Over the years, the American Legion Department of Alabama has supported the needs of the Central Alabama Veterans Healthcare System (CAVHCS) with several American Legion Operation Comfort Warriors (OCW) grants. These grants have provided veterans receiving care at an Alabama VA with recreational and rehabilitation equipment, comfort items and transportation needs, to include a five-passenger transport cart, clothing, toiletries, cornhole sets, CD players, dartboards, Samsung video players, engraving and cutting system for visually impaired veterans and more.
Thanks again to the efforts of the Department of Alabama, the biggest OCW grant ever was recently awarded to the CAVHCS of $68,000. Leadership from the department had an opportunity to see all OCW items purchased for the Tuskegee VA Medical Center on Nov. 30 during a special presentation.
“We’re veterans helping veterans, and they are helping veterans. They kind of motivated us to want to go out and help them,” said Department Jr. Vice Commander Willie Rogers who attended the presentation. “So whatever we could do to get them some assistance is what we did. I was told that OCW was the place to go and that’s what I did.”
CAVHCS has utilized the grant to purchase a variety of essential therapeutic and recreational items at its Tuskegee VA Medical Center as part of recovery for the veterans, ranging from outpatient and inpatient mental health to geriatrics. The equipment is visible in multiple areas such as the newly renovated recreational area, the Community Living Center and the community reintegration outdoor area.
“Being able to partner with The American Legion and Operation Comfort Warriors has allowed Central Alabama Veterans Healthcare System to continue to contribute to the recovery of our veterans,” said Donovan Lewis, a recreation therapist for CAVHCS. “Being able to receive a grant to this magnitude is beyond extraordinary. Dealing with mental health, disabilities and impairments can make it hard to adjust. Therapeutic activities allows the veterans to recreate their way of thinking and an opportunity to try new things. What we do during our leisure time plays an optimal role in our whole health.”
A few recreational items purchased to help veterans decrease stress, anxiety and to socialize with other veterans included several:
· Samsung Smart TVs
· Xbox series with games
· Handheld video games
· Basketball arcade cage game
Other recreational and outdoor items included several:
· Apple iPads
· Oculus Quest 2 VR headsets
· Golf balls, putters and other mini golf equipment for outdoor use at the newly modified and wheelchair accessible mini golf course
· Electric golf carts
· Coolers for events
“These items allow the veterans to have a way to increase their coping skills through social interaction, expand their imagination through virtual reality, and seek new leisure interests,” Lewis said. “It is an honor to receive this grant! The veterans are excited to try out their new games. Receiving this grant is not only beneficial for the present veterans in the program, but for their fellow peers for years to come! On behalf of CAVHCS and of the veterans past, present and future, thank you American Legion and Operation Comfort Warriors!”
Rogers said VA leadership was very appreciative of The American Legion OCW grant.
“They showed us off and they kept The American Legion’s name in their mouth all day long, saying ‘Thank you American Legion.’
“We really believe that some of our hospitals that work with our veterans have been left out, and they can't get some of the things that they need. We see that daily when we're dealing with the VA. If we had never found out or got really got involved with the Operation Comfort Warriors, we wouldn’t have been able to get the things that they (CAVCHS) needed.”
OCW provides recreational, rehabilitative and comfort items to wounded, injured and ill military servicemembers and veterans. OCW provides non-essential items typically not included as a budget line on government spreadsheets. These items are medically related to adaptive sports, physical therapy, occupational therapy and therapeutic recreation, or help wounded servicemembers transition back to their community. Learn more at legion.org/ocw.