March is Red Cross Month — Thank the Volunteers!

By Marin Reynes

Walter Reed Bethesda Red Cross Senior Station Manager

(Photo courtesy of The American Red Cross)

Since 1943, during the height of World War II, March has been declared Red Cross Month. For us, this is a simple reminder to reflect and thank those who selflessly serve our service members, veterans and their families across the globe as well as at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center (WRNMMC) and Naval Support Activity Bethesda (NSAB).

WRNMMMC and NSAB have the largest Red Cross service to the Armed Forces volunteer force in the world. More than 600 volunteers contribute over 6,000 hours monthly across the installation and in the medical center. Red Cross volunteers range from civilians to active duty service members and from administrative personnel to medical doctors supporting activities on base and within the hospital. These services include greeting every wounded, ill and injured service member who arrives via medical evacuations globally; supporting Morale, Welfare and Recreation (MWR) events managing Red Cross programs; volunteering in more than 75 clinics throughout the hospital; and adding more than 50 youth volunteers in the Red Cross teen volunteer program every summer.

In 2016, Red Cross volunteers contributed 72,105 hours to support service members, veterans and their families receiving care or working at WRNMMC and NSAB. These contributions are valued at $1,920,877 in volunteer value added.

A few of the most popular Red Cross programs run by volunteers that directly support patients and families are the Comfort Cart, Animal Visitation Program, Sewing Program and Coffee Morning.

Comfort Cart Program

In 2016, Red Cross volunteers provided service members, veterans and their families more than 50,000 basic needs items to make their stay just a little bit more comfortable. Volunteers visit inpatient areas daily with a Comfort Cart stocked with basic needs items such as toiletries, adaptive clothing, blankets, DVDs, video games, children’s toys and snack items. During the week, the Comfort Cart goes to the Surgical Waiting Room, intensive care units, and other areas throughout the hospitals beginning at 9:30 a.m. each week day and on weekends at 2 p.m.

Animal Visitation Program

The Red Cross Pack makes weekly visits in preapproved areas throughout Walter Reed National Military Medical Center. The Pack consists of more than 30 volunteer dogs and handlers who help to boost morale for patients, families and staff in pre-approved areas of the hospital. They bring a sense of home to those who may be far from theirs.

In 2015, the Red Cross Pack spent 64 days making visits in the hospital and across the installation. .

Sewing Program

Every Thursday from 9 a.m. to noon, Red Cross volunteers are in the lobby of Occupational Therapy in the America Building. These volunteers support hospitalized service members, veterans and their families with modifications, alterations adaptations or repairs for clothing/uniforms to support independent living, as well as wheelchair bags and service dog vests. Those needing this service can drop off items on Thursdays and pick up the finished product in the Red Cross Office.

Coffee Morning Program

Red Cross Volunteers host Coffee Mornings for service members, veterans and their families four times per week. This allows participants to converse in an informal setting and enjoy coffee, fruit, donuts/bagels prior to or in between what can be a long day of appointments. In 2015, volunteers hosted 204 Coffee Mornings supporting patients and families.

For more information about volunteering or Red Cross Programs, please call (301) 295–1538.