Giving back to the community" is much more than a catchphrase within ACA. As I look back through the years, I am amazed at the volunteerism and generosity of ACA members. Your strong desire to lend a hand to those in need — wherever they may be — is exemplary. In fact, it is truly one of the reasons that I enjoy my job as your executive director.
This past year at the ACA Conference & Exposition in Pittsburgh, the Association for Multicultural Counseling and Development, an ACA division, organized a very successful community service day that provided counseling services to Pittsburgh’s diverse communities. AMCD launched this service day concept at the 2009 ACA Conference in Charlotte, N.C., where it reached out to local at-risk adolescents to address issues such as anger, gangs and low self-esteem.
Also in Charlotte, Counselors for Social Justice, another ACA division, donated $1,000 to Pat’s Place Children’s Advocacy Center, an organization that connects children who have been sexually abused to area resources. And yet another ACA division, the Counseling Association for Humanistic Education and Development, which has sponsored the Empty Plate Project for many years, collected donations for A Children’s Place, a Charlotte charity that provides support to homeless children.
In addition to these incredible acts of kindness in support of our host cities, conference attendees have developed special programs to address multicultural and social justice leadership competencies that contribute to exemplary practice in dealing with the many injustices that exist in our world.
In March, ACA returns to New Orleans, a city that has surely experienced its share of agony, grief, injustice and incredible loss. Once again, ACA will reach out to the local population to lend its services wherever they are needed — at homeless shelters, in community cleanup and revitalization projects, at social service agencies and in school recovery efforts. The experience will not end after we complete our outreach to the community, however. When conference attendees return to the Ernest N. Morial Convention Center, they will be invited to participate in afternoon workshops on topics of economic and social injustice, marginalized populations and other issues that impact those of you who have dedicated your lives to the helping professions.
If you are attending the ACA Conference, I encourage you to join your colleagues for the 2011 ACA New Orleans Project: Giving Back to the Community. All conference attendees are invited! Details had yet to be finalized at press time, but the community outreach will occur the morning of Thursday, March 24, and the program portion will take place that afternoon.
ACA members have much to offer communities, whether during the ACA Conference or at other times. Members volunteered their time offering disaster mental health services after Hurricanes Katrina and Rita and have been involved in other more recent disaster relief efforts as well. For example, within days of the tragic earthquake in Haiti, ACA developed and posted a 48-minute podcast to help Haitian Americans cope with the disaster that was unfolding in their homeland, set up donation programs through the ACA Foundation and consulted with the Red Cross.
Speaking of disaster mental health, here’s another sign that volunteerism is surging through the ACA membership. The ACA/American Red Cross Foundations of Disaster Mental Health Training course, which ACA offers at no cost to conference attendees, was completely filled in November — five months before the conference. Clearly, growing numbers of counseling professionals are equipping themselves with the skills they need to be ready for the next disaster, and they are willing to leave their families temporarily, take time away from work and go wherever their services are in high demand.
These are just a few examples of the incredible spirit of volunteerism that drives professional counselors to offer their services to those in need — anywhere, anytime. No, "giving back to the community" is no longer just a feel-good catchphrase at ACA. It has caught on and taken a firm hold. And with the help of all of you, it will always remain an integral part of the counseling profession and of ACA.
For additional information on the 2011 ACA New Orleans Project: Giving Back to the Community and the schedule of events, please e-mail Tonya Hammer at firstname.lastname@example.org, Jennifer Curry at email@example.com or Michael D’Andrea at firstname.lastname@example.org.
I also wanted to express my thanks to those of you who responded to my December column. Your thoughts, ideas and suggestions about the future of the profession certainly helped to stimulate discussion between me and the professional staff of ACA.
Please contact me with any comments, questions or suggestions that you might have via e-mail at email@example.com or by phone at 800.347.6647 ext. 231.
Thanks and be well.