ROCHESTER, N.Y. (WROC) — Volunteers of America Upstate NY have launched the ‘8 Caring Gifts’ campaign in partnership with News 8 to give back to the community this holiday season.

Mike DeDee is Vice President of Housing Services for the local VOA branch and says the eight categories represent shelter, food, independence, education, respect, home, second chance, and hope.

“People can select certain gifts related to those topics that would have significant impact to those in need the population we serve,” DeDee said.

DeDee explains the VOA works closely with those in our community looking for shelter, and in turn, long-term housing.

“VOA provides over 200,000 shelter nights per year to our most vulnerable population in the community, and that equates to around 800 shelter nights per day. We provide case management services, employment searches, counseling, connectivity to treatment. And the thing is, it’s really important to understand that anybody can become homeless. So it can be our family, our friends, our neighbors, those in significant need, victims of domestic violence, human trafficking, it’s a whole litany of services,” DeDee said.

DeDee says there is a wide range of stories he has been a part of over the years that have impacted him but what means the most is the day-to-day operations he gets to be a part of while working near the family shelter.

“I think what impacts me most is when a family arrives to our shelter. There’s a stereotype that a shelter might be like a gymnasium full of cots. And it’s not like that at all at VOA. Each family that comes in, they will have their own rooms so they can be housed with their family in a safe place, and be provided food and shelter so that they can move on to work with our case manager and hopefully achieve more permanent supportive housing and self-sufficiency,” DeDee said.

For those looking to get involved with the VOA or donate to the organization’s ‘8 Caring Gifts’ campaign just visit voaupny.org/caringgifts.

DeDee said, “If people can just reach out and provide at least one of those eight caring gifts, they will significantly impact people’s lives and help them especially during the season.”