A Week Dedicated to Saluting the Work of Volunteers at VA Medical Centers
The volunteer spirit is alive and well as the Department of Veterans Affairs takes time to recognize and celebrate the efforts of thousands of volunteers during National Volunteer Week, April 10-16.
Last year 88,771 active volunteers donated 12,549,708 hours of service to support the needs of hospitalized veterans and their families.
These are just four of the hundreds of stories of dedicated VA volunteers who have given so generously of themselves, asking for nothing in return.
“In today’s economic crisis and a war on two fronts, nothing says “I honor my country” more than the act of volunteering to serve others.”
— President Barack Obama
Linda Steen and “Patch,” one of her five rescue dogs.
Ronni Miller, Chief of Voluntary Services at the Durham, NC, Medical Center, first met Linda Steen at a “Veterans Appreciation Ride” with the Rolling Thunder motorcycle group.
Linda really wanted to get involved and started volunteering as a Pet Therapy volunteer at the Community Living Center (CLC). She has five dogs, all rescue dogs.
The Veterans and their families at the CLC loved Linda. She really touched the Veterans’ and their families’ lives by knowing each resident’s birthday and all about their family members. She has been notified by families of their loved ones passing as she is really one of the family.
Linda then extended Pet Therapy to the Durham Medical Center’s Mental Health unit. She convinced two Rolling Thunder chapters to alternate the first Saturday of each month and sponsor a bingo or party in the Mental Health unit. The unit went from very few recreation programs to weekly Pet Therapy session and Saturday bingos. And more!
Linda then recruited more than 25 Blue Star Mothers to get involved with the patients in the unit.
Arranged 75 Motorcycle Escort
According to Ronni Miller, “She has done so much for our medical center. No matter what I need she is there for our Veterans.”
When a very loved and respected World War II Veteran resident of the CLC passed away, Linda Steen was determined that his service to his country would be honored.
She worked with the Patriot Guard and helped to arrange a 75-motorcycle escort from the funeral to the cemetery. Ronni Miller: “It was beautiful and the family was so grateful.”
For her dedication, her commitment and her unselfish accomplishments, Linda Steen has been named 2011 Volunteer of the Year at the Durham VA Medical Center.
VA Puget Sound Health Care System Director David Elizalde and Volunteer Theresa Rodgers
When David Elizalde, the Director of the VA Puget Sound Health Care System, arrived for his first day on the job, he experienced a great first impression of the Medical Center when a volunteer “NaVAgator” greeted him upon his arrival and personally helped him find his way to his office.
That level of service was reinforced when a letter from a patient said, “I am grateful for the outstanding assistance of your volunteers. We have never been so impressed. Theresa Rodgers was our navigator and pleasantly engaged us in such a manner that we were both simply blown away. She removed any anxiety. I have experienced many VA facilities and this by far is truly above and beyond any and all medical centers I’ve encountered in my 69 years.”
The letter caught the attention of Director Elizalde who presented Theresa Rodgers with a certificate for her excellent work representing the Health Care System and assisting Veterans and their families.
Morton Miller has spent a significant part of life helping Veterans. A volunteer for 37 years at the Stratton VA Medical Center in Albany, NY, he was instrumental in getting a van to transport Veterans to and from the Stratton Medical Center for their appointments.
Morton is a volunteer driver and has recruited others. When the scheduling coordinator became ill, Morton stepped right in. He volunteers for the annual Capital Region Homeless Veterans Stand Down as a driver, transporting veterans to and from shelters and other sites.
Morton serves on the Saratoga National Cemetery Support Committee and arranges donations from his DAV Chapter to support VA recreation therapy events.
He Gets Them to Smile
According to Karen Covey, Volunteer Manager, “He deals with disabled Veterans with compassion and patience. His experience as a bus driver for 58 years and Boy Scout Scoutmaster for 64 years has created a true leader.”
At DAV-sponsored dinners, Morton serves the Veterans and, most importantly, spends quality time with them as a fellow comrade, reminiscing about military service. He gets them to smile — and that’s the best medicine of all.
Karen nominated Morton for the 2011 Jefferson Award, a community award sponsored by the Albany Times Union newspaper, local NBC affiliate WNYT, and local hospital St. Peter’s Health Care Services.
Janet Davis has been volunteering in Nutrition and Food Service at the St. Albans Community Living Center of the VA NY Harbor Healthcare System since 2009. She accumulated 1,400 hours during fiscal year 2010 and has a total of 2,177 hours to date.
Janet’s dedication to the Veterans she serves is observable in her day-to-day interactions. She arrives for her assignment daily and puts in eight, sometimes 10 hours, always with a smile on her face, inspired by her many family members who were World War II Veterans.
Asked why she works so hard, Janet replied, “I do it for the Veterans.”
Walked Five Miles in Deep Snow
The recent intensely inclement winter impacted staffing but did not deter Janet in the least from fulfilling her mission.
On one particularly cold day, when mass transit buses and trains were not available, Janet walked from the train station to the Community Living Center. The trip is approximately five miles and Janet did it in deep snow.
She is attentive to the Veterans and has a friendly disposition with everyone she meets. She goes above and beyond in any assignment she is given.
For more information on VA’s outstanding volunteers, and how you can volunteer: www.volunteer.va.gov