Friday, November 11, 2011

Veterans Day Volunteering

For most people, Veterans Day means a day off for lounging around or catching up on favorite TV shows. This year take time to give back by volunteering. There are plenty of ways to volunteer no matter what your schedule demands. For those of you with no spare time, volunteering can be done from the comfort of your own home. Have commitment issues? Sign up to help out when you can. If you have extra time and are looking for a productive way to make the most of it, volunteering is a great way to make friends and learn something new. Here are a few ideas for everyone to consider this Veterans Day:

At Home: Send Books

If you’re like me, your bookshelves are buckling under the weight of stacks of books you’ve read and then forgotten about. This Veterans Day it’s time to pass your collection of books on to someone in need. Many soldiers overseas don’t have the luxury of everyday entertainment activities such as TV, games, or movies, and access to books is even rarer.

Operation Paperback was started in 1999 to help make deployment easier for the men and women serving overseas. Created by a concerned father-in-law looking for a way to help his family, this non-profit has grown amazingly. Since beginning, Operation Paperback has sent over 1.3 million books to soldiers serving in 30 different countries.

All types of books are welcomed and encouraged, but they have a few special projects outlined on the website, including children’s books for soldiers to read to their kids via webcam and Iraqi phrasebooks.

In 2010 they shipped nearly 240,000 books. This year, they’re hoping to top that, setting the goal number of books at 250,000. But they can’t do this without your help, so log on to: http://www.operationpaperback.org

Another organization providing free reading for soldiers is a program called Books for Soldiers, which was started during the Gulf War. Soldiers request books either by genres, authors, or specific titles, and volunteers can log on to the Books for Soldiers website to see what books are needed. Find out more about this program at: http://booksforsoldiers.com/

Once a Week: Serve Dinner

If you want to get out in the community but are not sure about making a constant commitment, check out the New England Center for Homeless Veterans and sign up for a date and time to help serve dinner to homeless veterans. The US Department of Veteran Affairs estimated that roughly 100,000 were homeless in 2009, and a recent federal study published in USA Today revealed that veterans are more likely to be homeless than any other American. The New England Center for Homeless Veterans strives to reverse this issue and prides itself on being “the first and largest veteran-specific homeless shelter.” Since 1990 they have helped over 15,000 veterans and rely on donations of all kinds to continue serving veterans in need.

Dinner is served as a buffet and usually requires between seven and nine volunteers to help things run smoothly. Come alone or bring a group of friends to help out.

Sign up at www.bostoncares.org or visit the Shelter’s website at http://www.nechv.org/volunteeratnechv.html

Once a Month: Be a Friendly Face

Volunteering does not have to strenuous, stressful, or expensive. Sometimes the biggest difference comes from a smile. The VA Boston Healthcare System is looking for several volunteers to help out at their Jamaica Plain Outpatient Specialty Clinic. Volunteer opportunities range from being a front desk greeter to playing board games and leading Bingo. These services may sound trivial but it can make all the difference for patients staying at the outpatient facility.

If you can’t make it to help out in person, contribute to this great cause by donating magazines, gently used clothing, and phone cards. The free, temporary housing lodge ‘Huntington House’ located on the Jamaica Plain campus is also looking for donation items for the kitchen, including things like dish soap, mixing bowls, measuring cups, kitchen towels.

For more information contact http://www.boston.va.gov/giving/index.asp or call the program assistant at 857-364-5071.

No matter what your schedule allows, you have plenty of opportunities to show our nation’s veterans how much you appreciate their service. Veterans Day is not just for honoring and remembering; this year make Veterans Day about giving back.


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