Our Latest Issue of Inspire Spring 2024

Celebrating 25 Years of Friendship

at VOA Community’s Douglas Home

Donnie and David who live in our VOA Community home in Memphis, TN
Donnie and David live in a VOA Community home in Memphis, TN

Donnie Criswell and David Dickinson have lived in the Douglas home together since October 12, 1998, and after more than two decades under the same roof they see each other more as family than roommates.

A Letter from Jennifer

Dear Friend:

The first few months of this year have been off to a tremendous start with several exciting opportunities for Volunteers of America already underway.

We kicked things off with the groundbreaking for our newest expansions in Owensboro, Freedom House and Transitional Living. The community support at this event was incredible and we cannot wait to have this crucial program up and running to serve Daviess County and West Kentucky soon. We will also break ground on our expansions in Stanford and Manchester later this spring.

The VOA team has traveled to Frankfort a great deal this year both advocating for our organization and celebrating milestones and accomplishments. We attended the second annual Recovery Advocacy Day at the Capitol and the VOA Recovery Ready Communities team joined the Lt. Governor in certifying three more Kentucky counties as “Recovery Ready.”

With plenty more to come this year, including celebrating the 40th anniversary of Unity House, we want to thank you for your continued support as we continue to achieve these amazing milestones and work to serve even more communities.

With gratitude,

Jennifer Hancock, President and CEO

Meet Samantha

As a child, Samantha was raised by her grandmother and was known for her rebellious side. She suffered from intense migraines and was prescribed pain medications. At a young age, she became dependent on the medications. In her teens, the drug use escalated. For brief periods, she was able to find sobriety, but she was never able to maintain it.

It wasn’t until her two boys, Connor and Caden, were removed from her care that she knew something needed to change. Samantha came to Freedom House and said she had a life-changing experience. Freedom House assisted Samantha with addressing childhood trauma, taught her how to use coping skills and helped her overcome her substance use disorder. She is now repairing broken family relationships and has her children back.

At 28 years old, Samantha graduated from Freedom House and is now looking to pursue an Industrial Maintenance degree.

An Important Milestone

Celebrating 4 years of helping moms overcome substance use disorder and keeping families safe and healthy in Kentucky.

We are currently expanding our Manchester Freedom House program to accommodate 300 women and their children annually in Clay County. VOA knows how to break the cycle of addiction in families, and Freedom House is a two-generation solution that works.

“I came into Freedom House saying, ‘I don’t want to be here, I want to go home’. It didn’t take long for me to realize that this was going to be a life-changing experience for me,” Samantha, Freedom House Manchester graduate.

Samantha, Freedom House Manchester graduate

Grassroots Outreach that Improves Health Outcomes

Charlotte Barnett is a resident of the Newburg neighborhood in Louisville, Kentucky. She has custody of her two grandkids. After battling breast cancer and having two hip replacements, Charlotte needed help managing her healthcare while caring for her family.

“Having custody of an autistic grandchild and another little one, I really needed some help,” Charlotte said. “I’m a very independent person. I had no clue where to go to get some help or anything like that and then poof, there was VOA and Ms. Michelle.”

She found support through VOA Health’s Determined Health program and Community Health Worker (CHW,) Michelle Seabrooks.

With Michelle by her side, Charlotte received the critical support she needed. From arranging transportation to doctor’s appointments to connecting her with resources for improved mobility, childcare and more, VOA Health and Michelle worked tirelessly to break down barriers and bridge gaps in her care.

“She didn’t just talk the talk, she walked it too and she walked it right beside me,” Charlotte said. “If you need something, call VOA and see what they can do for you and the programs that are available because I had no clue.”

Determined Health and CHWs like Michelle are providing grassroots outreach and improving health outcomes across Louisville and in Clark and Floyd Counties in Indiana.

Learn more about this life-changing program at https://www.voamid.org/locations/determined-health.

Celebrating 25 Years of Friendship at VOA Home Community’s Douglas Home

October of 2023 marked a special milestone for our program serving adults with intellectual and developmental disabilities in Memphis, Tennessee. Two of the individuals we serve celebrated 25 years of living together as roommates in VOA Community’s Douglas home.

Donnie Criswell and David Dickinson have lived in the Douglas home together since October 12, 1998, and after more than two decades under the same roof they see each other more as family than roommates.

“You can tell they’re very close-knit roommates,” said VOA Community Direct Support Professional, Ruthie Malone.

Every morning, they start their day with a handshake and sit down to watch their favorite shows together. Latosha Burtis has been their Direct Support Professional for 7 years and loves witnessing the bond they share.

Last October, our team hosted a party to celebrate Donnie and David’s friendship and the 25 years they’ve been with VOA Community. Donnie and David’s family joined the celebration along with their third roommate, Scott Farrar and his family. Together, they celebrated the milestone with music, delicious food, cake and great conversation reminiscing on the decades of memories they have created together.

VOA Voices

Judge Denise Brown

In 2015, Judge Denise Brown was elected to the Jefferson County Family Court 7th Division. Since taking the bench, Judge Brown has dedicated her term to supporting Louisville families. In 2017, she was an integral part of bringing Family Recovery Court (FRC) to Jefferson County. Since the program began, VOA and FRC have partnered to help Louisville families receive recovery support and reunite with their children. Through the program, Judge Brown has guided several of our Freedom House graduates, helping them regain custody of their children.

“The more that we work together, the more the participants can see how working with us (FRC) and VOA is going to give them a really good result,” Judge Brown said. “They get the opportunity to be reunited with their children.”

Krista Bailey

With assistance from our Supported Employment program, Krista Bailey has been a dedicated employee at the VOA administrative office in Louisville, Kentucky for more than a year. VOA Community’s services provides supported employment support for adults with intellectual and developmental disabilities. Krista works in the External Relations (ER) department where she prepares folders for program tours, name place cards for board meetings, swag bags for events, and much more. She is a committed employee and always goes the extra mile to make sure that everyone in ER is prepared to represent the agency in the best way possible.

“I enjoy my job here at VOA. I’ve worked at other places in the past and this is the best fit for me right now.”

Mark Nyarko

Marc is the Chief Operating Officer for WellCare of Kentucky, a generous VOA supporter. WellCare has been a long-standing partner of VOA and Freedom House, helping open the Manchester program in 2020. The latest donation will be used to support our expansion in Manchester, along with expanding the program to Owensboro, Stanford, and Northern Kentucky.

“More Kentuckians are seeking ways to address substance use disorder, and WellCare is committed to providing support to help people receive the services they need to live better, healthier lives,” Marc said. “VOA has made a tremendous impact across Kentucky, and WellCare is proud to provide funding to expand its services to areas where there is significant need.”

Terry Gray

Terry has served as the Senior Director of Regional Programming and Regional Stewardship at Eastern Kentucky University Manchester since 2003. He oversees a wide range of programs and initiatives that promote educational and economic development in the region, including EKU’s Corbin and Manchester regional campuses. He serves on many community and regional advisory boards, leveraging his expertise and connections to support positive change. Terry is an invaluable partner to VOA and we were thrilled to have him join our Board of Directors in September 2023.

“Every interaction, every program at VOA, is designed to be a catalyst for personal growth and empowerment. Together, we’re reshaping futures and building a healthier, brighter Southeast Kentucky.”

News Briefs

Owensboro Groundbreaking Event

January 26 marked a special day for VOA as we broke ground on the future home of Freedom House in Daviess County

We were joined by Representative Suzanne Miles, Representative DJ Johnson, Owensboro Mayor Tom Watson, incredible community partners like the PNC Foundation, Hager Educational Foundation, Public Life Foundation and WellCare of Kentucky, along with members of the Owensboro community. With their support, Freedom House will be regionally accessible for mothers in Daviess County, helping them overcome substance use disorder and reunite families broken apart by addiction.

Goodwill Opportunity Campus

Several of VOA’s services in Louisville are now located under one roof at the brand-new Goodwill Opportunity Campus. The building, located in Louisville’s West End, will serve as a one-stop shop for a variety of community resources from a diverse group of local partners. VOA’s services offered at the campus will include Rapid Re-Housing, Outreach & Prevention, Determined Health, Supportive Services for Veteran Families and Moral Injury and Preventing Suicide, and Restorative Justice.

Recovery Advocacy Day at the Capitol

A powerful day advocating for change

Our VOA Recovery team and Freedom House mothers joined People Advocating Recovery at the Kentucky State Capitol for the second annual Recovery Advocacy Day. We joined Governor Andy Beshear, state leaders, other recovery organizations and individuals in recovery to champion real solutions for substance use disorder. Together, we showed Kentucky that recovery is possible and our Recovery Ready Communities team honored three Kentucky counties for their outstanding efforts in combating substance use disorder. Lt. Governor Jacqueline Coleman presented Hardin, McCracken and Scott Counties with certifications declaring them Recovery Ready.

VOA Restorative Justice Continues to Expand its Services

Last year, Restorative Justice began a new project with the Kentucky Department of Juvenile Justice (DJJ) offering Alternative to Detention (ATD) services. ATDs are approaches designed to prevent and limit youth being placed in a secure detention when other less restrictive options are available. ATD options utilize a combination of community-based intervention services, non-secure residential placements and out-of-home care.

Research has indicated the negative effects of placement of youth in secure detention with concerns around the impact on education, development and mental health. The ATD program includes case management services, which will help monitor the youth’s community placement, and restorative conferencing.

With the expansion of our staff, our reach continues to grow. VOA RJ now has partnerships with public schools in Jefferson and Clark Counties in Kentucky. We also doubled the number of Jefferson County Public Elementary Schools we serve in addition to now working in the district’s middle and high schools.

VOA RJ Employee Spotlight: Tiana Woodard

Tiana Woodard is the Project Lead for our Jefferson County Public Schools Project. Although she worked in child welfare before joining VOA RJ, she was unfamiliar with the restorative practices initially and was not sure what to expect. She soon learned the potential impact of restorative practices and working with children in elementary schools who have behavioral concerns that are placing the child at risk for disciplinary actions.

“We come to the families, and we create a relationship with them. We become someone they can trust and who can help communicate and advocate for their child.”

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