A Day Well Spent: HealthSparq Team Volunteers to Help Homeless Youth

Volunteering is one of the most rewarding things we can do in life. Recently, our Dallas HealthSparq team had the opportunity to volunteer at a remarkable organization called Vogel Alcove.

Unbeknownst to many, Dallas has one of the highest child poverty rates in the country. In fact, 30% of Dallas children grow up in poverty. And though there are many reasons for family homelessness, the number one reason is POVERTY. At any given time, there are over 3,000 homeless children in Dallas. Families are typically composed of single mothers, who are struggling and unfortunately find themselves homeless. They live in the streets, shelters, in their cars or are couch surfing. Vogel Alcove offers these families free child development and day care services, plus resources and assistance to adults (and much more).

On a personal note, organizations like this are near and dear to me. My mother immigrated here from Brazil seeking better opportunities for her children. Single mom with two kids, didn’t speak English, so for a short period of time my family had to rely on programs similar to this. My brother and I were in the Boys and Girls Club throughout our childhood, which is another wonderful organization that made a significantly positive impact on my life and an was an important part of my personal development. That’s why when I saw the opportunity to volunteer at a similar organization, I signed our team up for it.

Here’s more from Vogel Alcove on the effects of homelessness on children: 

90% of our brain development happens by the age of five. This means that the experiences of early childhood directly affect intellectual, social and emotional growth. When these experiences are traumatic, as in the case of homelessness, the effects are dire. Children experiencing homelessness are four times more likely than their peers to show delayed development, and one in six homeless children has emotional disturbances. 25% of homeless preschool children have mental health problems that require clinical evaluation, and by age 8, one in three homeless children will have a mental disorder. Vogel Alcove intervenes with children at this critical time in brain development, providing trauma-informed care that helps to counteract the effects of homelessness and put them on a path to success in school.

Our day of volunteering started with a tour to understand their policies, daily procedures and more about the populations they serve. We learned a lot about the homelessness problem in Dallas. The facility is a 100-year-old school, and thanks to donations, it is renovated and full of resources for children and their parents. It’s a very well maintained building, a great environment, with everything needed: classrooms (specific per age group), a gym, playground, basketball court, garden (they grow their own fruits and vegetables), toys, food, supplies (all from donations), cafeteria and an adult development center.

During the day, were able to interact with infants, toddlers and preschool children. We primarily assisted the teaching staff in providing educational interactions with the children. There were scavenger and bug hunts and we played in the mud kitchen, sensory garden, in the sand, mud and with Play-Doh. We participated in watering, planting, harvesting, food preparation, art activities, material preparation, had family style sit down meals and assisted with lots of clean-up.

It was a very fulfilling day for all of us. Here’s what the team had to say about the experience:

“The volunteer day at Vogel Alcove was a great way to spend time with my co-workers outside of the office. I had no idea that our city has such a phenomenal resource to guide and aid homeless children and improve the lives of their families. I love working for a company that promotes this type of volunteerism!” — Denise Vosburgh, Executive Assistant

“This experience was a great insight into the challenges faced by children and parents that are less fortunate than most of us. It showed us the quality work that’s being done by a great group of people and also educated us about how we can all help with this cause.” — Jim Rhodes, Quality Engineer

“Spending the day at Vogel Alcove was an eye opening experience. I was able to care for a 10 month old for the day. We got to play and work on walking skills. What was most astounding was the amount of love and care that these teachers give to the children every day. They take to heart their life situations and surroundings and try to provide them a comfortable place to learn and grow just like every other child in daycare or school. I will definitely be going back to volunteer again!” — Carsen Wycoff, Account Manager

“I was pleasantly surprised by the cleanliness of the facility. It is better than most of the day care facilities that I have seen. Vogel Alcove has been able to provide a ray of hope for poor families, they are providing environment and amenities for the next generation to have a better shot at succeeding. I’m proud to work for a company that encourages volunteering and tries to make a difference in the community.” — Santosh Ramakrishna, Development Manager

“It was an eye opening experience to see such a great facility exist here in the Metroplex that serves the homeless community. I spent my time in one of four infant rooms taking care of a 6-month-old little girl. It was humbling to realize this baby came daily from a homeless environment whether that was her parent’s car, shelter or domestic violence support facility. Vogel Alcove is providing a phenomenal service to these parents in loving support of their children.” — Susan Davis, Technical Project Manager

“I worked in an infant to 18-month room with three toddlers and two teachers where we had story time, played outside, worked on an art project and had lunch. The kids were all very sweet and it was humbling to realize that many of these kids leave the center each day to sleep on someone else’s couch, in a car or at a shelter somewhere. I thought this is a great example of an organization who is going about doing a lot of great services for the community and people who really need help and are working as hard as they can to improve their lives. I would highly encourage anyone who wants to help people with homeless problems to help and support Vogel Alcove and their programs including donations, time or other ways of helping.” — Allen Walker, Technical Product Manager

If you’d like to learn more, I invite you to watch the following videos about these organizations: