April 20, 2018

Volunteer Partner Spotlight: CARE House of Oakland County

People speaking at Care House

When children who have suffered trauma and abuse come to CARE House of Oakland County, the first thing they do is pick out a stuffed animal to keep with them in therapy. This small gesture is part of ensuring that every step of the experience gives children comfort and helps them heal.

The impact can last a lifetime.

Chad Ozias, CARE House’s Director of Philanthropy, recently met a student at a fair at Oakland University who wanted to volunteer.

“Before leaving the booth, she revealed that she used to be a client of ours,” he says. “It was emotional when she told us that she still had her stuffed animal.”

Children can’t thrive if they’re not in safe, stable environments. This is why many of our programs and investments focus on strategies to support families. One of these strategies is to recruit volunteers to donate their time and talents with nonprofits like CARE House.

The teddy bear closet at CARE House.

The teddy bear closet at CARE House.

Art work on the walls at CARE House.

Art work on the walls at CARE House.

“Nonprofit organizations make up our community’s safety net. These organizations have to play many roles and are continually asked to do more with fewer resources,” Says Kerri Gentry, Director of United Way Partner Networks and Community Impact Operations. “United Way for Southeastern Michigan is working to provide the organizations that comprise our region’s safety net with important tools and resources that are necessary to impact as many lives as possible.”

In Michigan 1 in 10 children will be sexually abused before turning 18. In Oakland County alone, 27,000 children will likely be victims of abuse before they reach 18.

For more than 40 years, CARE House has been working to advocate for and help victims of child abuse and neglect in Oakland County. Each year, they serve hundreds of children and families, hosting more than 3,000 hours of therapy for children and education for parents and caregivers.

“It’s important for the community to know how needed these services are,” Chad says.

“The more outreach in our community, the more we educate people and train them on the signs and symptoms of abuse, the better,” he says. “Every year the number of children coming to CARE House increases because of our commitment to outreach. It’s a strange thing to say that I’m glad to see children come here, but it’s the children who never get the chance to walk through our doors that I worry about.”

Dedicated volunteers

At the heart of that work are dedicated volunteers. They assist with everything from helping to facilitate activities for parent/caregiver groups, to providing support for children in therapy and in court, to manning the front desk.

Artwork on the walls at Care House

Children at CARE House decorated these leaves and included a skill they are proud to have accomplished.

Like the young Oakland University student, volunteers at CARE House are committed to the cause. “It’s an extensive process to be approved to volunteer,” Chad says, and volunteers need to understand the commitment needed from them.”

United Way for Southeastern Michigan’s online volunteer portal has helped make the process easier.

“You can call some philanthropies and be out volunteering the next day,” he says. “Here we have a nine-page application, and volunteers need references.

“The volunteer portal helps us let people know what we need from them long term.”

CARE House also uses United Way’s 2-1-1 referral line to help families they serve find food, transportation and utility assistance.

With United Way’s help, the agency continues to advocate for children and educate the community about the work they do.

“Children here are just like any other kid,” Chad says, while gesturing to an assortment of leaves that make up a tree on the wall. Written on each leaf is a message from a child about a skill they are proud to have accomplished. One reads, “riding a bike for a long time”

“It’s important to know that the children here aren’t sad,” he adds.