Before his passing, 101-year-old Jeannette Feldman and her late husband, Army Veteran Edward Feldman, were among the longest-serving volunteers at VA. Together, the Feldmans served a combined 60 years.
“It was a wonderful experience for both of us,” Jeannette said. “I had many times there when I knew it was the right thing for us to do.”
Her stories are both touching and uplifting. Like the time she sat outside in full protective gear with a Veteran so he could spend one more day in the sun. Or the time she told a Veteran she was an octogenarian and he replied, “I’ve never heard of that disease.”
But above all, she remembers the small things that make a world of difference: “You have no idea what a warm blanket will do for a patient,” she said.
760 million volunteer hours
Jeannette joins a long list of volunteers to serve Veterans at VA through the Center for Development and Civic Engagement (CDCE). In its 75-year history, VA Volunteers have served an estimated 760 million volunteer hours (or 86,000 years).
Perhaps what makes CDCE stand out the most is its ability to identify emerging needs within the VA health care system and respond accordingly. For example, in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, CDCE launched the new Compassionate Contact Corps. This virtual program allows volunteers to visit with Veterans so they don’t feel isolated. More than 70 VA facilities are now part of the program.
Partnerships also play an essential role in implementing critical services for Veterans. With Disabled American Veterans, the CDCE implements the Volunteer Transportation Network, which helps Veterans make it to critical health appointments.
DAV provided over 240,000 free rides
During the pandemic, the partnerships worked together to develop safety protocols that let volunteers continue driving Veterans to appointments. In 2020 alone, DAV volunteers provided more than 243,000 free rides to Veterans and traveled more than 9.6 million miles.
Jeannette notes that there is something else VA volunteers have that makes them so unique: compassion.
“If you have that in you and you appreciate, you appreciate what all these Veterans have done,” she said. She encourages the next generation of volunteers to carry the baton for Veterans now that she is retired as a way to thank them for their service and sacrifices to the United States.
“You probably are getting a little bit of a taste for volunteering because you have to do community service hours in school,” she said. “I’m sure that somewhere you went, you got a really good feeling about doing something. If you can magnify that by 100 times, that’s what volunteering in a VA hospital is. That’s what it is.”
Visit the Center for Development and Civic Engagement website for more information about the impact of VA volunteers and how you can start serving Veterans in your area.