Ralph H. Johnson VA Medical Center
Voluntary service helps through community service
With the holiday music and festive cheer in the air, it is a gentle reminder that holidays and a time of giving is here. During this season, many individuals, communities and organizations are looking for ways help others, and the Voluntary Service Office at Ralph H. Johnson VA Medical Center is one of the organizations that has the pleasure of receiving their generous donations.
This year VA Voluntary Service celebrated 70 years of service, and is one of the largest centralized volunteer programs in the federal government, supplementing staff and resources in all areas of patient care and support. This means nationally over 140,000 volunteers have given more than 11 million hours in service to our nation’s heroes. At Charleston VAMC, volunteers have given more than 86,100 hours of service and donors have provided over $719,000 monetary and in-kind donations this year alone. This generosity of others has shown that Charleston Veterans are not forgotten.
Charleston VAMC Voluntary Service works closely with social workers and clinicians to regularly provide assistance to Veterans in need where they are no other resources available. All donations are used for 100 percent Veteran benefit to assist with basic human needs such as food, transportation, clothing and shelter. Donors have provided items such as bus passes, fuel cards, clothing, hygiene items, new vans for patient transport and filled backpacks for patients going through chemotherapy. Donations help ensure that the special needs of Veterans are met.
Whether a Veteran is facing financial hardships or a personal challenge, a difficult time can arise at a moment’s notice. Voluntary Service is there to help provide Veterans a place to go for aid with ease and comfort. For example, during Hurricane Matthew in October 2016, many Charleston area Veterans sought help from Voluntary Service to help weather the storm. In the end, there is no light that shines brighter than the twinkle in the eyes of Veterans as they are receiving this selfless support from others.
Volunteers are an essential part of the medical center, and can be found serving in a variety of assignments to enhance a Veteran’s experience. On a daily basis, volunteers make reminder phone calls confirming Veterans’ upcoming appointments, and they help schedule transportation. These calls allow Veterans to speak with a caring and compassionate person who can also help them cancel or reschedule their appointment if needed.
The Volunteer Transportation Network provides transportation to Veterans who are receiving VA health care services. Drivers travel countless miles ensuring Veterans get to and from their medical appointments safely. Last year at Charleston VAMC over 318,000 miles were covered by drivers, which equals approximately 106 trips across the United States! A golf cart and volunteer driver have recently been added to help Veterans and their family to get from the medical center parking lot to the facility front door.
Volunteers also serve as NaVAgators and patient escorts for the medical center. They proactively seek out Veterans and their families to provide assistance and guidance ensuring they get to the correct location for their appointment, or escort them to their destination. Others can be found wearing a kind smile, and giving warm greetings as they offer refreshments and a hot cup of coffee for those Veterans awaiting appointments. Volunteers are an invaluable resource for the VA, and it is impossible to calculate the amount of caring and sharing that volunteers provide to Veteran patients.
Charleston VAMC’s Voluntary Service Office is always looking for individuals who want to make a marked difference in the lives of Veterans. Volunteering makes a positive impact on the community, provides socialization and friendly companionship, pay back for honored service, and a needed and valued feeling. If you would like to join Charleston VAMC in serving the nation’s heroes, call 843-789-7230 or visit www.charleston.va.gov/giving for more information.