Holiday Volunteering for Veterans

Many Western Fraternal Life Association (wfla) lodges do projects for veterans throughout the year by honoring or assisting those who have served. Giving Vets special attention at the holidays can especially lift their spirits during a season when some may tend to be forgotten.

You can find veterans to serve at a local veteran’s medical center, in a V.A. long-term care facility, or at an outreach center in your area. Depending on the facility’s policy, you may be able to donate cards, handmade items, or even sing a few Christmas carols to lift spirits.

 For volunteers donating holiday supplies to V. A. Medical Centers, you may:

1) Deliver donated supplies to inpatients or outpatients with supervision.

2) Ask the staff to deliver the donations through their available volunteers.  

 Mike Foster, volunteer service specialist at the Iowa City V.A. Medical Center, states “the percentage of outpatient treatment there is very high, and at the holidays they may have only 40 patients staying there.” Volunteers are welcome to create an array of gifts for veterans such as lap blankets, quilts, general blankets, personal hygiene bags, or kids’ activity bags for children visitors who accompany their parents to see veterans. In addition, homemade card and boxes of commercial cards may also be donated.

 In Iowa City, the V.A. staff use funds donated by the community to purchase key chains, coffee mugs, or medallions at the med center’s store. They then fill gift bags with other items the veterans might want. Although Volunteer Services are closed on Christmas, volunteers can still come in that day to deliver gifts.

 At the 600-bed Iowa Veterans Hom in Marshalltown the sixth largest state veteran’s long-term care center in the nation, much needed volunteers provide several Christmas programs. Events include socials, a Holiday Open House, a Family Christmas Day, Christmas Adopt-a-Vet and Wreaths Across America. Some volunteers buy Christmas presents for those residents who are identified by staff as having no funds or family. During the year, other recreational events require volunteers as well, such as taking Vets as a group to restaurants, state fairs, or baseball games.

At the Omaha V.A. Medical Center, a 125-bed short-term care facility, groups such as churches and schoolchildren visit patients and sing Christmas carols. One group made and donated Santas from two pairs of socks, stuffed with candy, said Pope Wilkinson, assistant chief of Voluntary Services.

 From food, greeting cards, to gift bags and caroling, veteran centers encourage volunteerism and unique contributions of time, talent, or goods to those who have served.

 If you’d like to help vets in your area, please inform your family or group of the V.A. guidelines and preferences at your local veteran’s center first. Then, make a Vet’s holiday brighter!

Why We Love Wanda

Wanda Bragg

* Wanda Bragg recently returned from an extended leave from wfla. We wanted extend a warm welcome back to our beloved receptionist.

For 15 years, Wanda has been the face and voice that people first encounter at wfla. She has single-handedly personified the warmth and caring that wfla prides itself on. Wanda is a loving mother of two daughters, one foster son, grandmother to six, and great-grandmother of two.

When you ask Wanda what she likes about working here, the words just flow. “I love the people and the members. It’s all about our members. I really think I work for an awesome company. I’m proud to work here and I don’t take it lightly that I’m the first contact they have with the company. I want them to feel that we care about [the members]. Ask any of my friends or family members and they will tell you, I love my job.”

Anyone who has taken the time to talk to Wanda can tell that she knows her stuff. Maybe the best part of having a live receptionist is that Wanda doesn’t just pass you on to someone else, she shows empathy and helps in every way that she can before handing you off to another staff member. Since she has been here for over a decade, Wanda is on a first name basis with many agents and customers. She has a way of making you feel like you have known her forever, a great quality in a receptionist.

A live receptionist is not something you encounter much anymore, but at wfla we wouldn’t have it any other way. Wanda is great at greeting people and making them feel welcome, on the phone and in the office. Anyone who has had the pleasure of meeting her knows she’s a very caring person with a heart of gold. She cares about our members and it shows.

What was Wanda’s take on being featured in the blog? “Why?! It’s so embarrassing!” Because Wanda, you are worth it.