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Leesville Daily Leader - Leesville, LA
  • Volunteers of America returns to Vernon

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  • Volunteers of America has opened its doors again in Leesville, this time in a cozy little house on MacFarland Avenue.
    The house, which is complete with a backyard, fully equipped kitchen and a nursery, will provide just the right atmosphere for the services the organization is offering, said Mercedes Fonseca-Velez, the program director of the Vernon office.
    "We are currently offering parenting and nurturing classes, STEP classes (Systemic Training for Effective Parenting), and are looking to begin a Grandparents As Parents (GAP) Support Program," Fonseca-Velez explained.
    Volunteers of America is a national, nonprofit, spiritually based organization, that provides local human services programs and opportunities for individual and community involvement. 
    The nursery at the new office in Leesville will provide space for clients of the Office of Community Services to have supervised visits with their children, minus the clinical feel, Fonseca-Velez said.
    Today, Fonseca-Velez  also plans to use the kitchen to bake brownies with a young mother and her daughter, and at the same time model parenting behavior for the mother whose daughter has been in the state's care since birth.
    In addition, the facility, set up much like a home, can provide opportunities to teach parents other parenting skills that involve the day to day chores of raising a family such as laundry, dishes and bath time.
    The GAP program, aside from the monthly support group, can help grandparents, suddenly thrust into the role of parent again, to locate resources such as legal aid, parenting classes, food stamps and immunizations, said Fonseca-Velez. They can even take advantage of a  grandparents' night out and leave the children at the Volunteers of America office while they take some time to re-group or run errands.
    While no two Voluteers of America offices are ever just alike, all of the locally-governed and locally-managed affiliates strive to meet the needs of the communities where they are located, according to Wanda Ozier, the regional vice president of Volunteers of America for Central Louisiana.
    Here, funding for the programs offered comes mainly from contracts with the Department of Social Services, Ozier said. Volunteers of America had an office in Leesville up until about four years ago, but because of budget cuts it was shut down.
    "We're really excited to have our office back in Leesville and provide services here," Ozier added.
    Some of the other services the office plans to offer includes mental health services, especially a case manager to work with the Mental Health Center in meeting the needs of clients in their community, said Shelley Hall, the program director of the mental health services for Volunteers of America.
    Currently, Hall is finalizing hiring an Assertive Community Outreach Worker who will become a link between the client and the Mental Health Center and help the client carry out day to day living tasks.
    Page 2 of 2 - "Ninety-nine percent of the people who are served in this way don't end up back in the hospital," Ozier said.
    The Vernon office of Volunteers of America projects serving more than 50 clients in the area, not counting those in need of mental health services, Ozier said.
     

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