Winter Newsletter

The VOA Children’s Center Celebrates 20 Years at Lake Ave. Campus

Twenty years ago, Sasha Lebron was a student at the VOA Children’s Center and now her 3-year-old daughter attends the Early Pre-Kindergarten (EPK) program there. “The Children’s Center helped me open up and learn to trust people when I was there,” Lebron says. “Now my daughter Zy’eomi goes here. I’m glad that she can go to school here too.”

The 2018-19 school year marks the 20th anniversary of the Children’s Center at the Lake Avenue Campus. In 1998, Volunteers of America moved its children’s programming to a much larger and newly remodeled Children’s Center at the former Bill Gordon Chevrolet dealership. The new, state-of-the-art Children’s Center allowed VOA to increase the number of children that could be served and expand programming to include Early Head Start and Universal Pre-Kindergarten (UPK). Twenty years later, the VOA Children’s Center is the largest community based pre-school program in the City of Rochester and serves children from 6 weeks through 12 years old with a wide array of programs including childcare, after school programs, summer camp programs,  UPK, EPK, Head Start and Early Head Start programs that help to prepare children for success in school and in life.

“Programs such as Expanded Pre-K and Universal Pre-K provide a tremendous foundation for all children from not only an academic standpoint, but also in developing crucial social emotional skills at a young age,” Children’s Center Director Robert Stedman explains. “When children are able to have access to these programs, they are better positioned for success in future grades.”

Family Services Manager, Stacy Jo Healey, has been with the VOA Children’s Center for fifteen years. She talks about the positive feeling you get when you walk in the door. “I love the vibe and the energy of this building. We have such incredible families and kids. Families sometimes come with difficult circumstances and we’re here for them. We’re here for the families and we’re here for kids to set them up for success. It’s been great to see parents, kids, and staff grow.”

Want to learn more and see how you can make a difference? Join us for a tour and see the impact you make through your philanthropy. Email us at or call Valerie Hoak at 585-402-7218 to schedule a visit today.

VOA Partners with Monroe County on New Program

The New York State Division of Criminal Justice Services has awarded a five-year, $1 million grant to Volunteers of America Upstate New York to implement a cognitive behavioral intervention (CBI) program at the Monroe County Correctional Facility (MCF).  The program will serve more than 170 men and women each year using two evidence based CBI’s that have proven successful in reducing recidivism by helping people understand and change their criminal thinking patterns.

The program is designed to help people who are incarcerated overcome past experiences, change thought patterns, accept accountability for their actions and break free from a cycle of behaviors that harm self, loved ones and society. Evidence has shown that Cognitive Behavioral Interventions promote thriving communities by reducing recidivism and providing participants with the opportunity to create a healthier, more vibrant future for themselves and their families.

“This is critical work” says Angela Harbin, VOA’s Regional Vice President of Housing Programs, “because the people we are serving will be released into Monroe County and we want them to be positive, contributing members of our neighborhoods.”

Volunteers of America currently offers the Step by Step program to women at MCF and the Albion Correctional Facility. Step by Step provides women in prison with life skills and parenting workshops to aid in their successful transition back into their homes at the completion of their sentence.

These programs have been proven to lower rates of recidivism by nearly two-thirds and will help those we serve to move towards self-reliance and reach their full potential. To learn more about how we help those who have been or are incarcerated visit our website at

Government Shutdown Affects Funding

Volunteers of America provides services that are funded, in part, by the federal government.  Our housing, education, and re-entry programs rely on backing from departments such as Housing and Urban Development (HUD), the Bureau of Prisons (BOP) and the Department of Education. When the federal government shuts down and furloughs these workers, payments to providers such as VOA also stop temporarily. But we can’t close our housing and re-entry programs and wait for the money to pay the bills. People still need to have food and shelter.

At Volunteers of America Upstate New York, we are fortunate to have so much support from the community to help us keep our doors open. Every donation we receive makes a difference to the people and families we serve. With the effects of the long partial government shutdown and so many uncertainties in our future we are increasingly in need of assistance. If you would like to make a difference for people in crisis and ensure that VOA has the resources needed to keep programs open for impoverished children, at-risk youth, homeless families, veterans and low-income seniors please visit our website at to make a donation today. Thank you for your support.

Go Green with E-News

Want to make the move from mailbox to inbox? Help us “Go Green!” Sign up to receive our newsletter and other updates by email. To do so, just email us at and type Go Green in the subject line. Include your mailing address so we can change your mailing preferences. Thank you for all that you do to help VOA.

Review our Donation Wish List and see if you can spare any of these items or plan a donation drive in your workplace, classroom, church or with a community group you belong to!

Come See the Impact You Make!

Volunteers of America has been helping people rise out of poverty and move toward self-sufficiency for 122 years. Seeing VOA’s programs in action is inspiring. Please join us for an “Impact Tour” to see your philanthropy in action.

We offer individual and group tours of our family shelters in Rochester and Binghamton and our Children’s Center in Rochester so you can see first-hand the impact these programs have in the community and the difference you are making as a donor to VOA.  Contact Valerie Hoak at to schedule a tour in Rochester or Binghamton.

Volunteer Opportunity: Every Child Deserves a Birthday Celebration.

Youngsters who are experiencing unstable housing often miss out on the celebrations most of us take for granted. VOA’s Brightening Birthdays ™ program helps change that by providing parties for children staying in our Guest House Emergency Family Shelter each month.

Brightening Birthdays is a small group volunteer experience for people who would like to throw a party. Volunteers provide goody bags, games, activities and cake or cupcakes for all of the children currently staying in the shelter and presents for any child celebrating a birthday that month. Volunteers assist at the party to ensure that all of the children have a fun time. This is a wonderful opportunity for a school group, church, business team, civic organization or family to host a party that will make a lasting memory for all that attend. Parties are held monthly, usually on the third Thursday. For more information or to schedule your month to volunteer, email or call Chaz Goodman at 585-402-7204.

VOA Service Spans Three Centuries

Volunteers of America was founded on March 8, 1896 in New York City by social reformers Maud and Ballington Booth, who declared they would “go wherever we are needed, and do whatever comes to hand” to reach and uplift those in need.

VOA continues the work of our founders by providing innovative and effective services that address housing, education, employment and health needs of vulnerable populations including impoverished children, at-risk youth, homeless families, low-income seniors and those exiting or in correctional facilities.  VOA Upstate New York serves more than 6,000 people every year through our early education programs; housing and homelessness prevention programs; workforce readiness programming and corrections services. To learn more about all that VOA offers in the community, please watch our brief agency video at  

Welcome New Board Members!

VOA is pleased to announce that the following individuals were newly elected to three-year terms on the VOA’s Board of Directors:

VOA Updates

On November 27, VOA’s Children’s Center held its annual “Real Men Read” event. Fathers and father figures came in and read to the children, demonstrating the importance of positive male role models in the lives of the children we serve.


Community volunteers planned a Paper Craft and Crop event on October 13th and raised $4,875 for VOA’s programs. The all-day scrapbooking event included meals, prizes, access to paper crafting vendors, and a vendor faire. Participants also donated hygiene items for use at the Guest House Emergency Shelter. Volunteers are hard at work planning the 2019 event for October 5, 2019. 

Students from Sharp Edgez Barber Institute visit VOA’s Foundation House monthly to give complimentary haircuts to residents. Foundation House provides permanent supportive housing for previously homeless individuals.


The VOA Children's Center is excited to announce that it will be featured in a new promotional video for Pre- Kindergarten programming in the City of Rochester. VOA’s Children’s Center serves more than 270 three and four year old’s through Universal and Expanded Pre-K programs.

The children at the VOA’s Children’s Center honored local police officers on Law Enforcement Appreciation Day by presenting thank you cards to Rochester Police Investigators Jacqueline Shuman and Francis Camp as well as Sergeant Kaela Pitts. VOA is very grateful to these officers for all they do to keep our community safe and especially for volunteering their time with VOA’s Camp HEROES program.


As a way to encourage positivity and develop leadership among students, the VOA Children’s Center is implementing The Energy Bus for Schools Leadership Journey (EBSLJ) which is a transformational approach for schools to create and sustain a positive school culture and develop positive school leaders. Staff, students and parents at the Children’s Center are encouraged to “fuel someone else’s ride” by expressing gratitude for someone in the building and recording it on school bus themed notes that are hung in the entry way so everyone can see them.

We are so grateful to all of the organizations that supported us with donations this winter!

  • Bay Trail Middle School students in Webster made Thanksgiving Cards for residents of Foundation House and organized a food drive.
  • GMR Associates donated 180 sets of brand new hats, gloves, and scarves for residents in VOA’s housing programs.
  • The Small Business Council donated 250 holiday food baskets and gift cards.
  • The Pirate Toy Fund donated hundreds of new toys for the children staying in our emergency shelters.
  • SWBR, CaterTrax and Passero Associates held winter clothing donation drives for the children at the VOA’s Children’s Center.
  • Bombas Socks donated 2,500 pairs of socks.
  • St. Mary’s Church in Kirkwood donated hats, mittens, gloves, and scarves for our family shelter in Binghamton.

VOA’s Emergency Shelter Is a Beacon of Hope for Homeless Families in Binghamton

Homelessness can affect those who least expect it. One sudden change can turn your life upside down. Just ask Tom*. Tom is a lifelong Binghamton resident and single father of an 8-year-old daughter. He had a full-time job and was getting by paycheck to paycheck. And then suddenly last spring, Tom took on full custody of his five-year-old autistic nephew when his sister was battling drug addiction. The added costs of looking after a second child with a disability soon took a financial toll.

Once school let out for the summer, Tom didn’t have any child care options for the children so he began taking both of them with him to his job in food delivery. He was missing shifts and soon he couldn’t pay all of his rent. He was considering living out of his car when he turned to Volunteers of America for help.

VOA provided Tom and the children with temporary housing in one of the private apartments in the emergency family shelter. A VOA case manager began working with him to find an affordable home while also arranging subsidized day care for the two children so Tom didn’t have to take them to work every day. VOA also referred Tom’s sister to a treatment center to focus on her recovery.

After three weeks in the family shelter, Tom and the two children moved into an affordable apartment in the city. Through VOA’s rapid rehousing program, VOA provided the security deposit for the apartment and filled the cabinets with food so Tom and the kids would have a good start in their new place. With VOA, Tom was able to live with both children and maintain custody of his nephew while he worked with case managers to find suitable housing.  Now, five months later, Tom has maintained his employment and apartment where they are living together in a safe, stable environment.

“I don’t know where I would be if it wasn’t for Volunteers of America,” said Tom. “I didn’t know what to do. The staff at VOA were so kind and helpful. They helped me find a great apartment and a safe place for the kids to go so I could go to work.”

Tom is one of the lucky ones. He was able to stay with his kids while he worked through the challenges that led to his homelessness. Volunteers of America operates the only homeless shelter in Broome County that provides emergency housing and support services for entire families, keeping them together during their housing crisis. This ensures that single fathers can stay with their children. Other shelters serve women and children or men so men and women who come in together or single fathers with children cannot stay together. Homelessness is traumatic enough without separating families from each other. The Volunteers of America Emergency Family Shelter in Binghamton has seven private apartments for homeless families in crisis and serves more than 100 homeless families every year.

Volunteers of America also operates an emergency family shelter in Rochester with 13 private rooms for families which serves 200 families a year.

VOA is able to provide temporary, emergency housing and support services to families in crisis because of the generosity of local donors who provide the funding. Last fall, VOA launched a campaign to raise fuds to operate and support the shelters in Binghamton and Rochester. If you would like to make a difference for families like Tom’s please consider a donation at

*Name has been changed for privacy.

You can still make a Caring Gift.