Overton Brooks VA Medical Center
Volunteers make a difference at Overton Brooks
April 12-18 is National Volunteers Week and like other VA facilities around the country, Overton Brooks VA Medical Center is honoring the service of its Volunteers.
“One person can make a difference,” Reginald Hardy, Chief, Voluntary Service, said. “That is something we want our Volunteers to know. This is a time for us to thank them and show our appreciation for everything they do.”
The Medical Center’ Voluntary Service will host an Annual Volunteer Awards Banquet Friday, April 17 to recognize those who volunteer at the hospital. “This is a time for us to recognize all of our Volunteers,” Hardy said. “We will recognize some for how many hours they have put in and others for years. We’ll also recognize the Volunteer of the Year. We also have a special inaugural award that we will be giving out this year. Our Volunteers serve a wide variety of functions within our hospital and this is our way of showing them that we recognize their efforts.”
“We also want people to know that Volunteers are not here to replace employees but rather supplement them,” Esther Combs, Voluntary Service Specialist, said. “We have Volunteers who help out in almost every service of the hospital. Most of our Volunteers perform a variety of tasks.”
Rhonda Combs is one of these Veterans. Like most of the 401 Volunteers at Overton Brooks VA, Rhonda Combs serves where she is needed most.
“I do coffee, popcorn, patient reminders and anything they need me to do,” Rhonda Combs, Volunteer, said. “My son is in the military, my husband was in the military and my uncles were in the military. For me this is just another way to give back and make a difference.”
Many Volunteers are needed to help Veterans get to their appointments, whether they serve as Volunteer drivers or as Customer Service Liaisons who have detailed knowledge about hospital locations. One Customer Service Liaison, Joseph Crayton, spends three to four days out of the week helping his fellow Veterans.
“I retired from the Air Force after 20 years and then from the state civil service after 19-20 years. I have experience with customer service, that’s what I did as an administrative supervisor for the state (civil service). I like having that direct contact. I like helping other people,” Crayton said. “When I retired I was looking for opportunities to volunteer and I noticed there are so many opportunities here.”
Like many Volunteers at Overton Brooks VA, Crayton works two to three days a week, sometimes longer. “Many of our Volunteers work 40 hours a week day in and day out,” Hardy said.
Customer Service Liaisons, like Crayton and other Volunteers, assist Veterans with finding their appointments once the Veteran arrives at the facility either by escorting the Veteran or by providing a wheel chair if he or she needs one.
“We will also meet a Veteran in the front lobby,” Charles Clark, Customer Service Liaison, said. “We will walk the Veteran to their appointment, because it can be a little confusing for people who show up for the first time.”
Other Volunteers may have less face-to-face time with Veterans; however, this does not mean that their service is less valuable. “We have Volunteers who work in the pharmacy and other areas in the hospital, including student Volunteers,” Comb said. “Those students not only have an opportunity to earn volunteer hours for scholarships and other programs, but they also have a chance to learn the value of service.”
This week Overton Brooks VA honors that value as it hosts various activities to honor Volunteers.