VOICE is strengthening families and empowering young people…you need to know more about them!
I recently began working for VOICE (Viable Options in Community Endeavors), a nonprofit that serves sixteen counties, including McLennan and its neighbors. Before joining the staff, I was aware of VOICE’s existence, but not exactly what they did. Turns out, I was not alone in that lack of knowledge. Several friends and colleagues have asked me to clarify the role that VOICE plays locally. I am happy to explain! Here are six things everyone should know about VOICE:
1. We offer successful programs. – The purpose of VOICE is to strengthen families and help young people lead healthy and productive lives. We offer fourteen programs that approach this goal in a variety of ways. In some programs, such as our Curriculum-based Support Groups and “Project Toward no Drug Abuse,” we work with young people to help them develop the self-control and sound decision-making strategies to resist drugs. We also have programs such as La Voz Para Familia and the Strengthening Families Program in which we work with whole families to create an environment where children and youth can thrive. The Department of State Health Services (DSHS) grants under which we operate require that we use curricula that have been assessed and demonstrated to be effective. For a list of VOICE programs and the counties in which they are offered, click here: VOICE programs.
2. We change lives…lots of lives. – I have seen first-hand the difference that our programs make in individuals, families and communities. Our funding sources require us to be very diligent in reporting who we have reached, how we did it and the outcomes of our efforts. In fiscal year 2013, we touched 25,000 lives in McLennan County alone.
3. We are an autonomous organization with a successful history. – VOICE began in Corsicana in 1992 as the dream of Lois Hart, a retired educator who was passionate about helping children and youth. This grassroots beginning allows us to be autonomous, and we can tailor our programs to meet the needs of each community that we serve. Because of our successful history, in 2010 we were asked by the Department of State Health Services (DSHS) to include Region 7 (Bosque, Coryell, Falls, Freestone, Hamilton, McLennan and Milam) in our service area.
4. We play well with others. – VOICE’s philosophy is that working with local nonprofits, schools and churches increases the impact that we can make in a community. With that philosophy in mind we actively seek and maintain partnerships. For example, we are very proud that we have recently become a Waco-McLennan County partner agency. Also, we received funding to form the VOICE Against Substance Abuse Coalition (VASA Coalition) to work with stakeholders throughout McClennan County to implement environmental prevention strategies that will reduce the use of alcohol, marijuana and prescription drugs. Please contact me if you would like to learn more about our partnerships or the VASA Coalition.
5. We have funding to accomplish our goals. – In 2013, we received ten five-year grants totaling 2.6 million per year (1.4 million for Region 7). To qualify for the funding, we must raise five percent in matching funds from each region; thankfully, we are allowed to count volunteer hours and in-kind donations as part of that match!
6. We have diverse, dedicated and well-trained staff. – We have twenty-eight program staffers and five administrative employees for our sixteen-county area. Our staff reflects the demographics of the populations that we serve, and we receive extensive training on an ongoing basis.
If you would like to learn more about VOICE, please contact me. I am very excited about the work that we are doing and am more than happy to visit about it! I can be reached by phone at 254-855-2259 or by e-mail at [email protected].
This Act Locally Waco blog post was written by Cheryl Allen. Cheryl has served the community professionally and as a volunteer for many years. She is the Resource Coordinator for VOICE and is an adjunct lecturer in Civic and Community Service at Baylor University. If you would be interested in writing a post for the Act Locally Waco blog, please email [email protected].