Meet Some of Our VA Hospital Representatives

Posted on Apr 11, 2019

It's National Volunteer Week! We're highlighting some of our AMAZING VA Hospital Representatives.


“From now on in America, any definition of a successful life must include service to others.” - President George H.W. Bush

This week is National Volunteer Week, a week set aside to recognize the many contributions of volunteers within communities across the world. The week was established in 1943 in Canada, when Women’s Voluntary Services organized special events to draw attention to the important contributions women made on the homefront during World War II. In 1947, President Nixon proclaimed National Volunteer Week in the United States. Currently, the Points of Light organization, founded by President H.W. Bush, is the biggest driver of this week, calling for people to volunteer in their communities while also celebrating the many contributions volunteers make.

Here at Soldiers’ Angels, we have thousands of volunteers who work hard to support service members, veterans, and their families. Today, we’d like to highlight a few angels who work within VA Hospitals across the country through our Veteran Support Program. These selfless angels wander the halls visiting patients, organize events for veterans, help with Mobile Food Distributions for homeless or at risk veterans, and ultimately do everything they can to ensure our veterans feel supported. Here are just a few of them.

Sharon Chafin

Sharon is the VA Representative at Seattle Puget Sound Health Care System, where she has been volunteering through Soldiers’ Angels since 2015.

 

Tell us about your work within the VA? What do you do on a normal week/month?

“I volunteer in the Voluntary Service Office each Monday 9am-2pm. It has evolved into a specific responsibility of monitoring our Volunteer Drivers records; i.e. updates of Driver License, badge, proof of insurance and physicals. I have taken comfort items to various parts of the hospital when they come in (all donations come thru this office), I pickup packages for our office, and bring comfort items to in-patients. Once I was asked to fill out an Exit Questionnaire for a quadriplegic patient. Thanks to his amazing sense of humor, I was able to 'keep it all together' - it was important to him to be a voice and no family or other volunteers were available. Thankfully he gave very good review (while intermittently calling out...'They treat me horrible, just horrible!" what a character.  I was just in awe of him).” 

Why did you choose this work/ What do you like about it?

“I was looking for a way to serve, give back, and rejoin my military roots in some way. I was raised in the Marine Corps plus I'd retired and missed office work. When the opportunity presented to help a much-diminished office (without a Chief for nearly 3 yrs and other paid admins), I was happy to help out. You never know what's waiting when you get there - love it.” 

Can you share a story that sticks out to you?

“I can't tell you how surprised, honored and appreciative our veteran patients are when we bring them a gift and thank them for their service. At Christmastime especially, we partner with the VA and visit all the beds, along with other volunteers, bringing them the Soldiers’ Angels stuffed stockings. If we hit the date right, the 133rd Army National Guard Band accompanies us, with extra men//women in their dressed blues coming in to thank our veterans. Some sit straight up and salute and conversation ensues. Just gives me goosebumps.”

Debbie Ogle

Debbie has been a VA Site Coordinator for  8 months, supporting the Rocky Mountain Regional VA Medical Center in Aurora, Colorado.

Tell us your work within the VA. What do you do on a normal week/month?

“I’m an intern and my job has so many facets to include recruiting volunteers, managing patient visitor schedules, ordering food for a monthly Mobile Food Distribution, coordinating the Mobile Food Distribution, serving a monthly dinner at Valor Point for 50 veterans, securing donations for dinners and events, doing paperwork for donations, Mobile Food paperwork, coffee station paperwork and any other events that we plan.”

Why did you choose this work/ What do you like about it?

“I like being able to give back. There are so many veterans out there who need help and I feel the need to make sure I can do whatever I can to make a difference.”

Can you share a story that sticks out to you?

“One time a vet came through our Mobile Food Distribution line to register after his caseworker sent him. He sat in his wheelchair and cried, feeling so bad, but so grateful. He has been there for months now and he is always talking to us, telling us how his life is improving and so excited about the food he gets. He tells the vets in his shelter to come every month. It’s just great to see him doing better than the first day we met”.

Sandy Carter

Sandy has been a VA Representative for 2 1/2 years, serving the Audie L. Murphy VA Hospital in San Antonio, Texas and Villa Serena.

Tell us about your work within the VA. What do you do on a normal week/month?

“I do patient visits weekly at VA and the Dom which is Villa Serena. I do luncheons once a month at the Dom and am starting monthly luncheons at Polytrauma. I also host different events and pass out cookies and Moose Munch Crunch in  the lobby and waiting rooms.”

Why did you choose this work/ What do you like about it?

“Amy [our CEO] brought me in. My Dad was a 30 year Marine and I grew up in the military. I have always loved it. I love talking to people and brightening their days. I love the veterans.”

Can you share a story that sticks out to you?

“I went into a patient's room, introduced myself told him who I was with and he started crying. He said he just prayed to God for an angel and I walked in. I told him hon, I don't think I am the angel you prayed for. He said yes you are. I told him, I have 4 ex-husbands that would argue that. He started laughing. This is what I like, bringing joy to veterans. They all love Soldiers’ Angels. The vets and the staff all thank me every time.”  

Christina W. Atkinson

Christina has been a VA Representative in Orlando, FL since January 2018 supporting the

Lake Nona and Lake Baldwin VA Hospitals.

 

Tell about your work within the VA?

“I love working with the veterans at the Lake Nona VA hospital and the Lake Baldwin Outpatient Clinic. I spend time with the veterans, conduct patient visits, hold Thank You events, distribute gifts/items to the veterans, and sometimes simply walk the hallways and thank veterans for their service. I work with the VAVS identifying items they need and coordinating veteran services such as the monthly Mobile Food Distribution.”

What do you do on a normal week/month?

“My tasks vary from week to week but typically include speaking with veterans, visiting patients at Lake Nona, or organizing events with different groups around the Orlando area. This includes helping with events where businesses come into the Orlando area and make blankets, box lunches, or hygiene kits for our veterans (either locally or nationally.) We are currently working on a number of events for the next few months including a donation for 20 wheelchairs, BBQ & Bingo at the domiciliary at the Lake Baldwin VA, and outreach to other groups to share information on Soldiers’ Angels mission. My main task each month also includes the monitoring, registering and organizing of the monthly Mobile Food Distribution. Until this month, we did not have an MFD Coordinator so I was responsible for wearing a number of hats while also finding new volunteers to help us meet our mission goals.”

Why did you choose this work/ What do you like about it?

“My husband is a disabled veteran - USAF, my brother is a retired veteran – US Navy, and I have a new son-in-law who is active duty military currently deployed. I love our military and there is no greater gift than giving back to people in your community. After years of helping in other community charitable endeavors, I found Soldiers’ Angels in VolunteerMatch. One thing lead to another and I was lucky enough to obtain the position of VA Representative. I absolutely love helping so many people who were willing to give their lives for my freedoms.  Even being able to help one person makes everything worth it.”

Can you share a story that sticks out to you?

“It is really hard to only talk about a single event that sticks with me. There really are too many to count. Just as examples: 

Patient Visits – I brought a group of employees from a local company to visit patients with me a few months ago. One of the patients we visited was a blind veteran who was sitting on the edge of his bed. When we knocked on the door he was shocked we wanted to spend any time with him but was thrilled to have visitors.  It turns out that he had not had any visitors his entire stay at the hospital (2-3 weeks) and he told us that we were a ‘nice break from counting the minutes until the next nurse stopped in to poke him or take him for another test.’ The reality that he was alone in the hospital and as a blind veteran could not look out the window, watch television or read a book was heartbreaking. No one wants to be alone in the hospital, but it is made worse when time moves so slowly.

Mobile Food Distribution – I received a call last month from a veteran who wanted information on our Mobile Food Distribution. He was desperate to get on the registration list because he had been eating rice and green beans for the past 3-4 days, 3 meals a day.  He was so proud he finally was able to find shelter after being homeless for the past year and living on the streets that a 430 sq. foot residence was a piece of heaven. I was able to get him signed up for the MFD and make sure he also knew how to sign up for text alerts so he would not miss out on future MFDs. I saw him at the MFD and he was so thrilled to be receiving food – while his joy was palatable, the fact one of our military veterans had to be thankful for food just broke my heart. 

The only other item I really can say is how humbling it is when you see a veteran and thank them for their service. The shock on many of the veterans faces still haunts me. There are some veterans from Vietnam and even Korea who have never been thanked. They look at you with surprise on their faces and tell you they do not deserve thanks. They cry or tear up when you give them a small gift, a card, or simply a kind word. The men and women of our military are proud and humble and do what they did for our country because it was who they are, and they refuse to believe they deserve thanks. They are the unsung heroes and being able to spend time with them through Soldiers’ Angels has made me a better person, so for that I thank them and I thank Soldiers’ Angels.”

Rasheeda Hollingsworth

Rasheeda is a Veteran Intern in Atlanta and has been a VA hospital volunteer for one month.

Tell about your work within the VA? What do you do on a normal week/month?

“I focus on a lot of inpatient visits and bringing sunshine to patients when they didn't expect it. Providing comfort and care by passing out a donated item from one of our donors and just having conversations with the veterans to let them know how much we thank them for their service. I also do a lot of phone interviews with volunteers who are interested in volunteering for Soldiers’ Angels in Atlanta, as well as help the VAVS staff with answering phones, and helping veterans who come into the office. Once a week I work in the Soldiers’ Angels warehouse building care packages for events or just passing out to veterans  as well as organizing inventory.”

Why did you choose this work/ What do you like about it?

“I chose this work because I knew it would be something that spoke to my heart. I like it because to be a veteran myself, and being able to give back to veterans who have paved the way, is something so rewarding you couldn't imagine until you do it yourself.”

Can you share a story that sticks out to you?

“The story that comes to mind is my second week working with Soldiers’ Angels. I was doing a round of in-patient visits when I walked into a new patients room to give him one of our Soldiers’ Angels comfort kits. He already had a visitor so I didn't want to interrupt but when they both saw the smile on my face they welcomed me to come in. It was a rainy and gloomy day and he just looked so sad. With a big smile, I said "Hi my name is Rasheeda and on behalf of Soldiers’ Angels I want to start off by saying thank you for your service. Today I wanted to bring you some sunshine and a comfort kit." He was so overwhelmed with emotion. He said he didn't know who Soldiers’ Angels was, so I gave him a brochure and a card. We talked for about 10 minutes and by the end of it all he said "Just getting this comfort kit, greeting, and conversation with you made my day, you are a Soldiers’ Angel and I'm so thankful." Soldiers’ Angels is about comfort and care and that day truly showed me how important our impact is on veterans.”

Become a VA Hospital Representative

If you’re looking for a way to give back, serving veterans within the VA Hospital system is very rewarding and has tremendous impact (as you can see from the stories). We currently have representatives in 35 VA Hospitals across the country. Learn more about our programs and how to get involved here.