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Hampton nonprofit expands free programs for children, families [Video]

Alternatives, Inc. has programs for preschoolers through teens that focus on social and emotional development, leadership, and civic engagement.

HAMPTON, Va. — Ragen Johnson was a staff member at Alternatives, Inc. several years ago when she learned that the group’s executive director was planning to retire.

“I was encouraged to throw my hat in the ring,” Johnson said. “It felt like a long shot, but I’m so happy that here I am and still leading the agency forward.”

Alternatives serves children and families across Hampton, Newport News, and York County. The nonprofit also supports early childhood programs in Norfolk and Williamsburg-James City County.

“We provide during-school services and afterschool services,” Johnson said, “focusing on the social and emotional development of young people and also youth leadership and civic engagement.”

Alternatives’ impact is inspired by the CASEL framework, which addresses competence, self-awareness, social awareness, self-management, responsible decision-making, and relationship skills. 

“[I] really started in my middle school days here with …

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Resources for Nonprofit Directors

From Military To Civilian Life (VETLIFE nonprofit) [Video]

An inspiring conversation with Joshua and Cortnie Parish, the passionate founders of VET Life, to discuss the journey from military to civilian life. Their personal story and their nonprofit’s story are a testament to the power of family, community, and unwavering support in the transition process. Joshua begins by sharing his military background, painting a vivid picture of his life on a Native American reservation in Michigan. From an early age, a sense of family and purpose is ingrained in him. However, after serving in Iraq during the initial invasion in 2003, Joshua faced the harsh reality of adjusting to civilian life. “One thing they don’t tell you when you get home from combat is you can’t turn that off,” he says. This sentiment speaks to the ongoing struggle many veterans face upon returning home. Cortnie, with her background in organizational leadership, speaks about the crucial role families play in this transition. “Families often in their own way, face deployments as well,” she says, addressing the importance of including the entire family in their events and programs. This holistic approach sets VET Life apart from other organizations, recognizing that the challenges of reintegration extend beyond the individual veteran. The Parishes' dedication to their mission is evident in their innovative approaches, such as the creation of Vet Fest. This event not only provides resources but also creates a fun, inclusive environment for veterans and their families. Joshua proudly shares, “In 2023, the VA reaches out and asks if they could replicate our Vet Fest on a national model.”, recognizing the impact of their nonprofit’s work and their commitment to improving the quality of life for veterans. A big part of this embracing conversation is the systemic challenges veterans face in accessing their benefits. Joshua recounts his own struggle, explaining, “The military doesn’t prepare you for what civilian life really is like.” Cortnie’s gentle push for Joshua to utilize his benefits and further his education brings home the reality of family support in navigating these complexities. The Parishes are not just helping individual veterans; they are shaping a new model for veteran support. Their efforts lead to the digitization of military records in Michigan, streamlining access to crucial documents, along with Joshua’s creation of the Battle Buddy app, a one-stop shop for veteran resources, is another innovative step toward addressing these systemic issues. In the words of Joshua Parrish, “We want you to know that there are people out there that care about you and want to see you be the most successful version of yourself.”. Learn more at: VetLifeToday.org#veteransupport #nonprofitleadership #veteranresources #vetlife