Gulf Coast Veterans Health Care System
GCVHCS Welcomes Back and Celebrates Volunteers
BILOXI, Miss. – Despite an ongoing global health crisis which definitively inhibited volunteer efforts at Veterans Affairs (VA) facilities, Gulf Coast Veterans Health Care System’s (GCVHCS) Voluntary Services said that through April, community volunteer efforts toward the organization have remained consistent.
“Our volunteers play a critical role in the health care we’re able to provide,” said Sharon Ladner, GCVHCS Voluntary Service assistant. “Although the hundreds of regular volunteers at our facilities have been unable to volunteer in person, they, along with so many community organizations and individuals, have continued to donate, providing a valuable service to the Veterans we are here to serve. Making sure we recognized their efforts not only during National Volunteer Week but throughout the year is a priority.”
After more than a year of discontinued in-person volunteer efforts due to the ongoing global health crisis during which the organization observed both Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommendations and VA guidelines, GCVHCS facilities welcomed back volunteers April 19, an effort GCVHCS Director Bryan C. Matthews said will have a positive impact on the Veterans served along the Gulf Coast.
“There is so much these volunteers do for our facilities – from directing visitors to the right clinics to ensuring that every Veteran is greeted – which go a long way in our continued efforts toward providing health care,” he said. “These volunteers are instrumental in our efforts and having them back in our facilities is a welcome addition we have sorely missed.”
Vicky Osborn, a long-time volunteer at the Biloxi VA Medical Center who received a COVID-19 vaccination earlier this year, returned to volunteering at the facility, saying she had missed the interaction with GCVHCS employees and the hundreds of Veterans she greets.
“I’m fully vaccinated and ready to get back to spending time volunteering to help those who have given so much for us,” she said. All volunteers are required to have received a COVID-19 vaccination as well as register for the organization’s volunteer program.
According to Ladner, many volunteer efforts are often unseen but appreciated, and during National Volunteer Week, celebrated April 18 through 24 this year, volunteers providing a variety of GCVHCS programs and efforts are appreciated not only by Veterans, but the men and women providing ongoing care.
“The outpouring of community support to our Veterans has been something that we have always appreciated,” she said. “From the donation of toiletries and personal items for our Homeless Veterans program and donations to our food pantry to the physically distanced cook-outs for our Veterans in the Community Living Center [CLC], all of these volunteer efforts make a difference to our organization, and most importantly, to the Veterans we have all pledged to serve.”
National Volunteer Week is an annual recognition campaign designed to honor volunteers and their contributions to the communities and organizations where they live and serve.
GCVHCS Voluntary Service Specialist and Volunteer Coordinator Mike Grey said that donations and requests to volunteer at the organization’s five facilities in Mississippi, Alabama and Florida, have remained high, even while the health care system maintains Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommendations and VA guidelines requiring face coverings and physical distancing. GCVHCS has received more than $210 thousand in monetary and non-monetary donations since March 2020, the beginning of the ongoing global health crisis. Grey also said that the VA’s Voluntary Services – now nationally known as the Center for Development and Civic Engagement (CDCE) – has recorded more than one billion volunteer hours since the program began 75 years ago, saying that volunteers – many of them Veterans themselves – have contributed to the well-being of others through VA programs.
“Veterans Service Organizations [VSOs] as well as civic, academic, nonprofit and corporate groups all have pledged their support to our local Veterans,” Grey said. “Our dedicated support network of volunteers has truly been a factor in our capability to continue serving those who have served their country.”
Grey added that individuals interested in contributing to the needs of GCVHCS-area Veterans are encouraged to call 228-523-5786 or 850-912-2057, and added that more information on volunteer opportunities is available at https://www.volunteer.va.gov/apps/VolunteerNow/.
The Biloxi VA Medical Center and the Mobile, Pensacola, Eglin and Panama City VA Clinics are all part of the Gulf Coast Veterans Healthcare System (GCVHCS) which is headquartered in Biloxi, Mississippi, and provide a variety of medical outpatient services to more than 77,000 Veterans.