Photo above: Julie Walley and members of the American Legion Auxiliary of South Carolina prepare presents for Veterans during holiday shopping event.
Santa’s helpers from the American Legion Auxiliary of South Carolina arrived at the Wm. Jennings Bryan Dorn VA Medical Center in early December for a two-day free shopping “pop-up shop” to assist Veterans who are hospitalized during this holiday season.
“It makes my heart feel proud to have a part in bringing that smile to their faces.”
Community Living Center and inpatient Veterans gave their wish lists to the helpers, who in turn selected items for them to be presented to the Veterans’ respective caregiver. Caregivers for the Veterans could be anyone from spouses, children, grandchildren, and even friends.
The president and past department president, Pat Jarvis and Theodora Montague respectively, were on hand to participate and direct the volunteers for the shopping and gift wrapping experience on behalf of the Columbia VA Health Care System Veterans, in conjunction with the Columbia VAHCS Voluntary Services Office.
“We were able to get donations in the form of coffee makers, blanket sets, jewelry, shawls and so much more from the community for the Veterans to give to their caregivers,” Montague said.
“Our volunteers, who are a part of approximately 120 units of the American Legion in South Carolina, come in to select and wrap each of the gift selections for the Veteran,” Jarvis added.
As this is a nationwide undertaking for the American Legion Auxiliary, the South Carolina units are amongst the many auxiliaries across the country taking part in this national project, which occurs each year at this time. Money is raised throughout the year to make many of the gift purchases.
“This is just one way to say ‘thank you’ to the Veterans and their caregivers,” Montague added.
“Our mantra focuses on service, not self,” Jarvis said. “Our focus is always on the Veteran. For the American Legion, which is nearing its 100th birthday, every day is about the Veteran for our organization.”
Theodora Montague, past president (left) and Pat Jarvis, president of the American Legion Auxiliary of South Carolina, prepare for the Veteran shopping event at the Dorn VAMC.
Volunteers of the American Legion Auxiliary also spend time with hospitalized Veterans at Dorn on the first and fifth Saturday by coming out to play Bingo.
Elaine Horton, president of Unit 6, recalls playing with a blind and hearing-impaired Veteran who was so excited to win a Bingo game. “We are helping others when we spend time with our Veterans,” Horton said. “We always grow from within when we can help those without. It’s just a wonderful way to reach out to them and keep the communication going.”
One of the youngest members of the American Legion’s Junior Auxiliary, Madelaine Hyder, was also on hand to assist in the event. With three years already under her belt as a member, the high school senior expressed her sentiments on her involvement.
“It’s so great to see their big smiles when the gifts are given to them for their caregivers,” Hyder said. “It just makes my heart feel proud for me to have just a small part in bringing that smile to their face.”
Hyder noted that the military gene runs through her family with her mother, father and two grandfathers who have served.
Jennifer Scales is the Public Affairs Officer at the Columbia VA Health Care System