Veteran service providers from throughout the community filled the Tampa, Fla., VA medical center’s spinal cord injury dining room to show the public how they can give back to Veterans.
Through the VA Summer Of Service campaign, VA is fostering new relationships with community partners with the goal of improving the lives of Veterans across the country. The Tampa event is just one of many being held this week at VA facilities across the country to highlight opportunities for serving Veterans.
The Tampa VAMC relies upon its more than 1,300 volunteers to support the staff, 7 days a week. Volunteers drive trams from the parking lots to the facilities, they greet patients as they arrive, transport patients inside the hospital, assist with administrative services and support clinical services.
It could be an incredible career opportunity, too. Many students get their start working for VA by volunteering first, giving them a chance to see their career first hand before they commit.
Camilla Thompson, chief of Voluntary Services at Tampa VA says there is a way for everyone to give back.
“The Veterans appreciate it, they’ll tell you. Our older Veterans love talking to our younger volunteers, sharing stories and engaging with them. Sometimes it can be as simple as reading a newspaper and highlighting the topics. It’s all based on the time you have available.”
— Veterans Affairs (@DeptVetAffairs) June 29, 2015
Everyone has his or her own reason to volunteer. U.S. Army Veteran Roger Turgeon has been volunteering for four years. “I’m a Vietnam era Veteran and I swore early in life if I have the opportunity, I will help Veterans not be treated the way we were treated,” he said.
Marine Corps Veteran and Tampa VA chief experience officer Robert Lynch sees volunteers as a force multiplier. He’s tasked with improving every aspect of a Veteran’s interaction with the hospital.
“There are so many things we can do that cost nothing, such as a smile, a warm greeting, eye contact. It is very important that we set the tone from the time they walk in the door for the rest of the day,” he said.
Volunteers help him make that happen. He’s recently revamped the welcome experience, providing all of his greeter volunteers with khaki pants and collared shirts that read “concierge.”
These volunteers are often Veterans of the hospital themselves, knowing their way around and exactly who to talk to. They give back because they care, because it reconnects them to their brothers and sisters in arms.
Every volunteer will tell you it’s an incredibly rewarding experience. They see it in the smiles of the Veterans they serve.
“It’s an incredibly rewarding experience,” Roger Turgeon said. “I love what I do.”
VA takes its commitment to care for the nation’s Veterans and their families very seriously, and this summer, we invite all of you to join in that commitment. Community by community, state by state, our nation can work together to serve Veterans during the VA Summer of Service.