Veterans and Community Outreach Foundation
To learn more about the Veterans and Community Outreach Foundation, visit www.vcof.org or call 678-997-9008.
A year ago, the Veterans and Community Outreach Foundation was facing hard times and an uncertain future.
The foundation had a revenue shortfall, owed money on its lease and had received a letter warning of eviction.
Now, the Rev. Victor Lamar Johnson, president of the group, proudly tells anyone who asks that the foundation is “alive and well.”
“We’re not closed,” Johnson said. “God has not closed the door, and God is seeking to make it bigger and better.
“Things have almost turned around, and now all we need is people who care.”
The group, headquartered in the C.C. Cloud Youth Center at 966 Athens Highway, Suite E, in Gainesville, focuses on community outreach, specifically aiding children, families and veterans.
“This is one of the poorest areas of Gainesville,” Johnson said. “It has to be invested in for us to grow as a community.”
Last September, it appeared the outreach group’s investment in the community may come to an end when it owed nearly $4,000 on its lease. Johnson said outside groups, along with a kind landlord, helped stabilize the center. The center also was able to secure two sponsors, General Mills and Cargill, to help cover some costs of running the outreach group.
“The sponsors are a big help,” Johnson said. “They stocked and upgraded our computer lab and our kitchen. That was a big chunk.”
The lab and kitchen in the 3,000-square-foot facility are instrumental to the group’s after-school program, which currently has 13 children in it.
“A lot of these kids have single parents who work until 5 or 5:30 p.m.,” Johnson said, adding that current students are the fifth group of kids to come through the center during its 27 years in operation.
Demetrius Moon, 6, has been coming to the youth center for two years. He takes the bus from Chicopee Woods Elementary School and is dropped off right outside the center, off West Ridge Road.
“It’s fun,” Demetrius said. “We get to play football and basketball.”
Demetrius and other children are fed by volunteer staff members and helped with their homework while at the center.
The children also learn hard work and discipline, picking up life skills such as housework by sweeping up after meals.
The foundation also provides veterans services like housing assistance, peer support groups for those suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder or military benefits assistance.
“We try to look past (people’s) faults, see their need and fill it,” Johnson said. “We’re always talking about what we can do for people, not what we can’t.
“That’s what God wants us to do — take care of somebody else.”
Johnson, who has been homeless, said that sometimes homeless individuals come to the center seeking help, and the center helps them however it can.
“Sometimes we have to deal with people right where they’re at,” he said. “When we can, we’re going to build them up so they can go back into society. That’s what we’re about, bridging the gap of people in need.”
Despite the new sponsors, Johnson said the center continues to seek the community’s help to keep it running.
He plans to reach out to past donors and sponsors soon, and welcomes new volunteers or donations.
“We’re trying to keep everything going,” Johnson said. “We invited everybody to support us and visit. We don’t care if it’s a dollar or $5.
“Give what you can, because what you can give can make a big difference in a child’s life.”