Struggling Veterans gain some 'peace of mind' during holidays
On the first Saturday of every December, the VA Domiciliary opens its holiday gift shop. Veterans in the Domiciliary "in house" program or aftercare program are allowed to participate. Veterans fill out a form for each family member they would like to shop for. Veterans are able to choose one item per person in their family.
"It can be grandparents, parents, brothers or sisters, a spouse, children and grandchildren," gift shop chairperson Peggy Bateman said. "They get one gift per person, we set up tables, we have wrapping stations, a gift card section and up front is the shipping table. We mail everything to their family members for them at no cost for the veteran."
The Domiciliary Gift Shop has been going on for 40 years. Originally, the ladies of Jack Henry Post One Auxiliary would make homemade scarfs and hats and send them to the domiciliary in Seattle. When the domiciliary was built in Anchorage, the ladies started sending their items here.
"We encourage them to give as many gifts as they can," Bateman said. "We try to make it festive for the veteran here. We really try to make it about them. We encourage the volunteers to socialize with the veterans and get to know them."
Bateman says she doesn't start shopping for the event until around Thanksgiving because she doesn't receive the majority of the gift forms before then. Some gifts are donated and others are picked out by Bateman through grant money.
"I start shopping on Thanksgiving," Bateman said. "I shop Black Friday and I shop all the weeks leading up to our Gift Shop Saturday. It is very rewarding and fun. Being able to do this for our veterans is something I am very passionate about."
One veteran overwhelmed with joy and appreciation at the event is Colin Williams. Williams served in the U.S. Army as a plumber. He is currently living in Anchorage but is originally from Indiana with children in North Carolina.
"I'm honored and delighted, I woke up a little early this morning to get some toys," Williams said. "I'm glad the veterans are having this event, not only bring the community closer but investing in our future."
Williams beams with pride when he shows off what he found for his family.
"This is what I got here for my 6-year-old son, it's a helicopter." Williams said, "You can see they have so many gifts around us that it'll make anybody happy. The thing is, the veterans here, the volunteers, they'll get these gifts to anybody across the country or anywhere. I'm glad to be a part of it."
The event allows some of the veterans to be a little bit closer to family during the holidays.
"Man, they're going to be ecstatic," Williams said. "They're going to love dad from so far away. I can't be there with them but it does bring me a little closer to them, this is nice."
The VA Domiciliary has evolved from a "Soldiers' Home" to become an active clinical rehabilitation and treatment program for male and female Veterans.
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