Jeff Clemetson | Editor
[Editor’s note: This article is part of an occasional series about local nonprofits or local people who work in the nonprofit sector who make a difference in our community. If you know of an organization or person who deserves recognition for their work, please email information to firstname.lastname@example.org.]
On Oct. 10, 2018, Volunteers of America Southwest cut the ribbon on its new Resource & Recovery Center at 4525 Mission Gorge Place in Grantville along the East Mission Valley border. The new center will serve approximately 500 individuals annually from Volunteers of America Southwest’s Renaissance Treatment Center — a substance abuse and treatment center. The new resource center will help these people continue their treatment and aid them in getting jobs, housing, education and more.
Mission Times Courier recently interviewed Volunteers of America Southwest President and CEO Gerald McFadden about the new facility and the other work the organization does.
McFadden became president and CEO of Volunteers of America Southwest in 1998. In his role, he has executive responsibility for the southwest region of California, including five major counties, and the entire state of Arizona. He oversees corporate growth, mergers, brand management, and capital acquisition through bond financing and business partnerships to fund long-term corporate strategic initiatives.
McFadden said he became involved with the nonprofit sector because of the sense of purpose, fulfilment, and joy that was awakened in him when he realized the difference he could make in the lives of others through compassionate listening and servicing those who are vulnerable and often without hope.
“The nonprofit sector is where I found an opportunity for a vocation, but it is the calling to serve others that truly breathed life into to me as an individual,” he said. “I have come to realize that one person is often all that it takes to positively alter the life of another human being and turn personal challenges into an opportunity for a new beginning.”
Can you share a brief history of Volunteers of America Southwest?
Volunteers of America Southwest is a non-denominational faith-based social service organization that has provided vital services to vulnerable individuals in the San Diego metropolitan area for more than 122 years. Today, the organization is made up of skilled professionals and volunteers who turnaround the lives of some of the most vulnerable in our community: homeless veterans, adults with addiction challenges, struggling seniors, and children with unique educational needs.
Through best-in-class programs, we transform the lives of vulnerable individuals each day by inspiring hope and providing skills that result in an improved quality of life for those we serve. We understand that everyone who comes through our doors may not at first decide to turn their life around, but we never give up on anyone that seeks our help. We are a source of hope for those who have broken spirits, those who have taken a wrong turn, or those who life has dealt a difficult blow.
The services provided by Volunteers of America Southwest are focused in three primary areas: the education and social development of young children; behavioral health services that provide treatment for adults with addiction and mental health challenges; and support services for vulnerable veterans. Annually, Volunteers of America Southwest assists more than 6,500 individuals through more than 25 direct service programs located in San Diego, San Bernardino, Riverside, and Imperial counties. At present the organization has an annual operating budget of approximately $34 million, employs 400 staff and works in partnership with more than 350 volunteers.
How bad is the substance abuse problem in San Diego and has it gotten worse over the years?
In San Diego, 6.79 percent of pregnant women use illicit drugs. More than 11,500 Californians were admitted to hospitals for heroin or other opioid overdoses in 2017. One baby born every 25 minutes in the U.S. suffers from opioid withdrawals. The number of individuals, including newborn children trapped in the snares of drug and alcohol addiction in the San Diego metropolitan area, continues to increase at an exponential rate; meanwhile, the availability of treatment beds and aftercare services remains woefully insufficient to meet the needs of those who are in dire need of treatment.
What is the mission of Volunteers of America and how does the alumni club at the Resource and Recovery Center fit with the organization’s mission?
The mission of Volunteers of America is to inspire hope through our ministry of service by providing individuals and families with the tools to improve their quality of life. The Volunteers of America Southwest Resource and Recovery Center, located in the Mission Valley area, has been established for the specific purpose of strengthening the continuum of care available to persons struggling with addiction challenges as they pursue their journey for a clean, sober and long-term productive life.
This center will provide individuals with specific services such as: employment readiness training and job placement assistance; transitional and permanent housing placement; computer literacy training; alumni and peer support meetings; health screening; music, art and fitness therapeutic support programs; and a safe, caring, and supportive environment where the hard work of recovery will be available to them.
It is our belief at Volunteers of America Southwest that this Resource and Recovery Center will truly help transform lives in ways that will enhance long-term positive outcomes for persons working through addiction challenges; improve treatment outcomes and behaviors of individuals in ways that are consistent with the fundamental principles of restorative justice; and finally, transform the lives of formally vulnerable individuals into vibrant and productive lives, while improving public safety and strengthening families.
Are there other programs Volunteers of America Southwest does besides addiction treatment? What are those?
Volunteers of America Southwest provides innovative, results-driven programs and services to assist vulnerable individuals and families in the communities we serve. The services provided by Volunteers of America Southwest are focused in three primary areas: the education and social development of young children; behavioral health services that provide treatment for adults with addiction and mental health challenges; and support services for vulnerable veterans.
The programs that are part of the education and social development of young children service area include early childhood development programs for ages 2 months through 3 years of age, pre-school programs, and K-6 grade charter schools. The programs that are part of the behavioral health service area include detoxification medication management, long-term residential treatment, and aftercare support service through the Resource and Recovery Center. Additionally, included in the behavioral health service area, are residential supportive care centers for individuals with mental health challenges.
The programs that are part of the veterans’ service area include supportive services for veteran families, residential and case management housing, and employment training and job placement assistance.
Anything else you’d like to add?
Volunteers of America Southwest is in the turnaround business. We turnaround the lives of vulnerable individuals with challenges by cultivating their hope, providing them with concrete skills, and creating paths that help turn their seemingly impossible journey into the best life possible. We get to see miracles happen as a result of the work done by Volunteers of America Southwest. We create sparks of hope in individuals and help those we assist to imagine new possibilities for their life. We guide, encourage, and walk beside those in our care. We love this work because we get to be the co-creators of thousands of life-changing success stories.
—Reach Jeff Clemetson at email@example.com.