On Monday, December 23, Volunteers of America Colorado Branch handed out 2,000 Christmas baskets to those in need. Children were surprised by a visit from Santa, and were able to pick out books and a pair of Crocs. Thank you to Food Bank of the Rockies, Crocs and Safeway for making this possible.

The holidays to me mean a time to celebrate with family and share the love for one another in a special way.  The holidays also means a very busy time, as getting together with all the family and friends is a whirlwind, especially when you add in children into the mix.  It is so important to celebrate and share with as many people as possible and I have the wonderful opportunity to do that personally and professionally.

In my professional career, I have chosen a path that lends a hand to those that are most vulnerable in the community.  One of my favorite events, not because it is easy to organize, but because it gives a little holiday cheer to seniors in the community, is Basket of Joy.  This year is the 26th year of the event and my 4th year of being very involved in the event.  For the past 26 years, every year, more than 5,000 seniors in the community receive a basket of fruit and candy that is delivered by over 1,000 volunteers.  This event is done in one day, meaning for 24 hours straight work is being done to put a smile on a seniors face for the holidays.  There are so many seniors in the community that are homebound and have no family in their lives for one reason or another. Volunteers of America partners with so many wonderful folks in the community to make this event happen and for the love that surrounds the holidays to be shared with a senior.

This year, like every year, we partnered with The Denver Post, Albertsons and Denver Mattress. A new “partner” this year is Trans-Siberian Orchestra. This group has generously offered a portion of their sales of Denver concerts to Basket of Joy! You can help by purchasing a ticket and bringing your family to enjoy their amazing performance of “The Lost Christmas Eve.”

Another way you can help is to volunteer. My invitation to you is to come and see the magnitude and reach of the Basket of Joy for 2013. It is going to be the best one yet!  Come bring a smile to a seniors face for the holiday season. Sign up at www.voacolorado.org

- Amanda Gregg, Manager, Volunteer Services

Western Fantasy, 20 years of raising funds for VOA

This Saturday is the 20th Annual Western Fantasy gala. To many, this is a great Saturday night and an amazing event, a time to socialize and listen to live country music.

To the clients, staff and volunteers at Volunteers of America, it is a godsend. Each year, Western Fantasy hopes to raise $1 Million in one night. This money is vital to our existence, and allows us to serve the population’s most vulnerable. Thank you to all who have been involved in the past 20 years. You have truly made this night special.

December 2012 Volunteers of America received the opportunity to expand veteran services to Durango, Fort Collins, and the Denver Metro Area. Supportive Services for Veterans Families (SSVF) seeks to provide services to Veterans struggling to overcome homelessness or at risk of becoming homeless. My name is Gaelyn Feeney-Coyle, and I began working with VOA in January as a Veteran Advocate with the SSVF program in Denver.  

Having the opportunity to provide assistance as a Veterans Advocate has delivered gifts of inspiration, resilience and perseverance through the continuous effort displayed by our Veteran participants. Without having firsthand military experience or the daily challenge of struggling to overcome homelessness, I continuously recognize the impact Veterans deliver to my daily life, and the clarity their stories provide in understanding the essential components towards a path of self-sufficiency. Stories of fear and anxiety expose the daily challenges that present as barriers for success. Many citizens in our country face the threat of losing their home and the crumbling effects of our shifting economy, but we continue to show strength in rising above adversity and utilizing the support from our brothers and sisters.

The faces in our community represent a wide degree of challenges and experiences beyond what many humans are able to overcome. The struggle associated with the pain often overtakes the motivation necessary to persevere, however, each day participants of SSVF continue to strive for a home to call their own. During a conversation I had with a Veteran, I was positively affected by a comment he made on his way to sign his lease, saying “I am 51 years old, and this will be the very first time I’ve lived alone.” I reflected on his comment, and recalled the pure excitement bursting through his words – aware of the adjustment that will ebb and flow through times of transitional hardships, but nonetheless, the ability for him to feel confident, secure and independent is a right that every human should receive.

It is true that problems do not cease once housing is obtained, but for Veterans, and all homeless individuals, it is a basic need to establish a safe environment in order for employment, mental health, and personal well-being to be a function of daily life.

Supportive Services for Veteran Families has been fortunate to integrate into compassionate communities throughout Colorado, and utilize surrounding resources that contribute towards the goal of lasting stability. A single-mother who recently found herself out of work and unable to pay rent, connected with SSVF through the VA Community Resource and Referral Center and began actively receiving case management with SSVF in working towards gaining employment and strengthening her family’s life. Fortunately, this family was able to avoid eviction and remain in their home with receiving employment and temporary financial assistance towards rent costs. While expressing her gratitude in an email, “You have given me not only my hope back but allowed me to keep my pride intact, and for someone like me that means everything.” 

Employment services offered with SSVF and additional community agencies work to identify individual skills and experiences that fit appropriately with opportunities to work for local companies. Workshops have been developed to provide bi-weekly support for Veterans seeking employment, and allow employers to connect directly with the specific skill sets of the individuals participating with SSVF.

It is difficult to comprehend the reality of life without a home, or the situational hardships that have led to contribute to such adversity, but a true optimistic element remains in the energy and dedication Veterans deliver to the potential for success. In the five months that Volunteers of America has established the SSVF program over 200 hundred families have been served and continue to transition into permanent housing.

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Right now at Sports Authority Field at Mile High, abc7 is honoring its 7 Everyday Heroes. 52 Heroes have been selected, one per week, for outstanding service and compassion in their community. Pictured are the Heroes, including four VOA volunteers who have been named a 7 Everyday Hero in the past year. The VOA volunteers are: Emma Barrientos, Jane Johnson, Naydne Leedom and Jack Markey. Congratulations to all!

Former Nugget, Marcus Camby, receives a service award from Jim White, Director of Community Affairs at VOA Colorado. Also pictured is Denny Grey, lead volunteer at VOA's Thanksgiving day meal.

Former Nugget, Marcus Camby, receives a service award from Jim White, Director of Community Affairs at VOA Colorado. Also pictured is Denny Grey, lead volunteer at VOA’s Thanksgiving day meal

On Thanksgiving Day, eight years ago, Marcus Camby and his wife joined with the Volunteers of America and served more than 1,200 meals to homeless and low-income families and seniors at Jackson’s Sports Bar. Following the meal, Camby offered to pay for all of the food. He has continued this incredible act of kindness every year, in spite of the fact that he was traded away from the Nuggets.

Prior to the Knicks vs. Nuggets basketball game on Wednesday night, Camby received special recognition from the Volunteers of America. Each year we serve more than 1,200 Thanksgiving day meals, so in the past eight years, Marcus has been responsible for feeding more than 10,000 individuals with a traditional meal on Thanksgiving Day.

Often NBA players are not recognized for their acts of generosity in the community; we wanted to make sure it happened here in Denver.

What DO we do? Find out!

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