United States Department of Veterans Affairs
 Health Care
“How can we help?” Teen Volunteers Produce Newsletter for Veterans
Two teenage girls reviewing a newsletter.
Rachel and Molly review the first print of their newsletter.

VA’s Southern Oregon Rehab Center (SORCC) benefitted from the presence of two bright and energetic new volunteers — a pair of high school students who joined the team of volunteers last December.

Molly Mortimer-Lamb, 18, and Rachel Woollard, 17, seniors at Ashland High School in Ashland, Oregon, were tasked with a community service project as part of their academic curriculum. When given the assignment, they knew just what they wanted to do for their community — help out at the VA in nearby White City.

“We thought it would be good to do something for the Veterans coming home from the war, since they left home when they were our age,” Molly explained.

As a way to serve returning service members, the girls teamed up with Chris Petrone, the OEF/OIF (Iraq and Afghanistan Returning Servicemembers) program manager at the SORCC.

“How can we help?”

“They approached saying, ‘How can we help?’,” said Petrone. “I suggested a monthly newsletter as a way to cover hot topics in the Veteran world.”

Writing a newsletter was not something Molly or Rachel had done before, but they liked the idea and took on the task.

Task one: The girls met with Petrone to come up with the subject matter for the first monthly issue slated for January. Task two: Molly’s sister, who is a graphic designer, introduced the duo to design software to lay out the publication. Task three: they went straight to work, researching and writing the material.

Some topics Mortimer-Lamb and Woollard have featured include an introduction to Posttraumatic Stress Disorder and its treatments, advice about helping children cope with their parent’s deployment and reintegration, fun ideas to stay physically active during the winter, and many more topics of interest for OEF/OIF Veterans. Helpful resources and contact information are included in each issue.

Once the newsletters are printed, they are mailed to OEF/OIF Veterans in the area, used for distribution by case workers, and displayed at the front desk for patients at the SORCC.

Newsletters Make for Great New Experiences

Molly is no stranger to her local VA facility — both of her parents are employed at the SORCC — but working closely with Veterans in a journalistic environment was new terrain for both her and Rachel.

“We’ve never done any project like this before,” said Woollard. “We learned a lot about formatting newsletters, what it means to be a Vet, and a lot about the programs offered at the VA.”

During the course of the volunteer assignment, the pair of friends have been able to get to know some Veterans who work at the VA. They also had the opportunity to interview a few of them for feature articles.

“Rachel and Molly are doing 90% of the work on the newsletter and they’re phenomenal,” raved Petrone. “They knew how big a deal it was to welcome home returning Veterans and they knew there was a need to help out with this.”

The students have had fun working on the OEF/OIF newsletters and will be completing their final newsletter this month. Both will attend college where Molly will study sustainable architecture and Rachel will major in psychology.

By Megan Tyson, VA Staff Writer