In my hometown of Reno, Nevada, about 60 low income, older veterans live in a subsidized-housing complex. Most live alone and have no family living nearby to help. The majority of them have no cars or even telephones. An added complication is that several are physically or mentally disabled.
I have been an employee (retired in 2008) and volunteer with the Retired and Senior Volunteer Program, sponsored locally by the University of Nevada, Reno's Sanford Center for Aging, for more than 11 years. But for the past few years I've focused my efforts on helping this group of veterans. It seems like a small effort to make, when you consider their needs and how much they have given to our country. I visit one day a week but spend several more days at home doing paperwork or followups.
They have so many needs. I'll take them to the VA hospital for doctors appointments and help them understand instructions. I order and pick up prescriptions and help them manage their medications. Some with dementia need Safe Return bracelets in case they wander off. We go shopping and banking. When asked, I even help make arrangements for their burial in the local military cemetery. I've also been able to start a Veteran's Outreach Program at my church, South Reno Baptist, that has been very helpful.
A year ago our Bible Fellowhip class raised over $1,000 to host a Veterans Day luncheon at the apartment complex and provided bus passes. With winter approaching and some of the veterans and other seniors at the complex not always able to afford to keep their heat on, the Knit and Crochet group of ladies made over 100 beautiful and colorful afghans.
In March, it was learned that most of the veterans could use help with buying toiletries, so the Bible Fellowship class got busy again and bought and prepared 60 grocery bags full of toiletries. These bags, along with coffee and donuts, were distributed to the veterans for Easter. In July our choir wanted to get involved, so the members sponsored a brunch and patriotic-themed music program for all the veterans at Carville and everyone thoroughly enjoyed it. As a sign of our continued outreach support, our Bible class raised over $1200 to host its 2nd annual Veterans Day luncheon this month and provided food certificates.
I feel honored to be helping these men and women, and the best part is that I've become their trusted friend and advocate. The overwhelming heartfelt response from the veterans has been consistent -- "We never knew anyone cared that much." Poor, isolated older veterans like these men and women can be found in every community. We should all be doing more by showing them how much we appreciate their efforts and sacrifices for our country.