Submitted by Kimberlee Kahl McDonnell, Gilchrist Hospice
As I am sure you are aware, the NHPCO We Honor Veterans program provides tiered
recognition to organizations that demonstrate a systematic commitment to improving
care for veterans. There are five levels that partners can achieve in the program. Partner organizations assess their ability to serve veterans and, using resources provided as part of the program, integrate best practices for providing end-of-life care to veterans into their organization. In December of 2021, Gilchrist was notified that all of the requirements for level five had been met and that Gilchrist was being certified as a level five partner.
Shortly after announcing that we had achieved level five I was asked how we did it. Without hesitating I said “Much of the credit goes to our veteran task force.” When first implementing the WHV program, Gilchrist leadership assembled a task force of active duty and veteran military personnel along with civilian volunteers to guide and implement a comprehensive program to meet the needs of veterans. Members of this task force are involved in all of the activities required by the WHV program.
We currently have task force members involved in the following WHV activities:
• Salute to Service Tributes (over 200 annually)
• Vet Cafés conducted at residential care facilities
• Vet-to-Vet volunteers meeting and talking with veterans
• Veterans Day events to honor hundreds of veterans
• Operation Gratitude for elementary school students
• WHV quarterly newsletter
• Veterans History Project with the Library of Congress
• Welcome Home Vietnam Veterans annual event
• Orientation sessions for new staff
Our veteran task force meets several times each year to discuss and plan all of our activities for veterans. The task force photo above shows many of our current members. Others attended this meeting virtually – meaning we have over 30 active volunteers. It would be impossible for Gilchrist staff to provide all of these services for veterans without the assistance of these dedicated task force members. Hospice organizations wanting to have a successful WHV program should begin with a foundation built on veteran volunteers.