Thursday, January 27, 2011

Alternative House Resources

Did you know that Alternative House has the highest rating awarded by Charity Navigator, an independent nonprofit evaluation organization? We’ve also been awarded the “Best in America” designation from Independent Charities and provide information on our financial and program practices on Guidestar. At our last Open Door at the House, one of our guests told us how impressed he was by our excellent ratings and he was very interested to learn how much of our funding comes from the community.

Approximately half-of the resources we need to operate Alternative House come from non-government sources. About one-fourth is financial support from individuals, businesses, the faith community and private foundations and one-fourth is in donations of food, clothing, paper goods and volunteer hours. We also receive about one-fourth of our funding from the Federal Government through the Department of Health and Human Services Runaway and Homeless Youth Act. The final quarter comes in various grants and contracts with Fairfax County.

We are currently working on revising our website so that we can put all of our financial information on line. That should happen in the next month or so. Until then, if you would like a copy of our tax return or audit you can find it on-line at Guidestar or call us and we’ll send you a copy.

We work hard to make the funds invested in us by the community go as far as possible and we try to be as transparent as possible about where our funding comes from and where it goes. The excellent ratings we receive from independent evaluators verify that every dollar we receive is used wisely.

by Judith Dittman

Monday, January 24, 2011

The Police Brought Susan to Alternative House

In December the police brought Susan, a 13 year old girl to our Emergency Shelter for Teenagers. She had been on the run for five days without a safe place to stay. Susan was afraid that her mother would send her out of the country to live with relatives after she was involved in a fight at school. She ran away to prevent that. After arriving at the Shelter and meeting with Alternative House counselors, Susan realized her recent decisions would have an impact on her relationship with her mother. We helped Susan identify ways to improve her communication and decision making skills so that she could return home and improve her relationship with her family.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

The many gifts of the season

Something about the holiday season and the start of a new year makes many people stop and take stock of what they have, or what they would like to have but just can’t seem to get.

In all of our residential programs at the Alternative House, homeless teens, young mothers, and small children were very thankful for the donated gifts they received this year. High school students cried when they opened a warm coat, a gift card to a supermarket, or a new pair of sneakers. Toddlers squealed with delight while playing with toy cars and baby dolls. Young mothers pampered themselves with a new makeup kit or a gift card to Target. As a staff member, I have been thankful as well: thankful that we are able to provide services to so many families and youth in need, thankful that we have dedicated staff and volunteers to support our mission, thankful that I can come to work every day and do something that I enjoy.

And then there are the things that we all hope for but seem just out of reach right now: the young mother searching for full-time employment that will allow her to support herself and her child, the high school student trying yet again to pass a final SOL test before graduation, the supervisor looking to hire relief staff to fill in while full-time staff are taking a much-needed vacation. I wish I could fulfill these wishes as easily as opening a gift. Since I cannot hand someone a gift-wrapped diploma or employment, I will continue to work to find resources to make the path to those achievements easier so that more youth can make their dreams a reality.

Meghan Huebner
Director of Residential Services

Monday, January 17, 2011

A young visitor in my office

I was working in my office, on the second floor of our Emergency Shelter for Teens. From downstairs I heard a baby crying. I knew instantly it was a very young baby. You know how their crying is different. A few minutes later Angela the program coordinator for our Assisting Young Mothers Program came upstairs. She was holding a two month old baby boy. His name is Mikeas. His mother was downstairs meeting with another staff person and Angela was caring for him. Of course we made a big fuss over him in his tiny blue pajamas. He has a full head of dark hair and his cry is very loud. But he calmed down while Angela was walking him around perched on her shoulder. What a nice break to have Mikeas and Angela visit my office. Now back to work.

Gina Cocomello

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Safe Youth Project

When Alejandro started coming to the Safe Youth Project (SYP) after-school program as a 4th grader he was a trouble-maker. He spoke out of turn, bullied the other children, and refused to cooperate despite repeated warnings. He was so obstreperous that some of the other children stopped coming to the program. Very troubled by his behavior, our staff met with Alejandro’s parents to express their concern and discuss how he acted at home with his parents and siblings. It turns out that the parents were very worried too, but they couldn’t afford to seek help or treatment from a professional. Staff had to tell Alejandro’s parents that he couldn’t come to the program anymore because he was driving the other children away, but they did continue to help the family. They were able to get them connected with another organization, where Alejandro was tested for behavioral problems then got regular counseling to help him improve. Alejandro is now in 6th grade, and has returned to SYP a changed person—he listens to staff, treats his peers respectfully, and contributes to group activities.

Monday, January 3, 2011

Thank you for your Generosity by Christine Bartell

Now that The Holiday season has finally come to a close and 2011 is here I would like to reflect on how generous our volunteers were with not only the donations but their time. Everytime I turned around, someone was calling, emailing or dropping by to drop off gift donations or see if they could help in anyway. As the Office Administrator and Volunteer Coordinator, I had the job of trying to make sure all gift donations received were sorted out for each of the programs. We were completely overwhelmed with the generosity of so many people. It was incredible the various ways people gave. We even had a letter from a boy named Ethan who was abandoned by his parents, now living with his grandparents, who sent Alternative House his top 3 favorite toys to give to an AH child in our Outreach program who had very little. He wrote in his letter that he knew what it was like to be abandoned and wanted to make sure that no other kid would feel that way and that by giving his toy they would know they were loved. To see the joy in this letter from a little boy who wanted to make a difference showed me what the real meaning of Christmas is.

Our volunteers and donors may never know the difference they make outright by wrapping a gift, organizing a closet, and or sorting through a pile of used clothing, but it’s through these acts of volunteerism, coming together in support of our programs in such ways, that they are making a difference in the lives of many children. Thank you to all of you that gave monetarily, with in kind donations and most important..yourself. You are our backbone and everyone here at Alternative House is forever grateful. May you have a happy and healthy 2011!