To the Editor:
This year, the United States Department of Veterans Affairs celebrates 75 years of volunteering. Since 1946, VA volunteers have been instrumental to the success of VA and the care of our Nation’s Veterans. In fact, volunteers have donated over 1 billion hours of time to the mission of VA since the Civil War.
Traditionally, VA has several opportunities for the community to contribute to the important work of caring for America’s heroes, including opportunities for students, drivers, physicians, and corporate organizations.
In 2020, VA’s Voluntary Service had to evolve and adapt many of its programs in response to the COVID-19 pandemic in an effort to continue its rich and treasured tradition of volunteering and receiving donations on behalf of Veterans.
Locally, the North Florida/South Georgia Veterans Health System (NF/SGVHS) received overwhelming support from it’s very large and generous community. Over the last year, local restaurants, private donors and national organizations provided meals to NF/SGVHS health care workers, masks and face shields were made by community members, local schools, and corporations, a van to help transport patients to and from appointments was provided by the Disabled American Veterans (DAV) Veteran Service Organization, and pallets of personal protective equipment to augment supplies were given. Additionally, support during the holidays from both Georgia and Florida communities exceeded value of over $20,000 across the health system.
The pandemic also led to new innovative volunteer assignments in which community organizations, students, and others engaged in card and letter writing to inpatients, supported vaccine efforts, and assisted in virtual roles in Whole Health, teaching art, theater, yoga, and more.
It is evident that the community as a whole has not forgotten Veterans. For this reason, I am grateful to be a part of the most noble mission in health care and would like to extend my heartfelt appreciation to everyone who has contributed to Veteran patients at the NF/SGVHS.
In closing, I’d like to mention that the NF/SGVHS’s Voluntary Service continues to offer ongoing safe ways to volunteer and help Veterans while restrictions due to COVID-19 are still currently in place. Interested community members and groups can make a Veteran smile and keep the cards and letters coming, collect items on the hospital’s wish list, put together comfort and toiletry bags for Veterans, and more.
To learn more about volunteer opportunities, request a copy of a recent wish list at the Malcom Randall and Lake City VA Medical Centers, and join our mission to honor the sacrifice and service of America’s Veterans, please contact our Voluntary Service Office at the Malcom Randall VA Medical Center at 352-548-6068 or the Lake City VA Medical Center at 386-755-3016 ext. 39-2135.
Chief, Voluntary Service
North Florida/ South Georgia Veterans Health System