September 28, 2018

Volunteer Spotlight: Building brighter futures with Oakland Family Services

children play with robots

United Way partner Oakland Family Services serves thousands of families and children in Oakland County.

Sometimes families face challenges they cannot resolve on their own. Fortunately, help is available.

United Way for Southeastern Michigan works with nonprofit partners across the region to provide individuals and families with support to carry them through times of crisis.

For more than 40 years, United Way has supported Oakland Family Services‘ mission of providing individuals and families the opportunity to build brighter futures.

As one of our critical and long-standing partners, Oakland Family Services offers professional support, guidance and services to families dealing with a wide array of issues. This includes family and work stress, substance abuse, family violence, child abuse, the need for quality early childhood education and more.

Oakland Family Services is one of more than 100 local nonprofit organizations we provide with grants, volunteer support and technical resources in order to have the greatest impact across the region. These organizations provide resources directly to people in need.

Maximizing limited resources

At United Way, we identify broken systems and use research and data to work with nonprofit, for-profit and government entities to create large-scale change in the communities we serve. This change isn’t possible without partnership.

“We wouldn’t be able to create impact without our partners,” said United Way Community Partner Network director Kerri Gentry. “Our partners are our connection point between us and the people we serve.”

Each year, Oakland Family Services—the largest family service organization in Oakland County—touches the lives of more than 40,000 individuals in 14,000 families through its five locations.

This year, United Way for Southeastern Michigan granted more than $575,000 to Oakland Family Services in order to help address the needs of individuals and families in our region. The grants will help increase the quality of early childhood education and care by training relative and non-relative caregivers.

United Way funding also allows Oakland Family Services to maintain a sliding fee scale and to fill the gap between the cost of delivering counseling services and reimbursement, especially Medicaid. This is crucial because of the number of people on Medicaid.

“All nonprofits need help because the truth is there’s never enough resource to fulfill the mission,” said Jaimie Clayton, Oakland Family Services president & CEO.

A shared vision

“The goal of United Way is to build a stronger community for everyone,” Kerri said. “Oakland Family Services has the same mission.”

Jaimie agreed, saying “We mirror each other in many ways.”

Both Oakland Family Services and United Way for Southeastern Michigan envision a future where all men, women and children have equitable access to the services they need and have the opportunity to live, grow and be successful. We believe learning begins at birth and that every child is entitled to a nurturing environment and a high-quality education.

Oakland Family Services has several programs that address child development and protective factors, including the Children’s Learning Center, an early education and preschool program; Early On, which provides developmental screenings; Early Learning Communities, which educate caregivers of young children on health and development; and Fussy Baby and Parents as Teacher, which educate and support parents on child development and help provide factors that reduce the risk of child abuse and neglect.

“We know that in order to keep children safe and provide the best outcomes we need to help families build more protective factors and reduce risk factors, so that’s our goal,” Jaimie said.

kids with volunteers

Volunteers from Texas Instruments helped children build robots at Oakland Family Services.

Helping others

Because Oakland Family Services offers such a broad range of services, the opportunities for volunteers are nearly just as broad.

Volunteers are encouraged to align their time with their passion. That could mean helping individuals create resumes, sorting donations, reading to children or anything in between.

Jaimie says she often sees volunteers who get just as much out of the experience as the people they’re helping.

“Time and effort is just as valuable as a donation and it’s helpful for people to be able to volunteer and see a different point of view,” Jaimie said. “When we connect on a human level it makes us all stronger.”

Volunteers can sign up for opportunities with Oakland Family Services on United Way’s volunteer portal.