VA NY Harbor Healthcare System
|VA celebrates its volunteers every day. Below are some stories about some of our volunteers here at the VA New York Harbor Healthcare System.
|1. Walter Finley|
Navy Veteran Walter Finley has been selected as The American Legion Volunteer Hospital Worker for 2012. Finley volunteers in the Psychsocial clubhouse where he works closely with Psychology Tech Patricia Johnson. "He comes in early in the morning and is the force that has kept the place orderly and organized, safe and successful, over the past few years. His event-planning, cooking, and managerial skills are topped only by his dedication to the clinic and his fellow Veterans," said Psychiatrist Dr. Marion Eakin, Director, Outpatient Mental Health Service.
Finley was honored by The American Legion with a citation presentation in Washington, D.C. on February 26, 2012. "I can't put it all into a single sentence," said Johnson, who oversees the Clubhouse. "He's always there with ideas, offering a lending hand and he gets it done."
Johnson is particularly appreciative of Finley's help several years ago while she was struggling with serious health issues. "The big thing is that he anticipates what needs to be done. I'm so grateful."
|2. Muriel Kaparis|
Muriel Kaparis is a woman full of energy and compassion and a good dose of off the cuff good humor. She works regularly with Protestant Chaplain Angela Plant on inpatient and community outreach activities. She likes to think of herself as "Chaplain Florence Plant's personal pain in the neck." Actually, she is greatly valued and respected at the Chaplaincy and Voluntary offices.
"I tell you, Muriel is more than anyone can imagine," said Chaplain Plant. "She is always present and continues to help us in everything possible. I couldn't manage without her." For her part, Kaparis said, " If Chaplain Plant needs me one day, I'm here. If she needs me every day, I'm here."
At 78, Kaparis has volunteered for more than 15 years at VA's Manhattan Campus through The Order of Eastern Star, a group of women that is affiliated with the Masons. Currently, she heads the Eastern Star, serving as Grand Matron and representing state and district divisions. She is also Vice Commander of American Legion Post 8 in Manhattan. She is an Air Force Veteran of the Korean War era. While in the military, she served for two years stateside working air traffic control based in New Mexico.
While growing up in a large family in Waterbury, Connecticut, Kaparis began volunteering as a teenager. "It was just what we did in our family," she said. Later, her interests in volunteering, community service and humane care of animals was part of her life no matter where she lived and whatever jobs she held. When marriage to a Greek led her in the 1970's to live on Paros, a Greek island, for 15 years, she started an animal welfare group and is involved to this day in groups that support the humane care of animals.
In another sphere, her ongoing interest in serving fellow Veterans has directed much of her energy as a leader in The Order of the Eastern Star toward helping with collections and distribution of clothing for homeless Veterans and other Veterans in need. She is also deeply involved in raising funds that help provide bountiful holiday meals for the Clubhouse, the outpatient Mental Health program at VA's Manhattan Campus.
In addition to Kaparis' lifelong commitment to volunteering, she spent many years working as a mortgage specialist in New York City banks. She has also lived in Germany and performed opera at venues throughout the city. Among her favorites to perform is Mozart. And now? She's not singing anymore. "Honey, I'm almost 80," she quipped. But, it's clear she brings the breath of kindness and good cheer wherever she goes.
|3. Peter Rivera|
While the new Palliative Care Unit, Papillon De Vie, officially opened on April 11, the unit has been treating patients since the end of February. Staff, in addition to working with patients who are dying and their families, has also had to think about decorating the unit. One of the hallmarks of the Community Living Center experience is a homelike environment, so accoutrements are very important, noted Doris Quijano, Assistant Chief of Social Work at the Queens facility. Enter Peter Rivera.
Mr. Rivera, a Marine Corps Veteran and Volunteer on the unit, has been doing his part to brighten up the space. In addition to working on the twice annual memorial ceremonies and decorating the nameplates that adorn the exterior of patient rooms, he presented the unit with a very special piece of art. From a distance, his piece looks like the VA Seal - and it is - only better.
The image, he says, is representative of VA. The Seal is comprised of over 1800 photos of himself, VA staff, Veterans and families. "The main idea was that all of these people make up the VA," he said.
"I started out as a photographer," he said, noting that he also worked in advertising and that gave him the idea to do the design.
As a Marine Veteran, he says that his volunteerism brought back lots of memories of his service and he realized he could relate to fellow Veterans. "Because of my military experience, I connect with these guys," he said. And, he said, he's not yet done with this project. "I'm going to add more photos, I'm going to make it bigger. The staff would like it on canvas."
|Volunteers at our facility are required to complete annual mandatory training. To complete the training, please follow these instructions: