Heather Bingley loves working for Volunteers of America serving veterans in West Virginia, but of the many things she enjoys about her calling to help veterans, one is clearly her favorite. “I love seeing the client get their new set of keys. Even though we’ve been discussing it and working toward it, that’s the moment where you know their lives are going to change,” Heather said. Heather is the Program Manager for VOA Supportive Services for Veteran Families Office in Beckley, West Virginia. She just celebrated her eighth year of serving veterans participating in the VOA Honor program, which provides comprehensive services to veterans in need with a focus on finding affordable, stable housing.
Inspire Winter/Spring 2023 Edition
At Volunteers of America, we are guided and motivated by five core values that define our work: commitment, compassion, diversity, integrity and justice. We work hard to live those values every day. In the workplaces that are home to our nearly fifty programs in four states, we have beautiful artwork that reminds us of those values and motivates us to serve more than 20,000 individuals in need every year.
Mother Teresa’s image graces the artwork that reminds us to be guided by compassion, and I’m thinking of her words this holiday season. She said, “It’s not about how much you do, but how much love you put into what you do that counts.” These words are with us as we work through the holidays, and every day, to build more hopeful futures for the people who count on VOA.
In this issue of Inspire, you will see Whitney and her family as we launch our 2022 Hope for the Holidays Campaign. Whitney came to us because she simply could not afford or find housing of her own after a relationship ended. At Whitney’s time of greatest need, VOA was able to provide the support – and love – that was essential to her family. Today, Hadassah, her oldest, is in school, playing cello in the school orchestra and feeling confident about her future. Hassadah is an adorable two-year old having fun and looking forward to Christmas. And newborn Hazaiah is being cared for by a loving family thanks to the safety and support they’ve found at VOA’s Unity House. With her family no longer in crisis, Whitney just enrolled in college courses and is working toward her dream of becoming a nurse. And VOA is securing long-term, stable and affordable housing for the family.
At VOA we oversee programs that get results and change lives. But we also know that a non-negotiable ingredient for proven outcomes is the love our VOA team shows to everyone who comes to us in their time of need. This holiday season we’re so grateful to you for being a part of our VOA family and making our work possible for Whitney and so many others.
President & CEO
Flooding in Eastern Kentucky
When Eastern Kentucky suffered catastrophic flooding, VOA was there. Working with UPS, Kroger, AdventHealth, and compassionate community partners, VOA collected and distributed relief supplies to our neighbors who were affected by this disaster.
VOA MID-STATES HAS RAISED $350,000 FOR EKY FLOODING VICTIMS.
Power of 1 2022
"Today, with the support of VOA, I’m living a life I didn’t think was possible. My story is proof that you should never give up on anyone.”
Casey Wagner’s story was a highlight of VOA’s 2022 Power of 1 Breakfast, which returned as one of the Louisville’s largest in-person events on October 18th at the Kentucky International Convention Center.
Casey spoke to a packed ballroom about his experience overcoming substance use disorder throughout residential treatment and support from VOA. With counseling, therapy and classes, Casey was able to leave a cycle of addiction behind and now is a father, husband and manager at GE Appliances who has been healthy and sober for more than 20 years.
The Power of 1 Breakfast helps VOA do all the extras not allowed by government grants and features an hour-long program of videos, client testimonials and remarks by President and CEO Jennifer Hancock. This year, guests included elected officials, community advocates and many others.
“We accomplish so much when we work together. The Power of 1 Breakfast shows that when we are united, there is nothing we can’t do,” said Jennifer Hancock.
Miss the big event? You can still make a difference! Click the DONATE button on the top-right of your screen.
VOA HONOR | Sets Veterans Up for Success
“I’m 40 years old and it took me this long to get life. And it took the help of people like VOA to get me here,” said Michael Johnson, VOA Honor veteran.
At the age of 17 Michael Johnson joined the military looking for an opportunity to leave his hometown of Bowling Green, Kentucky and explore. He joined the Army in 1999 and was stationed at Fort Lee, Virginia. He worked as a Unit Supply Specialist responsible for supervising and maintaining all Army supplies and safely securing and controlling weapons and ammunition. As the youngest in his unit, the other soldiers helped Michael acclimate to life in the Army. But after four years, the men and women he formed strong friendships with, no longer worked in his unit.
“A lot of my friends had gotten out of the military,” he said. “I felt like I was out of place.”
Michael decided to leave the Army and head back to Bowling Green, Kentucky. But, he didn’t anticipate the challenges that came with transitioning back into civilian life.
“I had that bond with the military for the last four years,” Michael said. “So when you get out it’s like you’re so lost,” he said. At 22 years old, Michael didn’t know how to start a new life outside of the Army. “I started trying to fit in with crowds I shouldn’t have been.” Michael started relying on substances to escape his daily life. “I was looking for that bond that I formed in the military and it lead me to drinking more and more every day,” Michael said.
His daily drinking continued to escalate and by the age of 25 Michael was struggling with substance use disorder. “I couldn’t seem to break the cycle,” he said. “I knew I had a problem, but I didn’t know how to fix it,” Michael said.
In 2015 Michael was arrested on drug-related charges. While incarcerated, Michael started a recovery treatment program that helped him learn about his substance use disorder and how to overcome it. He continued his recovery journey after being released from prison, but needed support learning how to live a successful life while sober. “I went to the VA and I wasn’t up there long, probably three or four months, and I got turned on to Volunteers of America.”
VOA Honor provides supportive services for veterans in need, helping to locate long-term housing, rent assistance, health care services, daily living services and so much more. In January of 2022 Michael was introduced to VOA Honor Income Maximization Case Manager, Marchelle Anderson.
“Michael came to our program with an open heart and an open mind. Ready and willing to do whatever it took to get housed,” Marchelle said. Marchelle immediately went to work and helped Michael locate stable, affordable housing. By the end of January Michael was in his first apartment. “I couldn’t believe after all the stuff I had done, someone was still willing to reach out and help,” Michael said. And the support didn’t stop there. Marchelle helped him start VOA Honor’s Shallow Subsidy service that provided Michael with rental assistance so he could maintain his permanent housing while continuing to build a savings and work toward a financially stable future.
Today, with VOA Honor’s support, Michael is working, going to school, living a healthy life and achieving goals he never thought possible. “I just never thought that I could have a second chance in life and the VOA has been a big part of that.”
Listen to Our | VOA VOICES
Like so many others, Marcus Stubbs and his family found VOA when they needed help the most. Ten years ago, Marcus was living in Unity House, where VOA provided housing and comprehensive support that gave his family security, stability and a path toward a bright and promising future. Today, Marcus is a member of VOA’s Board of Directors, an emerging leader in the Louisville Community and recent Louisville Business First 40 under 40 honoree. He is also completing his Doctorate degree in Education and Social Change. “I’m honored to serve on the Board because it’s another way to giving back my time and treasure because of all that VOA has done for me and my family,” Marcus said. Marcus has led a life defined by dedication and accomplishment since he left Unity House a decade ago. He is a community leader and activist who fills his time with service. He was named a Newman Civic Fellow and is the cofounder of a new initiative, Cultured Mornings, that helps to support and mentor youth interested culinary and hospitality programs. “At VOA, we can progress together. They invest in people through time and love. That’s a formula for success,” Marcus said.
Steve Gault has built a successful career not only as one of the leading real estate developers and brokers in Louisville, but as a generous philanthropist who gives of his time and talent to strengthen our community. One of Steve’s key partners has been Volunteers of America, where he has led as a donor, advisor and also as an advocate for individuals and families in recovery. He recently presented a wonderfully generous – and surprise -- gift to VOA. “The many effective, well-administered human service programs of VOA are notably impactful in both urban and rural areas. The organization delivers vital assistance to individuals with critical needs while doing so in a financially responsible manner. CEO Jennifer Hancock and her entire team have earned my continuing, enthusiastic support. I like the committed leadership so it’s easy to feel good about supporting VOA. I was just so happy to be able to surprise them with this gift.” Steve said.
HELP US GIVE THE GIFT OF HOPE
What helps our families the most?
- GIFT CARDS (preferred)
- NEW WINTER COATS
- HYGIENE ITEMS
For a list of items we need the most and drop-off locations visit voamid.org/holidays or follow the QR code at the bottom of this section.