Nov. 13, 2015 | Team UAMS members delivered 325 care packages to veterans this week to honor them for their service.
Over two days, Nov. 10-11, packages were delivered at the Eugene J. Towbin Healthcare Center at Fort Roots in North Little Rock, to veteran patients in UAMS Medical Center and to veterans housed in transitional housing at St. Francis House in Little Rock.
The deliveries were part of several UAMS activities sponsored by the UAMS Veterans Awareness Committee to honor veterans around Veterans Day, Nov. 11. The care packages included toiletries, T-shirts, puzzle books and more along with Thank You cards signed by employees, students and guests of UAMS. In addition to the item collection drive, UAMS employees donated approximately $2,500 used to purchase additional items for the care packages.
In addition, two special care packages were given to an 18-month old and a 2-year-old who were children of a veteran staying at St. Francis along with his wife. Those packages included coats, clothing, pajamas, outfits, hats, gloves, socks, diapers and wipes.
“The overwhelming response from the veterans we met was surprise and thankfulness,” said Odette Woods, senior director for Immigration/Title IX/Affirmative Action programs in the UAMS Office of Human Resources. “An older veteran who was a UAMS patient expressed gratitude that UAMS remembered veterans. The family staying at St. Francis was thankful their children were given coats and other items they needed.
“All of the veterans wanted UAMS employees to know how much they appreciated the Thank You cards signed by so many as well as the care packages.”
Woods noted that in the sixth year of the UAMS-wide community service project, more than 60 people volunteered at the collection tables, including UAMS veteran (both active duty, reserve and guard) employees, students and employees.
Approximately 30 volunteers showed up at St. Francis House on Nov. 11 to serve lunch and deliver care packages to veterans. Several children who are patients at the Psychiatric Research Institute made special Thank You cards for veterans.
UAMS Project SEARCH interns helped assemble the care packages. Several departments also collected money and items within their area. The Department of Dental Hygiene in the College of Health Professions donated toothbrushes, toothpaste and other personal care items for oral hygiene. The Jones Eye Institute donated reading glasses.
The slate of Veterans Appreciation activities included a Nov. 4 breakfast on campus honoring employee veterans, who received a token of appreciation from UAMS to thank them for their service. There are more than 500 military veterans employed at UAMS, including active duty and retired members of the military and members of the National Guard or Reserve.
“We are paying tribute to those who served and those still serving. Serving your country is a selfless act of courage and we thank you for that service,” said Bob Bishop, vice chancellor for institutional compliance and a retired colonel in the Air Force and National Guard.
Keynote speaker Cliff Hudson, a Marine veteran of the war in Iraq, UAMS employee and now a College of Public Health student, told the veterans they continue to serve others in their roles at UAMS.
Hudson said he returned from overseas and was struggling in school when he was diagnosed with a traumatic brain injury he received while in Iraq. He also was diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder.
To overcome these challenges, he credited his family (his wife and four children) and the help from another veteran who connected him with a bicycle after Hudson found he was having trouble exercising.
“One thing I learned that fulfilled me, both as a squad leader and in life, is giving back to others,” said Hudson, a Marine who served as an infantry squad leader in 2006 in Iraq. “You have a wealth of talent to give, so figure out what you have and give it.”
Glenn Ballard, director of UAMS Rehabilitation Services and a retired Army colonel provided the welcome and closing remarks for the breakfast, reinforcing the theme connecting military service to serving others while working at UAMS. Ballard also dressed up as “Uncle Sam” during the care package deliveries.
Like Hudson, there are also a number of UAMS students who have served or continue to serve in the military. Michael Phillips and Justin Goucher are third-year nursing students at UAMS who said their desire to serve led them first to the military but has now brought them to UAMS.
In addition to the breakfast and campus collection drive for the care packages, UAMS events celebrating military veterans in November included a special Red, White and Blue Day in the UAMS Cafeteria on Nov. 10 featuring a special patriotic-themed menu, as well as a benefits fair featuring veteran agencies and organizations in conjunction with the UAMS Employee Benefits fair scheduled for Nov. 18.