Quinn.
Ministry can turn a house into a haven. Corbitt Lodge is an apartment complex for people with disabilities located in a neighborhood known for violence.
When you visit Corbitt, resident Ira says there’s a difference. He said: “It seems like the Lord is here, because it’s peaceful. The staff are understanding and caring. They are here when we need them, and I want to stay here forever!”
THESE strengths WILL change our community.
While there is much to do, I’m ready for the challenge. But I cannot do this without you!
As you’ve heard at this breakfast over the years, we have an annual funding gap to provide our quality services. That means there is a difference between what the government pays for and the true cost of delivering our intensive services.
This year our funding gap is $2.5 million. While it’s a big number I’m confident that together we’ll close that gap, just as we have each year.
Thank you for welcoming me as the new President and CEO. I’m honored to move forward.
YOUR generosity provides quality service.
YOUR commitment inspires dedication.
YOUR faith fuels our ministry.
When I started working in social services, the magnitude of the need was sometimes overwhelming. So, I trained myself to focus on one person at a time.
When I, as one person, help one other person, it makes a difference.
When each of us helps one other person, we make an EXPONENTIAL difference.
On behalf of Jerry, Quinn and Ira, and the countless others who have hope because of you,