VA celebrates return of some volunteers

Published: Apr. 22, 2021 at 4:25 PM EDT
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WHITE RIVER JUNCTION, Vt. (WCAX) - It’s National Volunteer Week, a chance to celebrate those who give back. That includes volunteers at hospitals who were forced to stand down during the pandemic.

When the pandemic first hit, about 100 volunteers at the VA Medical Center in White River Junction were no longer allowed inside the facility. But now, more than a year later, as the VA is slowly opening back up, the volunteers are returning, including Earl Brady, who has been there for 35 years.

When the phone rings, Earl Brady is there to answer the call. The 90-year-old can often be spotted strolling the hallways at the VA. “I used to walk around the house, look out the window. I think the wife probably got tired of me doing that, so I thought I’d try coming over here. And I did, and I’ve been here ever since,” Brady said.

That was back in 1986. Once a week, the Enfield resident helps VA patients to and from their rooms or out the front door. The conversation along the way is often about their time serving their country. Mr. Brady was in the Air Force for 21 years. “I had my father and two uncles in World War II, so this was a way I could pay them back somewhat,” Brady said.

This week, volunteers like Brady are being celebrated for the simple tasks they do year after year. “We get about 30-to-40,000 hours of donated time from these volunteers,” said Karen Campbell, the VA’s chief of volunteer services. She says health care is not just about medicine. “Not only are they doing tasks, they bring a lot of heart.”

After a few minutes of downtime, it’s back to work. A service member’s spouse is discharged after surgery. “They provide a lot of support and sunshine to in-patients I’m sure as well,” said Donna Moulton of Newport, N.H.

And it’s that gratitude that this veteran -- and the hospital’s longest-serving volunteer -- says make it all worth it. “It’s just more meaningful because they appreciate it too.,” Brady said.

“The VA has been keeping in touch with its volunteers over the past year and they say some will be returning once the pandemic is over.

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