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To Face Unafraid, the Plans that We've Made

A woman volunteer helps a Veteran find a gift

Holiday Gift Shop at Tucson VA

By Hans Petersen, VA Staff Writer
Wednesday, December 24, 2014

Celebrating the holidays is more meaningful when we generously give of our time, treasure and talents to others. At VA medical centers across the country, hundreds of VA volunteers, staff members, and community organizations have come together to help America’s Veterans celebrate the holiday season with food, fun, and gifts of companionship and caring.

Holiday Gift Shop at Tucson VA

The Southern Arizona VA Health Care System (SAVAHCS) in Tucson, Az., in partnership with the American Legion Auxiliary (ALA) held their annual Hospital Patient Holiday Gift Shop in early December.

For over 40 years members of the ALA have held their annual Holiday Gift Shop for SAVAHCS hospitalized patients. Veteran patients who cannot get out and shop for the holiday are able to select gifts, which are wrapped and mailed for them by ALA members at no cost to the Veteran. The ALA has donated hundreds of new items for the patients to choose from.

Holiday Party for Veterans’ Children in NOLA

This year, Southeast Louisiana Veterans Health Care System (SLVHCS) employees volunteered their time to host the third annual children’s holiday party at the VA Community Resource and Referral Center in New Orleans, La.

This year employees once again assembled a wish list of specific items for children of homeless Veterans and provided the list to anyone interested in donating gifts. The looks on the faces of children who received the gifts were heartwarming.

Boy scout standing next to a decorated tree

Boy Scout Andrew Kiehl and the holiday tree he decorated

Scouts Brighten VA Pittsburgh with Holiday Trees

Heroes Hall at VA Pittsburgh took on the look of Santa’s workshop as Boy Scout Troop 111 from Plum Borough, Pa. decorated and placed holiday trees throughout the University Drive campus. The Scouts delivered the trees to inpatient floors, outpatient clinics and common areas. Family members and volunteers, many dressed in festive elfish apparel, assisted.

The Scout troop’s relationship with VA Pittsburgh and Veterans extends well beyond the annual tree decorating.

"Multiple Eagle projects have benefited Pittsburgh Veterans. The framed pictures and stories of Purple Heart recipients in Heroes Hall, steps for the DAV vans, and archived oral histories, are all Eagle projects out of this troop," said Rich Laufer (Patient Care). He has a long affiliation with the troop, including previously serving as its Scoutmaster.

In all, 25 holiday trees of all shapes, sizes and themes are on display at University Drive until the first week of January.

Angel Tree Program in Atlanta

For the past 21 years, Nora Socci of VA’s Health Eligibility Center (HEC) in Atlanta, and a faithful band of dedicated helpers have organized the HEC’s annual Angel Tree Program in partnership with the Salvation Army. The Salvation Army’s Angel Tree Program provides new clothing or toys for children of needy families.

The HEC’s 2014 program’s kickoff party featured a festive holiday tree decorated with lights and angel tags with the names of 95 children, ages 6 months to 12 years, who live in Atlanta. VA employees enjoyed holiday music and refreshments while they made their angel selections. Toys, skateboards, bicycles and other gifts were delivered to the Salvation Army early in December for distribution.

Los Angeles Veterans Enjoy Holiday Celebrations

The VA Greater Los Angeles Healthcare System hosted the Veterans’ Holiday Celebration in early December. The event, sponsored by non-profit Veterans’ Holiday Celebration, Inc. creates an annual celebration providing food, gifts and entertainment to honor Veterans and active duty personnel and their families.

Veterans’ Holiday Celebration began 22 years ago when a group wanted to make a difference in the lives of Veterans at the West Los Angeles VA. They discovered many Veterans had nowhere to go and no one to celebrate the holidays with. With turkey dinners in hand, they created an evening of gratitude and love for the Veterans. Since those early beginnings, the Veterans’ Holiday Celebration is now supported by thousands.

The annual Veterans’ Holiday Celebration also recognizes the sacrifices of the men and women Veterans returning from Iraq and Afghanistan by showing them there is indeed a home for them as they return.

A man and woman make gift bags

Volunteers work to make gift bags for Veterans during the annual holiday gift bag event

Asheville, NC, Holiday Gift Bags

Volunteers at the Asheville, N.C. VA Medical Center packed and distributed 750 holiday gift bags for hospitalized Veterans. The camouflage-color gift bags contain a blanket, knit hat, socks, baseball hat, insulated tumbler, a teddy bear, a calendar, and a greeting card.

The gift bags were given to Veterans at the medical center and in nursing facilities, Home Based Primary Care, and Mental Health Intensive Case Management programs. Donations for the holiday gift bags came from 93 Veterans Service and Fraternal Organizations, along with individual donors from around western North Carolina.

Free Holiday Gift Shops in Nebraska

The American Legion Auxiliary brought holiday cheer to Veterans at the Omaha VA Medical Center and the Grand Island, Neb. medical facility. For decades, Auxiliary volunteers have operated free holiday gift shops at both facilities for Veterans who otherwise might not have time to shop for a gift for their loved ones.

Inpatient Veterans receiving dialysis treatment or in the psychosocial rehabilitation recovery center at the Omaha VA selected up to four gifts. For Veterans who couldn’t make it to the shop, Auxiliary members brought a mobile cart stocked with a variety of gifts to their rooms.

In Grand Island, the gift shop was open for Veteran residents in the Transitional House, Community Living Center, and the Substance Abuse Rehabilitation Residential Program. Funds for the free gifts and wrapping were donated by the Auxiliary’s units across Nebraska.

A Vietnam-era Veteran who has shopped at the Omaha VA store for four years for his children and grandchildren said the Auxiliary’s generosity “helps out when times are really tough.”

Help a Hero this Holiday

Why not start a new holiday tradition and spend some time helping your fellow Vets? Every positive interaction and act of kindness is a positive influence in the life of a Veteran. Reach out and redefine how you share your holidays — become a VA volunteer today.

We are thankful for our dedicated VA volunteers and employees, and look forward to a wonderful holiday and happy, healthy New Year.