Since World War I, the women of the American Legion Auxiliary have provided true mission outreach in the care and rehabilitation of America's veterans. Part two of this three-part series examines the invaluable efforts of American Legion Auxiliary Field Service volunteers who provide assistance to sick and injured veterans outside VA Medical Centers, veterans in need, and care for veterans' gravesites. COMING HOME MAY BE THE END OF ONE JOURNEY for many of our veterans, but it is also the beginning of a new journey to transition to a "new normal." Auxiliary members are passionate about providing care and comfort to our heroic U.S. servicemembers who are so highly deserving of everything we can possibly do for them. One of the Auxiliary's core mission outreach programs is Veterans Affairs & Rehabilitation (VA&R). The purpose of this program is to initiate and participate in programs and services that assist and enhance the lives of veterans and their families, ensuring restoration and/or transition to normally functioning lives - physically, mentally, socially, and vocationally. In 1964, the Legion Auxiliary a new program called Field Service Volunteers, which is a critical component of the VA&R program. WHAT IS FIELD SERVICE? Field Service is any service provided to a sick or injured veteran outside a VA Medical Center (VAMC) or assisting with a veteran's burial or gravesite upkeep. Field Service hours can be earned through work done on behalf of veterans in state or community-based nursing homes/soldiers homes, contracted veterans homes, daycare centers, foster homes, halfway houses, hospices, and homeless shelters. It also includes performing volunteer service at stand downs, Christmas Shops (not at a VAMC), veteran cemeteries or gravesites. Providing transportation, snow removal, landscaping/ lawnmowing and assisting with tax preparation are also considered Field Service. Anything done directly for a veteran outside of a VAMC or a volunteer's home is considered Field Service. TRAINING THE AUXILIARY TROOPS Field Service volunteers reflect the Auxiliary's care, commitment, and compassion for veterans, and it is our goal to continue this valuable mission outreach for years to come. Continuing our legacy of Field Service requires that all of our volunteers are well trained. All Field Service volunteers are required to complete a Field Service Orientation offered through their department or by a verified Field Service facilitator or trainer. Some departments have a Field Service director responsible for coordinating the training and reporting for Field Service volunteers in her department. All departments should schedule and put into place policies for providing timely Field Service Orientation for new volunteers. QUALIFICATIONS OF A FIELD SERVICE FACILITATOR: It is recommended that a facilitator be a member recognized in the department or unit as an active and experienced F i e l d Service volunteer. In addition, this individual should have the following attributes: 1. Solid verbal communication skills; ability to engage participants in discussion. 2. Strong organizational skills; experience with running productive meetings that are agenda-driven and time sensitive. 3. Knowledgeable regarding the following orientation curriculum: • History of Auxiliary's Field Service program. • Explanation of Auxiliary's VA&R Committee structure at all levels. • Introduction and discussion centered on the ALA Code of Ethics. • Field Service placement options and opportunities. • Job assignments and the role of the volunteer. • Performance evaluations - with facility feedback to unit and department on placement. • Volunteer administrative responsibilities (proper reporting of hours, training certification, maintaining hours and expenses, reporting). • Volunteer Recognition certificates, pins, and bars. FIELD SERVICE VOLUNTEER RESPONSIBILITIES: For a Field Service volunteer to recognition programs for her hours of service, she is responsible for: 1. Participating in a Field Service Orientation. 2. Working with her unit and! or department on Field Service placement. 3. Recording her service hours and expenses, and, if asked, submit them to her unit or department VA&R chairman. 4. Communicating regularly with her facility director or facilitator about volunteer assignments and performance expectations. 5. Providing feedback to her unit or department about placement and additional volunteer needs and opportunities. 6. Representing the Auxiliary honorably, in keeping with the Code of Ethics. FIELD SERVICE CARDS Tracking Field Service hours helps the Auxiliary tell the world who we are, what we do, and why American Legion Auxiliary volunteers matter. This information is compiled and reported annually to Congress by The American Legion and demonstrates the effectiveness of members' service to veterans. It is important to record hours spent on projects directly benefitting our veterans. Other types of volunteer service hours are reported as Community Service hours. Department secretaries can order Field Service cards at no cost through the National Headquarters office. The Field Service Director or Facilitator will send a signed copy of the Code of Ethics and record of orientation completion to unit VA&R chairmen. Once these items are received, members can begin reporting their valued volunteer hours. FIELD SERVICE VOLUNTEER HOURS AWARD A citation plaque is presented to both the Junior and adult ALA Field Service volunteer serving the greatest number of hours from April 1, 2012 - March 31, 2013, in each division. ALA VA&R department chairmen announce the due dates and how units must submit their certified nominations. Department chairmen then submit their volunteer nominees having the highest number of Field Service hours in each age category to the VA&R national division chairman, who, in turn determines the over-I8 and under-I8 ALA members who volunteered the most Field Service hours. ENCOURAGE JUNIOR PARTICIPATION Junior members may also earn hours through services they provide under supervision of an adult ALA volunteer, such as reading to veterans, playing board games, and planning activities around special holidays or assisting with the upkeep of veteran gravesites. BINGO! FIELD SERVICE FUN Marva Crow has served as a longtime Field Service volunteer through American Legion Auxiliary Mohawk Unit 308 in Tulsa. She often works in the kitchen during the Auxiliary's monthly Steak Night fund raisers. In addition, she assists with the monthly Bingo Night at the Claremore Veterans Home in Claremore, Okla. She donates salvaged computer hardware to The American Legion Children's Home in Ponca City, Okla., the last American Legion-sponsored children's home in the United States. Marva is eligible for Auxiliary membership through her deceased husband who served in the Army during World War II. HONORING THEIR SERVICE American Legion Auxiliary member Dorothy Goodin makes it a Legion Family affair as she places wreaths with her husband, American Legion member Ben Goodin, at Jefferson City National Cemetery in Missouri. Members of the Sons of The American Legion also participated in the event called 'Wreaths for Heroes." The event includes a memorial service where the Marine Corps League presents the colors. Members of each military branch, plus Prisoners of War and Missing-in-Action servicemembers are honored for the holidays. The program began to ensure military families that every veteran's contribution to our daily lives will not go unnoticed. FIND YOUR FIT IN VETERANS AFFAIRS FIELD SERVICES AN OVERVIEW OF FIELD SERVICE AND GRASSROOTS Nursing Homesl Soldiers Homes Volunteers who help our veterans in nursing homes know that they have not been forgotten and are not alone. Volunteers spread cheer to nursing home residents by hosting monthly birthday parties, sewing, organizing bingo, and performing other volunteer Field Service as necessary. Contracted Veterans Homes Many types of assistance are needed at veterans homes, from welcoming and directing guests to preparing and serving meals. Helping a veteran to the dining hall or recreation center is a great way to do Field Service, especially with friendly conversation to honor their service. Daycare Centers A visit from an American Legion Auxiliary member is often the highlight of veterans in a community daycare center. Reading to them, writing letters, or helping them with arts and crafts projects are simple ways to engage and show appreciation for veterans through Field Service. Homeless Shelters According to the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, more than 63,000 homeless veterans are on the street on any given night. You can help them by preparing and serving meals at shelters, organizing food and blanket drives, and offering cheerful words of encouragement. VOLUNTEER OPPORTUNITIES FOR EVERYONE AT EVERY AGE Stand Downs A "stand down" is a grassroots effort that helps homeless veterans by offering a hand up. These one- to three-day events are concentrated on providing food, shelter, clothing, medical screenings, benefits counseling, job counseling, and more. Many hours of Field Service are needed when hosting a stand down. Christmas Shops (not at a VAMC) Auxiliary members are known for providing extra care at Christmas, making sure that veterans feel appreciated during the holiday season. Christmas shops also help veterans be able to provide Christmas gifts to their children and grandchildren when they can't afford gifts. Cemeteries or Gravesites An especially meaningful way to show respect to our deceased veterans is by cleaning and maintaining their gravesites. Flowers, flags, and wreaths may be placed on Memorial Day and Veterans Day in most cemeteries. This type of Field Service helps others also remember veterans' service to our country. Miscellaneous Services Our veterans have been trained and engrained to keep tip-top appearances. Providing snow removal, landscaping, lawncare, and other general home maintenance for veterans helps maintain their pride. Transportation and tax preparation are also considered Field Service. HOLIDAY HUGS Unit 26 Aberdeen, Miss., Junior member Laken Tollison, member Helen Belue, and Unit President Elizabeth Belue enjoy helping Santa and serving veterans at the State Veterans Home in Oxford, Miss. Below: Tollison shares a holiday hug with one of her heroes at the home. BASKETS OF CARE Sandie Phillips and DeeDee Buckley from American Legion Auxiliary Unit 1776 in Apple Valley filled the kitchen at the Minnesota Home for Veterans with donated Buddy Baskets. The baskets were stuffed with donated cleaning and household supplies collected by the Auxiliary. The baskets were given to veterans as they transitioned to more permanent housing. GIFTED VOLUNTEERS American Legion Auxiliary members are known for bringing on the holiday cheer at the Chelsea Soldiers Home in Massachusetts. Each year, they help to make the holidays brighter for veterans who live in the agency's dorms and the long-term care facility by sponsoring and hosting a gift shop in cooperation with their American Legion post. Auxiliary members request donations and raise funds to purchase gifts which veterans pick out for themselves or give to family members. Auxiliary volunteers wrap each gift selected and often help deliver the wrapped packages to the veterans' rooms. John Davis, volunteer coordinator for the Soldiers Home in Chelsea, says Christmas Shop is a highlight for residents and just one of the many ways Auxiliary volunteers make a difference throughout the year. "American Legion Auxiliary volunteers add so much happiness and energy to the lives of our residents throughout the year," Davis said. You can often find them assisting with arts and crafts classes, assisting with outings, taking walks with residents, taking them to chapel, and visiting one-on-one with veterans."
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