Building on the impact our volunteers make

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John Kleindienst, National Voluntary Services Director

My favorite part about going to our national convention is getting to personally thank our volunteers for donating their time in DAV’s name to help our nation’s veterans and their families. Last month was no exception when we gathered in Orlando, Florida.

The volunteer work you have all done within your departments and chapters is remarkable. Last year, our transportation network drivers gave more than 163,000 rides despite the hurdles and issues they faced coming out of the pandemic. Volunteers spent nearly 400,000 hours inside VA facilities. Our Local Veterans Assistance Program volunteers logged a staggering 1.6 million hours helping veterans with activities outside of VA medical facilities.

Combine this with the almost $23 million we dedicated to volunteer service initiatives, and you can see how DAV is an absolute powerhouse organization when it comes to volunteers directly and significantly impacting the lives of veterans and their families.

We hope the feeling you get when you look at the faces of the people you serve spurs you to bring more volunteers to DAV. Wouldn’t it be amazing if we could surpass two million LVAP hours next year? For us to give a pre-pandemic number of rides through our transportation network? Or have more people volunteer in our VA medical facilities?

There’s only an upside to these goals: Veterans will see how much we care about them and that we are there to make their lives better.

They’ll see this care when someone helps escort them through a VA medical facility to an appointment or with patient motivation activities in the physical therapy clinic. Our fellow veterans in hospice will know even in their final days how much they are appreciated. Visits to homebound veterans to bring a bag of groceries or do some light housework can restore hope.

The limit to what you can do is only your imagination, but with a little planning, the impact your departments and chapters can make is limitless. One example of this is the Department of Oklahoma’s Driving Hero program. This program streamlines the process of onboarding new volunteer drivers by bringing the VA to their annual state convention to do all the vetting at once.

Talk to each other. Steal (or, borrow, if you prefer) each other’s good ideas. There are examples like what Oklahoma is doing throughout our organization.

Whatever volunteer work you do, make sure you log your hours. If you’re doing something to help veterans in your community or in VA medical facilities, it counts. This can be chapter and department service officer work. It can be DAV- and Auxiliary-specific outreach efforts. Seminars and training designed to help your chapter or department operate smoothly count, too.

What matters is that you are honest about your hours. Please don’t exaggerate your numbers—this doesn’t benefit anyone and can damage our reputation. If you have any questions about logging hours, you can talk with your department and chapter volunteer coordinators or reach out to the Voluntary Services team at [email protected].

Finally, please use and encourage others to use VolunteerforVeterans.org. It’s DAV’s consolidated site for all things related to volunteering. There’s an “I Need Help” referral link to bring needs to DAV’s attention. There’s an “I Would Like to Help” button for people who want to get involved. We also share information about our scholarship program and transportation network there.

Keep up the great work! DAV is visible in our communities because of the value each and every one of you places on the importance of volunteering for veterans and their families. It’s humbling and inspiring to witness.

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