As a child, Phyllis Burton would accompany her father, Varn Burton, as he served the homeless in Trinity Gardens. It’s that spirit of giving that stuck with her throughout her adult life and prompted her to continue her father’s legacy to give back to those in need.
Burton recently hosted a “Give Back Event At The Salvation Army Jones Residence Center,” a facility to house women and children who are experiencing homelessness. Care packages were given to the ladies and backpacks with essential and fun items were given to the children.
As the CEO and founder of the V.O. Burton Foundation Inc., Burton says their mission is to build a better tomorrow, today. The Defender spoke with the registered nurse about how she’s working to bring global awareness to the needs of the homeless and low socioeconomic communities.
Defender: What made you decide to start this foundation?
Phyllis Burton: I created this foundation in honor of my late father Varn O. Burton. He served on missions, in the community, and was an agent of change on various platforms. My father was a pillar in the community and a landlord for over 30 years in Trinity Garden. He gave back to those in need. And he took me along while he was giving back. He never told me this is what I should do, but I just witnessed him giving to others as they transitioned from being his tenants to going to nursing homes, into hospital settings. With that being instilled within me, my best friend and I started the VO Burton Foundation. We started out using our allowances to give to the homeless community. From there, we built a foundation. My daughter has a nonprofit, as well (Sock Out Poverty Inc.) So, we are three generations of service providers.
Defender: What types of things are you doing?
Burton Johnson: We give care packages to those that are in need. We provide hot meals along with clothing items. We also give scholarships to seniors that are transitioning from high school to college. One of the most overlooked items in the community and among those that are experiencing homelessness are care packages with toiletries. That’s not only happening here in Houston, but worldwide. We have a need here in Houston and we want to do our part.
Defender: What is your ultimate goal for your organization?
Burton Johnson: One day I was riding with my father and he showed me an apartment complex that he wanted to turn into a place for those that needed living arrangements. And that is my ultimate goal; to build a community, a home setting, not just in Houston, but around the world. And not only to house, but provide programs that will give them a total 360 turnaround. We want to provide permanent jobs and daycare and education and any spiritual needs and mental needs that they may need at that time.
Defender: How can the public help you?
Burton Johnson: We can always use donations and volunteers. Anytime we’re helping the community, the more hands on deck, the better, especially when it comes to preparing the care packages. We have different charity events throughout the year. A lot of homeless people don’t “look homeless.” There are children involved in their schools that you wouldn’t even expect to be homeless. We had women that had jobs but didn’t have enough to make rent payments. So the things that they need, it may look like they don’t need ’em on the outside. But actually, the toiletries, the care package, the offering of assistance of whether it’s to pay a bill or to help with rental assistance, whatever those needs are. It’s just important to bring awareness, then others can get on board with however they wanna be supportive, whether it’s to volunteer or to give a donation to help restore lives and rebuild our communities.”