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Santa visits with a Veteran in a wheelchair

VA staff and friends celebrate the holidays with Veterans in Orlando, Fla.

by Hans Petersen, VA Staff Writer
Monday, December 23, 2013

Gather near to us once more

Every year, during the holiday season, employees of the Department of Veterans Affairs, our amazing Volunteers and numerous organizations join together to celebrate the joyful season with America’s Veterans.

Here are just a few of the dozens of activities this year:

Florida

The Orlando VA Medical Center held a housewarming open house for their Community Living Center on December 18. This year is very special because they recently relocated all their patients into the new center located on the campus where the new Orlando VAMC is being built and these Veterans are the first to occupy any facility there. During the open house, many Veteran Service Organizations provided gifts, carols and food and visited with the Veterans…a special holiday treat for the residents as they settle into their new home.

Thanks to Heather Frebe, Public Affairs Officer at the Orlando VA Medical Center.

Ohio

The Columbus, Ohio, VA Ambulatory Care Center held its annual Veterans Holiday Party on Saturday, December 14. Annually, they have more than 2,000 Veterans and their family members in attendance at their party. There were photos with Santa, toy workshops for the kids, magic tricks and, new this year…holiday haircuts!

Thanks to Carl Higginbotham, Public Affairs Officer in Columbus.

New York

The New York Harbor Health Care System held a holiday luncheon for Veterans on December 18th. The event, now in its 14th year, was made possible by volunteers like American Legion’s 2012 Volunteer of the Year Navy Veteran Walter Finley who stayed overnight at the hospital to ensure the feast would go well. Volunteers from the Mason’s Eastern Star and nearby Saint Eleftherios Greek Orthodox Church were on hand to assist with the festivities. Young VFW members from VFW Post 2348, Astoria, N.Y., participated in the service of food and the VFW Auxiliary provided cheerful greeting cards and party favors filled with candy. Entertainment was held and all the volunteer participants in the Thanksgiving event returned to help host the Christmas celebration. A holiday gift was given to each Veteran who attended. Patricia “PJ” Johnson, coordinator of the clubhouse where the celebration is held, said, “The long johns were particularly valued by our homeless Veterans.”

Thanks to Claudie Benjamin, Public Affairs Officer in New York.

Two police officers and two volunteers hold baskets filled with gifts

Members of Aleda E. Lutz VA Medical Center’s police service proudly display gifts for the Veteran family they adopted for the holidays.

Michigan

The employees of the Saginaw, Mich., VA Medical Center and Community Based Outpatient Clinics help those less fortunate by adopting a Veteran family for the holidays. Employees adopt Veteran families in need to ensure the Veteran and his or her family has gifts, a food basket, and gas cards for the holidays. “We are blessed to have great jobs taking care of Veterans, and having an opportunity to give back to them personally is what this season is all about,” says Nurse Manager Archia Jackson. There were 12 Adopt-A-Veteran families this year ranging from three to eight family members. The families are adopted by either a department or in some cases individual employees. The families receive gifts for which they have provided a list and also a food basket, items for the home and gift cards.

Thanks to Carrie Seward, Public Affairs Officer in Saginaw.

 We are blessed to have great jobs taking care of Veterans. 

Pennsylvania

At the VA Pittsburgh Healthcare System, “Operation Once in a Lifetime” brought in $10,000 worth of unwrapped toys which were distributed to Veterans. “Light Up Night” was held at the Community Living Center on December 17. VA and Volunteer staff go all out decorating the outside courtyard area followed by a big holiday kick-off ceremony.

Thanks to Shelley Nulph, Pittsburgh VA Public Affairs Office.

Wisconsin

The lights are dimmed and the Veterans are met with melodic strains played by a woodwind quintet. Veterans are escorted to their tables and are served at their decorated tables — there are no trays pushed down the line this night.

This was the Holiday Dinner at the Tomah, Wis., VA Medical Center on December 11. The atmosphere was only topped by the menu: prime rib, twice-baked potatoes, sparkling grape juice in fluted plastic glasses, and raspberry cheesecake.

And, to top it all off, the wait staff included the medical center director and other leadership. This event was made possible by the planning and dedication of employees in Nutrition and Food Service. Donations to Voluntary Service covered the extra costs of the special menu items and paid for the decorations and music.

Thanks to Scott Farley, Public Affairs Officer, Tomah VA Medical Center.

Find activities at a VA Medical facility near you. Check out their Facebook page.

We at the Veterans Health Administration wish everyone Happy Holidays!