By Contributing Editor Blair Drake
The Old Capitol Area (Ga.) Chapter is working to bring veterans and their families together again through its efforts at the Georgia War Veterans Home (GWVH). The skilled-nursing care facility in Milledgeville provides care to more than 200 aging veterans.
Because the GWVH is in the middle of Georgia, many family members must travel a long way to visit. In many cases, this is difficult to accomplish in one day, so there is the added expense of an overnight stay, which can be cost prohibitive to some families. To help these families, several years ago, GWVH converted four rooms into courtesy sleeping space for visitors.
The chapter helped by providing funds for coffeemakers, sheets, and other furnishings and accessories.
“Those with limited means ask for lodging knowing that some space is available,” said Col. Gerald Johnson, USAF (Ret), chapter president. “Customarily, the demand is on weekends because family members tend to be of working age.”
This demand has been greater than the available space at GWVH, so Johnson suggested the chapter arrange for visitors to stay at local hotels and have the overflow go there. He applied for a Community Outreach Grant from the MOAA Foundation to help fund the effort, and this year, the chapter received a grant of $3,750. The chapter is one of 23 recognized this year by the grant program, which provides grants to MOAA chapters that are giving back to the military community through programs that provide needed support, services, and recognition.
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“One of the major downsides for someone being in a nursing home is the resident and family are separated from their loved ones,” said Maj. Russell Feagin, USA (Ret), director, Health & Memorials Division, Georgia Department of Veterans Service. “This is a major psychological blow to both the residents and family.”
“Residents are lonely, and they’re lonely because they don’t have regular contact with family,” said Johnson. “We want to change that and make it easier for those who have difficulty affording a visit there. Not having to pay for a hotel room is a big deal.”
The chapter’s program will extend courtesy lodging to family selected by GWVH at partner hotels. Discounted rates will be arranged, complemented with grant funding, so there will be no charge to visiting family members of limited means. In addition, the chapter plans to provide welcome bags to all visitors that include discounts to local merchants. “We want to send a welcoming message to these families that we’re happy to have them,” Johnson said.
Though COVID-19 has prevented families from visiting their loved ones at GWVH, Johnson said the chapter is moving forward with plans for a grand opening, so they’re prepared to open the doors to visitors as soon as the facility gets the greenlight.
“The efforts being made by the Old Capitol Area and supported by national MOAA to reduce the financial burden of this situation are fantastic,” said Feagin. “Family members and residents can look forward to seeing their loved ones on a more regular basis. While this has always been important, the required restrictions on visitors due to COVID-19 have prevented any face-to-face visits for over four months. Words cannot express how wonderful they will feel when they are together again.”