By Margie M. Palmer
Volunteers of America Southwest excels at helping the vulnerable
Volunteers of America Southwest (VOASW) CEO Gerald McFadden has long been drawn to work that allows him to assist some of the area’s most vulnerable individuals, whether they be homeless children and families or adults who are struggling with addiction.
Not surprisingly, his 34-year-and-still-counting tenure at the helm of the organization has not gone unnoticed.
In early 2016, his vision and steady leadership garnered the attention of the San Diego Business Journal; McFadden was nominated and became a finalist as one of San Diego’s Most Admired CEOs.
Those who know him would quickly attest that his passion for helping others is genuine.
“It really is the focus of service; being able to help vulnerable individuals, to improve their quality of life or find a path that leads them toward productivity brings me joy. I continue to see some of the results of the outstanding services we provide and the work we do. I get to see miracles happen every day,” he said.
“We do all this work in the social service sector with a laser-like focus and we do it with more of a head-down approach. The fact that that there are others that recognize the genuineness of our care, passion and commitment to this work we do, and to get a special recognition that you didn’t chase after, and to be nominated as being a difference maker in the community, I was honored and humbled.”
And while the 120-year-old nonprofit is not as widely known as some other local service providers, the work they do is just as important. Each year, VOASW serves more than 13,000 individuals, children and families in San Diego County, Imperial County and the Inland Empire through programs such as childhood education, aging and caregiver services, behavioral health, housing and veterans’ services and by helping provide healthy meals to those who need them most.
The organization recently held its 12th annual Celebrity Golf Classic, which helped raise $77,938 for veterans’ programs and child development.
“The [Golf Classic] is really the big fundraising arm for us because we try to look at the fact that the government never really fully reimburses the cost of providing services, and although they provide seed and foundation money, which is absolutely essential, there is a differential between what they provide and the quality of excellence we are committed to providing to everyone who is in our care and under our supervision,” McFadden said. “That margin of excellence is non-negotiable and therefore fundraising is a way to bridge the gap.”
Some of the proceeds from the golf event will be utilized for the leasing of an eight-passenger vehicle which will be used by VOASD’s veterans’ services program. It will also help provide school supplies, such as backpacks, for less fortunate children.
In the upcoming year, McFadden said one of his goals, in addition to expanding services, is to help increase VOASD’s visibility and name recognition within the community.
“We have been so focused on providing direct services to vulnerable individuals and families that we haven’t done as great a job of communicating with the larger public around the issue of who we are, what we do and how they might be able to be of assistance in helping us grow and carry out our mission,” he said. “We want to be able to develop a broad base partnership with members of the private sector, and with citizens in general, to be able to have them share the talent, time and resources to assist us in better serving vulnerable persons in the community, so that more are able to benefit from an improved quality of life.”
For more information on Volunteers of America Southwest or to learn how you can get involved, visit voasw.org.
—Margie M. Palmer is a San Diego-based freelance writer who has been racking up bylines for over a decade. Reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org.