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Ralph H. Johnson VA Medical Center
Charleston VA employees represent at Day of Caring
By JW Huckfeldt, Public Affairs Specialist Trainee
Tuesday, November 21, 2017More than 20 Ralph H. Johnson VA Medical Center employees volunteered for Trident United Way’s Day of Caring on Nov. 17 at Beech Hill Elementary School located in Summerville, South Carolina. The volunteers participated in more than half a dozen projects helping to beautify the school.
“This is our first year beautifying a school so we’re very excited,” said a smiling Charleston VAMC Patient Advocate Lutricia Overton. “In the four years I’ve been leading Charleston VAMC’s volunteers for Day of Caring, this is the largest turnout we’ve ever experienced.”
The volunteers split off into teams to work on several projects around the school. Some of those projects were painting the partition between the cafeteria and gymnasium, writing on balls for the Conversation Pit, hanging signs and creating bicycle desks, just to name a few.
“I think it’s great when the community can come together and help those who need it most,” said Trident CBOC Primary Care Nurse Renea Gard. “This is my third Day of Caring and today I’m writing words on one side of a ball and the definition on the other. It’s a fun way for the kids to jump in the Conversation Pit and quiz each other.”
Several volunteers wrote on hundreds of fist-sized balls that will be the heart and soul of the Conversation Pit—a ball pit kids can jump in and play while learning what words mean through interaction with each other. The balls serve as three-dimensional flash cards.
“We love what we do. We work for the VA and want to represent and really enjoy helping others in the community,” said Electronic Technician Supervisor Juan Valdez. “We get the privilege to volunteer in the community and that’s something everyone should do if they can.”
“I have kids of my own and I know their school could use what we’re doing here,” said Prosthetics Clerk Mario Alvarado. “Giving back to the community makes me feel great, especially since I have the opportunity to help make a school better for the kids.”
Valdez and Alvarado were part of a large team of volunteers tasked with painting a large partition separating the cafeteria from the gymnasium. Part of the partition painting project included the installation of a white board so messages could be written for everyone in the cafeteria to see.
“I enjoy working in the community and it feels good to make a difference,” said Patient Representative for Community Engagement and Veteran Experience Thelma Capers. “This is fun and we get to help this school complete projects that might not get done otherwise.”
Capers was helping a small group hot glue tiles to the school’s wall. The tiles featured a teacher’s handprint and their promises and intentions to their students illustrating that teaching is more than a job—that they are also invested in their students’ success.
The Day of Caring at Beech Hill Elementary School made a significant difference for the kids and teachers who attend the school. It also showed the best side of humanity, that giving back to others through volunteering in the community is as rewarding personally as it is to the group receiving the services.
As Valdez said earlier—those volunteers represented Charleston VAMC in a great way—by selflessly giving of themselves to help others.