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Sabra Scoggins, director of VOA's Highland Center senior lunch program.
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A bounteous lunch served at the Highland Center's senior lunch program.
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Diane Libro, communications director for Volunteers of America.
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Young people at the downtown Lighthouse learn about growing their own food in a small space behind the building.
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A sampling of the resource material tutors can use to help Lighthouse kids get their homework done.
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Volunteers of America: Serving the Underserved
Inviting kindergarten space provides strong support for the youngest Lighthouse kids.
Unless you've been directly involved with the Volunteers of America, you may think the group is a clearinghouse for retirees with time on their hands. The truth is far different. The VOA is a faith-based, non-denominational organization serving underserved people and protecting the vulnerable. Most of its work is among children, seniors, and people with disabilities.
Many of its local activities seemingly center on the Highland Center, with a Lighthouse program for children from kindergarten through high school, plus a senior social ministry and religious services. The building is not full; VOA rents space to the Pelican State Credit Union and Dress For Success. If that's all you see, you've missed most of the VOA.
It's a $13 million business, employing about 400 full- and part-time workers, covering Caddo, Bossier, and Webster parishes plus the Alexandria area, serving about 8,000 people a year with about 40 programs. Its housing programs alone reach across the spectrum of human need, with supportive living environments for those with mental illness and developmental and physical disabilities, or those who are homeless for other reasons.
VOA continually changes to meet community needs, says Communications Director Diane Libro. In 2008, the Veterans Administration asked for help; the Shreveport area had about 180 homeless veterans. Transitional living housing was the solution that the VOA created, with residency of up to two years. More recently, the VOA has added family housing.
Meeting human needs is why the VOA formed in 1935, providing homes for women and children. "We were the first in northern Louisiana to provide a group home for the disabled and one of the first for people with chronic mental illness," Libro said.
The Lighthouse ministry provides after-school activities for 645 children, kindergarten through high school, helping young people stay in school, develop positive character, and learn community service. Its seven regional sites currently claim a 100 percent success rate.
People with disabilities and seniors may spend the day at the Adult Day Health Care Center on Buckner Street while caretakers are at work or running errands. About 40 individuals attend activities and eat two meals a day there.
The new VOA program Care at Home provides help for individuals with disabilities and seniors who are leaving the hospital. A personal care attendant helps them remain in their homes or with their families.
Meals on Wheels, a program from the Caddo Council on Aging, uses the Highland Center as a drop-off site from which to deliver meals to Highland neighborhood low-income seniors four days a week. The Senior Lunch Bunch shares a low-cost meal and fellowship — and often a program -- every Monday and Wednesday 11:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. in the Highland Center gym.
"We're here for the long haul to meet the needs of the whole person," said Libro.
By Lani Duke