News: Louisville Business First, April 3, 2015

Great things have been happening at VOA

Apr 3, 2015, 6:00am EDT

Jane W. Burks

With the two exceptions of my family and my faith, Volunteers of America has meant more than anything in the world to me. My time spent with this organization always will be one of the most important chapters in my life.

As my retirement as president and CEO of this organization’s Kentucky affiliate becomes official this week and I reflect on my 26 years of service with Volunteers of America at the local and national levels, I couldn’t be prouder. And I’m excited to note that I will continue to work as a consultant with Volunteers of America’s national office.

We’ve accomplished a great deal during my nine years as president and CEO. While I had the honor of steering the ship, it is the stellar employees who have done the hard labor to make great things happen.

We’ve grown by about 50 percent during a challenging economy, adding more than $10 million to our annual operating budget.

We’ve been financially stable when faced with funding deficits. We’ve earned accreditation when no one told us to.

And in the last year alone, our services reached more than 21,000 people in five states, with the help of 700 employees and more than 5,600 donors and volunteers.

I know the challenges Volunteers of America faced during my tenure — securing funding, retaining qualified staff, and serving the most vulnerable people — will continue. But I feel confident that my successor, Jennifer Hancock, is the right person to take the organization forward. Her high energy and results-oriented style of leadership are just what the organization needs. And with the professional, credentialed team she has working with her, I foresee a successful future for Volunteers of America.

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I’ve been asked many times:, “What does Volunteers of America do?” In spite of all of the lives we have touched and all of the individuals who support our mission, many of us at Volunteers of America have struggled to describe our very complex, multifaceted organization.

And even though Volunteers of America is one of this region’s largest nonprofits, we continue to have a history of being too quiet and humble about the community solutions we so effectively provide — intensive addiction-recovery services, housing and support for families with children, around-the-clock care for individuals with developmental disabilities, and a host of services for veterans and their family members struggling with homelessness and unemployment.

I’m proud to say that each of Volunteers of America of Kentucky’s 37 programs is operated by highly skilled, professional staff and focuses on best practices and positive outcomes.

But there is one program, in particular, that I hope will attract even more of the community’s support. Freedom House, Volunteers of America’s residential addiction-recovery program for pregnant and postpartum women, is going through a $600,000 multi-phase expansion and renovation in response to the heroin epidemic that plagues our community. I wanted to ensure that Volunteers of America would be well-equipped to serve more mothers and their children.

Recently, as my family members, friends and colleagues celebrated with me, I suggested that everyone in the room journey into the future with a new mantra: “Humble no more.” Volunteers of America must become a household name because our services our so critical. We change lives and communities. We must engage more people, more volunteers, and more highly qualified staff so that our contributions are not only impactful, they are also known and valued.

Volunteers of America is focused on the future. This organization has been around for almost 120 years. And we will continue. Why? Because we care about our communities and we know we make a difference.

Jane W. Burks retired this week as president and CEO of Volunteers of America of Kentucky.