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!