Helping America's most vulnerable™

In response to the tragic shootings — our commitment to diversity

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A message from Paula Hart, VOA-MN and WI President and CEO

July 8, 2016

What should our response be to the most recent shootings and violence across our country and near to home? These horrific events leave us angry, shocked and even numb. Innocent people have been killed apparently because of their sexual preference, color of their skin, or as targets in the line of duty.

For over 120 years we have helped America's most vulnerable and now is a time that we must double down in our work to ensure that all people -- regardless of their gender, sexual preference, race, ability or disability, religion or age -- can gain self-reliance, dignity and hope. We cannot afford to be numb or indifferent.

Last week, after many months of work, our Board of Directors approved an updated Commitment to Diversity, Equity and Cultural Competence (included below). The intent of this statement is to clarify and deepen our longstanding commitment to these principles.

Our intent was to share this new statement along with the rollout of our new Strategic Plan later this month. However, given recent events I do not want to wait another day to convey to all of you how core these commitments are to the Board of Directors, myself, and the rest of our Senior Leadership Team. Please take a few minutes to read the statement below. I welcome your feedback and reactions as we continue to pursue the real-life expression of these commitments.

In the meantime, please join me in the prayer, reflection, and the pursuit of social justice for generations to come.

Paula Hart| President & CEO


Commitment to Diversity, Equity and Inclusion

Adopted at June 28, 2016 Board Meeting

Our vision to uplift all lives

Our long standing commitment to the values of diversity, equity and inclusion is our vision to uplift all lives.

A call toward truth, grace, power and justice

Though all humans are equal in the eyes of God, everyday reality treats some people as less valuable than others. We have a moral and spiritual obligation to do our part to address past and current injustices to those who are disadvantaged socially, politically, and economically. We always strive to be aware of the myriad ways we might contribute to those inequities.

Our diversity commitment is a call toward truth, grace, power, and justice. This call awakens the vulnerability within all of us. This is an opportunity to meet heart-to-heart regardless of privilege, lack of privilege, power, or powerlessness.

Valuing diversity

We value diverse experiences and voices. We value the rich diversity among individuals and groups across multiple dimensions including, but not limited to: race, ethnicity, nationality, age, gender, sexual orientation, gender identity and expression, cognitive aptitude, physical ability, religious belief, and socioeconomic status. We understand these identities as both multiple and intersecting, rarely standing alone in the experience of one person.

Our commitments

We commit to continuing to cultivate a culture within Volunteers of America Minnesota/Wisconsin where all people count, feel they belong, and are valued for their contributions. In pursuit of our mission -- to help people gain self-reliance, dignity and hope – we commit to:

  • Serve a wide range of people and communities -- embracing and valuing diversity;
  • Recruit a diverse board of directors, staff, and volunteers;
  • Partner with funders to achieve our shared diversity, inclusion and equity goals;
  • Identify and work with diverse vendors, contractors and consultants;
  • Advocate public policy that advances inclusion and equity;e intercultural understanding through learning opportunities and intentionally inclusive dialogue; and
  • Cultivate an environment that vigorously commits to the development and success of people with identities seen and not seen that have been historically marginalized. We acknowledge that identity is a visible and invisible set of attributes, preferences and experiences.

We apply the principles of diversity, equity and inclusion in our policies and practices. We embed these principles in our strategic plan. We understand these commitments as acontinuous process, which we believe will contribute to a more equitable, sustainable, peaceful, and just world... a world that fulfills God's hope for all of us.