VA and community volunteers assisted hundreds of DC Veterans
A cold, rainy day couldn’t keep the volunteers from the Winter Haven Stand Down. As the hundreds of Veterans entered the Washington, D.C., VA Medical Center from the frigid weather outside, they were welcomed with sharing smiles, handshakes, words of encouragement and expressions of gratitude for their service.
Veterans eagerly navigated the various stations to receive medical care, clothes, toiletries, back packs, duffel bags and information on VA benefits and services. Many took advantage of the opportunity to chat with comrades during breakfast and lunch. Some shared stories of their hardship and the desire to be in a better place next year.
The annual stand down is more than sharing handouts with our Veterans.
“Stand down is about wrapping around our Veterans,” said Brian Hawkins, D.C. VA Medical Center director. “WRAP means Warriors Receiving Assistance to Propel forward. The community comes together on this day to wrap their hands around our Veterans—not only this day, but to continue every day, 365 days a year, 24 hours a day—to ensure that no Veteran goes homeless or is at risk of going homeless.”
While walking through the medical facility, Veteran Steven Hardy didn’t hesitate to show his gratitude. “I am really proud that they are looking out for my health,” he said. “The people here are so friendly, and I enjoyed the breakfast they gave us. Thank you very much.”
In her 28 years as a VA employee, Wanda Rump has volunteered at several stand down events like Winter Haven. She’s not alone. Sue Carney, of the American Postal Workers Union, has been a community supporter for nine consecutive years. While working the registration desk, both Rump and Carney understand that they are sometimes the first person a Veteran meets when registering for VA benefits and services.
“I just enjoy working with Veterans,” Rump said.
“Our Veterans are owed a lifetime of gratitude,” Carney added.
VA—and community volunteers like Rump and Carney—rallied together to support the hundreds of Veterans encountering the frigid weather looking for help—not hand-outs—and a sense of hope. Supporting them was a WRAP.