Each month, members of the Edward G. Bond Unit 40 in Edenton, N.C. visit with veterans or spouses of veterans at different nursing homes and assisted living facilities as part of the unit’s regular program of monthly visits. Volunteers bring snacks, cupcakes, fruit, and other needed items.
“I believe this program truly represents the best of our unit,” said ALA Unit 40 President Cheryl Messinger. “These ladies have made contact with the nursing homes, received permission from the families to visit, and helped develop a list of needed items for the veterans.”
Messinger said the unit struggled with the idea of providing direct service to veterans since the closest VA hospital to their community is several hours away, and that they are always wanting to do more for veterans closer to home. This project has allowed for that very thing.
Initially, the unit would visit nursing homes during the Christmas holiday and deliver presents, where each veteran in the nursing home would be adopted by a unit member who would then purchase gifts for them. The idea of visiting veterans on other holidays was brought up by Past Unit President Kathy Lillard, along with unit member Karen Harrington.
Messinger said the project was the vision of both Lillard and Harrington and described it as a labor of love. In addition to this project, Lillard delivers meals as part of Meals on Wheels in the area with her husband John, and Harrington is the volunteer manager for the local food bank.
At first, the unit visited veterans and brought cupcakes, along with holiday gift bags on Valentine’s Day, St Patrick’s Day, and Easter. Some veterans didn’t have any relatives to visit them, so the Auxiliary members’ interactions became a bright spot in their day. After seeing the response from veterans and staff as very positive, Unit 40 made financial contributions and committed to monthly visits. Volunteers work with Food Lion, a local grocery store, to provide bananas once a quarter to all residents at no cost.
Messinger said that in addition to regular monthly donations, the unit is working with the facility’s social workers to develop a needs list for each veteran. Items include hats, gloves, and shirts, along with puzzle books and candy. Each veteran receives a gift bag every month and a larger bag at Christmas. The unit raised money for some of the expenses by volunteering for kitchen duty at the local fair, as well as donations from members.