Led by Richard Bundy, an Information Technology employee, and local members of Military Outreach for Service, IRS employees in the Washington DC area chipped in to help with the 2015 Winterhaven Homeless Veterans Stand Down at the Washington DC Medical Center.
Throughout the month of December 2014 and early January, MOS members and Richard conducted a drive to collect winter coats and other clothing for homeless veterans in the area. IRS employees chipped in generously at the IRS headquarters and in New Carrollton and donated more than 200 coats, scarfs, sweaters, cloth bags, 200 toothbrushes, and other items. Richard reported that IRS employees contributed over 16 percent of the donations collected from 15 federal agencies in the area.
And the story wasn't over.
On January 24, 2015, IRS employee and U.S. Army veteran Richard Bundy and MOS executive director David Heiser attended the Stand Down event at the VA medical center. VA Volunteer Service Specialist Cheryl Samples reported that over 618 male and 68 female veterans participated, helped by over 600 volunteers from more than 70 federal, state, and community organizations. Veterans received medical and mental health care, employment support, housing services, legal counseling, hot meals, warm clothing, comfort kits, haircuts, and referrals to local thrift shops. Attendees were offered shots for flu and pneumonia, dental care, nutrition counseling, and podiatry services. Volunteer drives picked up veterans from local homeless shelters and transportation points.
Some of the veterans came with families in tow, including children of all ages. The sense of need, confusion, and helplessness was overwhelming to many volunteers. One saw obvious signs of medical and mental deterioration, alcoholism, drug abuse, and lack of direction. Some veterans had to be escorted to determine entitlement to veterans benefits and at least one was turned away because of lack of any identifying papers.
Volunteers displayed enthusiasm, professionalism, and empathy and were praised by Secretary of the Department of Veterans Affairs, the director of the VA hospital, and others. One thing noticeable was the absence of any judgment of the veterans. Volunteers, instead, were noticeably friendly, patient, and caring.
Cheryl Samples encouraged IRS to get involved in future Stand Down events and hopes for 40 volunteers from our agency in 2016. Volunteers will be needed to help register the veterans, escort veterans and VIP, push wheelchairs, staff information booths, help in the canteen, hand out clothing, and other tasks. Those interested in volunteering should contact one of the officers of the Washington DC chapter of MOS at MOS.Wash.DC@gmail.com.