Posted on April 13, 2016
Volunteers Make Homelessness History
by Alison Jones-Nassar, Volunteer Resources Manager
This week as Virginia Supportive Housing celebrates National Volunteer Week, I reflect with gratitude on the impact volunteers make on our organization and in the lives of those we serve.
The collective contributions of volunteers are inspiring. In the last five years, 5,513 volunteers supported our mission to end homelessness with gifts of time, skills and compassion. Volunteers provided nearly 47,800 hours of service, which translates to an extraordinary $987,000 in value.
These numbers only capture part of the picture. VSH’s volunteer workforce supports all aspects of our mission and extends our ability to deliver critical services to vulnerable individuals. Volunteers help improve the quality of life for the residents, whether by enhancing and maintain the properties in which they live, or by providing direct services and activities to our residents.
VSH’s portfolio of apartments for formerly homeless individuals includes 535 units in 16 properties that we own and operate. Volunteers greatly expand the capacity of our maintenance team, thanks to thousands of hours that they dedicate to VSH.
As a result, VSH properties look more attractive, clean and inviting – like “home” should be. Volunteers construct fences, repair porches, spread mulch, paint apartments, repair appliances, plant flowers, clean gutters, move furniture, scrub sinks, cut grass, build raised garden boxes, rake leaves, assemble furniture and paint parking lot lines, among many other tasks. The work is not glamorous, but our volunteers unfailingly arrive with team spirit and can-do attitudes to make it seem like fun.
Direct Service Providers
Through VSH’s orientation and training, volunteers gain an understanding of the variety of physical and mental conditions that affect many of our residents as a result of having living unsheltered for years. Volunteers also learn about residents extremely limited incomes (less than $10,000/year) that can affect food security and social inclusion. Many of our residents are also disconnected from family, thus reducing their exposure to holiday celebrations and traditions.
Volunteers have answered the call to help improve the quality of life for our residents in a big way. Direct services that volunteers provide include hosting birthday parties, cutting hair, preparing dinners, decorating for holiday celebrations, teaching computer skills, conducting art classes, leading Bingo, teaching financial literacy, providing assistance with job-hunting, promoting wellness, performing song and dance routines, conducting Bible studies, organizing Wii fitness sessions, teaching bike safety and delivering food baskets.
Special event volunteers support myriad fundraising efforts while administrative support volunteers and interns support our administrative staff.
Without the contributions of volunteers across all departments and programs, we would not be able to accomplish the important work that we do each day to end homelessness. Volunteers are truly the KEY to success!
National Volunteer Week provides not only a great opportunity reflect, but to plan as well. This year VSH will become certified as a Service Enterprise, which means that our capacity to engage volunteers strategically, to onboard them effectively and to steward them as life-long supporters will be better than ever. We are committed to strengthening our current practices while striving for a new level of excellence in volunteer engagement.
On behalf of Virginia Supportive Housing’s staff, Board of Directors and residents, I extend our sincere appreciation and gratitude to all volunteers. Your dedication and service are priceless. Here’s to volunteers and the bright futures they continue to build!