VA Maryland Health Care System
Volunteers: Now More Than Ever
VA Maryland Health Care System Honors More than 800 Volunteers During National Volunteer Week
During National Volunteer Week - April 10 -16 - the Veterans Affairs (VA) Maryland Health Care System plans activities and awards banquets to honor the nearly 888 community volunteers who dedicate their time to serving the needs of Maryland's Veterans. These VA volunteers devoted more than 102, 250 hours of service worth more than $1.2 million to honor and serve Veterans at three inpatient facilities and five community based outpatient clinics throughout the state during fiscal year 2010. This year, more than 25 volunteers—including adults and teens—are being honored with the prestigious President's Volunteer Service Award for their volunteer support throughout the health care system.
"Veterans gave their best for our nation. We have an obligation to honor and respect their service, and our VA volunteers fulfill that obligation daily," said Dennis H. Smith, director of the VA Maryland Health Care System. "Volunteers play a crucial role in the care Veterans receive at each of our facilities throughout the state."
The VA Maryland Health Care System also launched five new volunteer assignments this year, including the Welcome Center Program, the Respite Volunteer Program, the Peer-to-Peer Program, the Veterans History Project, and the Hospice Visitor Program. At the Perry Point VA Medical Center, a division of the VA Maryland Health Care System, the Welcome Center Program occupies a formerly vacant building at the entrance to the campus. Now transformed into a Welcome Center, volunteers greet individuals who are unfamiliar with the campus, answering questions and directing them to their needed destinations. In the Respite Volunteer Program, volunteers are specially trained and assigned as buddies to approved Veteran patients to give their primary non-paid caregivers a little time off, while visiting with the Veteran for added socialization.
In the Peer-to-Peer Program, specially trained volunteers are matched with individuals in the outpatient mental health program and serve as a role model for peers by exhibiting competency in personal recovery and the use of coping skills. The volunteers perform a wide range of tasks to assist peers of all ages, from young adult to older Veterans, in helping them regain independence. For the Veterans History Project, volunteers interview and capture stories of military service from Veteran inpatients and outpatients. The stories are captured on DVD's and copies are filed in the Library of Congress. In the Hospice Volunteer Program, specially trained volunteers visit hospice inpatients to provide support and assistance for Veterans at the end stages of life.
"Volunteers offer a link to the community, remind Veterans that their service has not been forgotten, and often provide the only visits for some Veterans whose families are distant or non-existent," said Susan Kern, program manager for Voluntary Service for the VA Maryland Health Care System. "Volunteers work on inpatient units, at community living facilities, in therapy areas, and assist as drivers to help bring patients to and from clinic appointments. Some participate in recreational activities, birthday celebrations or holiday events, and others simply sit and visit with Veterans, helping improve their overall quality of life."
National Volunteer Week is a good time to learn about volunteer opportunities throughout the VA Maryland Health Care System. For more information about VA volunteer opportunities, please call 1-800-463-6295, ext. 5505 or go to www.maryland.va.gov and click on "Volunteer or Donate."
"We can all show our gratitude and support to Maryland's Veterans by volunteering at a local VA facility," Smith said.