VA Maryland Health Care System
Letter to the Editor: National Volunteer Week
April 9, 2012
Tom Brokaw once said, “It's easy to make a buck. It's a lot tougher to make a difference.” At the Veterans Affairs (VA) Maryland Health Care System, an army of community members strive daily to make a difference. They are volunteers—“ people in action”— who understand the importance of giving back, the value of providing aid and comfort to those who need it, and the significance of the gift of time.
This army of volunteers stands ready to serve America’s newest generation of military Veterans, and they play a vital role in the recovery and well being of Veterans from all combat eras. Volunteers offer a link to the community, remind Veterans that their service has not been forgotten, and often provide the only visits for Veterans whose families are distant or non-existent. Volunteers work in VA inpatient units, at community living centers, in pharmacies, and work as drivers who help bring patients to and from important clinic appointments. Some provide respite care to offer a break for caregivers of Veterans at their home, or participate in recreational activities, birthday celebrations and holiday events. Some share their talents as musicians and artists, and others simply sit and visit with Veterans, helping to improve their overall quality of life.
In fiscal year 2011, close to 1,300 community volunteers contributed over 104,800 hours of service to support the needs of Maryland’s Veterans. This contribution of time and talent is worth an estimated $2.2 million, but the support of these dedicated community volunteers is truly priceless in the eyes of our Veteran patients. During National Volunteer Week (April 15-21, 2012) the VA Maryland Health Care System plans a number recognition activities and award celebrations to pay tribute to the men and women who volunteer each and every day to make a difference for those who served. This year, more than 25 volunteers—including adults and teens—are being honored with the prestigious Presidential Volunteer Service Award, with countless other volunteers receiving awards for benchmarks in hours and years of service.
Anyone looking for a great way to improve the lives of our nation’s Veterans may want to volunteer at the VA Maryland Health Care System. With a surge of service members expected to return from the Middle East in the coming months, there will be many opportunities for community members to demonstrate their support and appreciation. We have an obligation to honor and respect our men and women who proudly served this great nation in uniform and VA volunteers fulfill that obligation each and every day by contributing their time and service at VA medical centers and outpatient clinics. National Volunteer Week is a great time to learn more about volunteer opportunities throughout the VA Maryland Health Care System. For information, please call 1-800-463-6295, extension 7100 or visit: http://www.maryland.va.gov/giving/
I encourage you to show your gratitude and support to Maryland’s service men and women by volunteering at a VA Maryland Health Care System facility near you.
Dennis H. Smith
Director, VA Maryland Health Care System