Lending A Helping Hand


photo by Ashley Boehmke

Megan Wilson, Reporter

In the summer of 2016, I became a youth volunteer at the John Heinz V.A. Hospital. When I started my first day, I did not realize the impact that veterans and volunteers have in each other’s  lives. These veterans have shown their bravery and fearlessness by risking their lives for our safety. They have sacrificed so much to protect this country, and the work that volunteers do to repay them for all of their hard work is evident on a  daily basis at the John Heinz VA hospital. The men and women that have served our country are grateful for the support that is provided to them each day.

Over the past couple summers I have been going to the VA to help our veterans. I have had the opportunity to meet so many new people and learned so many cool stories from veterans from  all walks of life. It is so interesting to hear the different stories from all of the different people that I have met each year. To hear all of the war stories or just stories about their family and friends not only makes my day, but makes theirs as well.

My main responsibility at the VA is in the Ceramics Room at the hospital. I help veterans paint and glaze their pottery as well as keeping them company. Many of the veterans will come in with no interest to paint, but to just sit, drink some coffee, tell a few stories and enjoy the environment around them. Our job as volunteers is to make them feel welcome, by offering them a new project to work on or simply a cup of coffee. Some of our frequent visitors claim our coffee is the best at the VA. I’m not sure if it truly is good coffee, but the Ceramics Room has quickly become the meeting place, not only for the volunteers and veterans, but also the staff, who come in throughout the day to get a cup of coffee and interact with the veterans.

As a volunteer there it is my job to ask everyone when they come in if they want a cup of coffee. Every Friday we have donuts and sweet treats from the rec hall for the veterans to enjoy while they drink their daily coffee, read the daily newspaper, and work on their art projects.  I think it is an important to maintain this daily interaction. Being able to put a smile on someone’s face by simply asking about their day goes a long way toward providing companionship. Not only does it give both the volunteers and veterans a chance to get to know one another, it also is a small token of our appreciation for their sacrifice.

For many of the veterans the Ceramics Room is their place to escape from their hospital life. When they are there they don’t seem to be thinking about their treatments, the pills, or just the all around pain they may be suffering from their wartime injuries. It is a temporary distraction have fun even though they are still stuck in a hospital. The veterans talk to each other, laugh, and become friends while they are down in the Ceramics Room.

I have met so many veterans through my summers at the hospital. Some of them have become my friends and I look forward to seeing them every summer. I am grateful for the relationships that I have developed.  The stories of the veterans I have met so far will stay with me forever. Volunteering is not only about helping others in your community, it is also about helping yourself.