United States Department of Veterans Affairs
 Health Care
Cuppa Joe? Volunteer Serving Coffee — and Veterans — Since 1950
Older woman in smock handing a cup of coffee to man wearing veteran cap and vest with pins.
Lenora Munyon serves coffee and a smile to Veteran Bill Braidwood. She has been in the Salvation Army for more than 80 years.

When the Overton Brooks VA Medical Center opened in 1950, Lenora Munyon was quick to volunteer. So quick, in fact, she was the medical center's first volunteer. The amazing part? At 96, Munyon is still volunteering at the Shreveport, LA, facility today.

"It's the blessing of helping others," Munyon explains.

In 1950, Munyon, a social worker for the Salvation Army, was anxious to get the new hospital "up and going to help out the Veterans. Our hearts were always with the Veterans," she said.

When administrators at Overton Brooks VA Medical Center sent out a call for volunteers, they tapped the Salvation Army, one of the biggest community service agencies in the area.

Munyon rounded up a handful of Salvation Army volunteers and under the title of "Ladies Home League," the group of women zestfully began their assigned duty: serving coffee to Veterans and visitors.

Munyon still clearly remembers those days. She talks about the kitchen on the second floor and the huge, gleaming coffee urn on the counter. Once a week, the ladies brewed gallons of coffee and set off on a tour of the wards to visit with patients while handing out the steaming cups to grateful Vets and visitors alike.

"We called it 'charity work' back then," Munyon said. "One of the aims of the Salvation Army is to think of people other than ourselves, and that's just what we did."

Though Munyon is 96, she is still actively involved in the Voluntary Service office at Shreveport. She is the Salvation Army's Deputy Representative to the hospital, making sure there is a weekly team of volunteers to continue the coffee legacy every Thursday and arranging transportation for them to get to the hospital.

Munyon still travels to the Overton Brooks VA Medical Center to attend the quarterly VA Voluntary Service (VAVS) meeting, a gathering of the organizations supporting the programs and Voluntary Service goals for the hospital. She has been a key member of the VAVS committee since 1950.

"All the Vets love Ms. Munyon," says Esther Comb, Voluntary Service Specialist. "She just has a spirit of giving. She's said over and over that Veterans have a special place in her heart."

Munyon, a member of the Salvation Army for more than 80 years, was awarded a Lifetime Achievement Award by the medical center in 2000. In 2002, she was selected by the Salvation Army as the National Salvation Army VAVS Representative Volunteer of the Year.

The VAVS certificate of appreciation awarded to Munyon in 1955 for 100 hours of volunteer service now seems almost quaint after sixty years of service.

By now, she is used to recognition. As the hospital's first volunteer, how often is Munyon mentioned in its annual awards ceremony?

"Every year," she says wryly.

And, it seems, many more to come.

By Stephanie Strauss, VA Staff Writer