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Ralph H. Johnson VA Medical Center

 

Making a difference in the lives of Veterans

Volunteer displays a large donation for area Veterans

Volunteer displays Patriotic Giving Tree gifts for area Veterans from the Knights of Columbus in Murrells Inlet, South Carolina

By Vicki Johnson, Voluntary Service Specialist
Monday, December 21, 2015

As the holiday season is upon us, many people look for ways to give time or treasure to the men and women who have selflessly served our country. Look no further than the Voluntary Service Department at the Ralph H. Johnson VA Medical Center to be able to do just that! The primary calling of this department is to engage our community in caring for our Veterans. This is accomplished through enlistment of volunteers and donations to benefit Veteran patients at the main medical center and outlying clinics, and coordination of special events to celebrate and recognize our Veterans' service. This is a year-round endeavor, not just during the holidays.

Volunteers are a vital part of the patient experience, whether they are drivers transporting Veterans to the medical center for appointments, phlebotomists drawing blood in the labs, patient escorts pushing Veterans in wheelchairs, or one of the many other available volunteer assignments, it's evident that volunteers help provide our Veterans with a better VA experience. Last year volunteers served nearly 86,000 hours in approximately 65 different assignments. Volunteer drivers drove 318,000 miles bringing more than 6,500 Veterans in for medical appointments. Most of these Veterans would not have access to the medical care that they have earned without volunteers providing the much needed transportation assistance.

Volunteers spend countless hours each day making appointment reminder calls to Veterans. This reminder also serves as an opportunity for the Veteran to cancel or reschedule if he is not going to be able to make the appointment thus allowing another Veteran to be scheduled in that time slot. Volunteers also provide the little "extras" too, like serving coffee and snacks to Veterans waiting for appointments. Each week you will find Ralph Johnson's sister, Helen, joyfully smiling as she serves coffee to Veterans in the lobby and waiting rooms throughout the medical center. These are just a few of the many examples of how our volunteers enrich the Veteran's experience.

In 2015 more than $335,000 in cash and in-kind donations were contributed through the Voluntary Service office to provide needed items for Veterans when no other resources are available. These donations serve as a safety net when assistance isn't available through government funding or programs. Bus passes, gas cards, and clothing items are a few of the most requested items. Voluntary Service staff works closely with social workers and other clinical staff to ensure that Veterans' needs are met. The donations received through Voluntary Service often serve as a safety net for Veteran needs when there are no other available resources. 

Day in and day out, Veteran Service Organizations, community and civic organizations, and individuals come through our doors looking for ways to give back to those who made sacrifices to protect our freedom. The appreciation, respect, and compassion shown to our Veterans through these donations of talent and treasure are immeasurable. If you are interested in joining us as we serve our nation's heroes, please call 843-789-7230 or visit www.charleston.va.gov/giving.

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