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 Blog Post

Smithfield Employees Visit Local Veterans Homes

Tags: Smithfield
November 29, 2018 12:00 AM
By: Jamie Ardrey, Corrections Officer 1

PA Coat of Arms

I started an organization a few years ago made up of friends, family, staff from SCI Smithfield, local Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts, the officers' union and employees from some of the local hospitals. It's called Friends of Vets (FOV). 

We all round up small needs for our local veterans such as tissues, hand sanitizer, lap blankets, lotions, slippers, pajamas, adult coloring books, hats, DVD movies, board games, playing cards, puzzle books, t-shirts, socks, calendars and small snacks. We make goodie bags for approximately 100-150 veterans. We have the local schools make all the veterans a Christmas card and we pass out a letter of appreciation to all the veterans thanking them for their sacrifice and service to our country. I also have volunteers that bring dogs in for the veterans to see.

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Group who visited the Veterans Home in 2017

This year we will be meeting at the Veterans Home in Hollidaysburg, Pa., on December 21st at 6:30 to pass out gifts and spend time with our heroes. The veterans love seeing the children and the puppies. We usually spend 2-3 hours that night with the veterans. Some of these men and woman have no family and this might be their only visit for the holidays or all year. The visits don't stop there.  I have 30-40 volunteers that attend and numerous continue to go back throughout the year and keep in touch. We all make new friends that night. 

I always enjoyed helping veterans. My grandfather's, uncles, brother and cousins all served in the military. I served in the Navy from 1990 to 1998. A few years ago, my sister-in-law introduced me to the veterans representative for Aseracare in Altoona, Pa. They are a hospice company that uses veteran volunteers to go visit with dying veterans. I've learned that talking with these very sick men and woman -- when you talk to them about their service -- brings them back to their younger days and all the good times they had. It takes them away from where they are now for a moment. You can learn a lot from WWII and Vietnam veterans.  Their stories are amazing. I recently had the pleasure to meet a WWII Navy pilot who was shot down and was a POW. There are not many WWII veterans around anymore.

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Pat Hughes, an SCI Smithfield Maintenance Department employee, poses with the items delivered to the VA home in 2017.

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Officer Ardrey’s wife, Renee, and his sister, Lisa, visit with a veteran at his bedside.

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Officer Ardrey with a WWII veteran, who passed away one week after the 2017 visit.

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