Veterans Village 2017

It is a strange Christmas, my first one without Abuelo, the first one being no one's granddaughter.  There are no small children around, and things are almost excruciatingly quiet.
That is OK, I'll take it; I kinda hated chasing toddlers around anyway.

This year my parents asked for us to give things in their name instead of giving them gifts.

Because I was born partially disobedient, I sent them books (thank you Amazon Prime) but I also bought things for the veterans at Veterans Village in their name to add to the pile of donations from my students, former student-veterans, and a few angels out there who know who you are.

Mom and Dad, you sent 5 warm fuzzy blankets, 6 large soft towels, and 6 pairs of slippers to the Veterans. Oh and something else, but I'll get to to that in a minute.

Students from AMH2020 and my WOH class brought donations from December 1 - 8 that filled my office at TCC.

On December 20 (the day after my birthday, which starts the official "holidays") I moved all the stuff from my office to my house. This involved  a lot of going up and down stairs at work (until I remembered I could load the elevator) and concentrating really super hard on not getting locked out of 1) my car 2) the building and 3) my office.  

After THAT, I had to carry all the stuff into my house to be sorted out and counted.  

This is my fifth holiday season with the veterans and I have learned to not let people adopt particular veterans because some people get left out. I have learned to not bring wrapped gifts, and I have learned to make sure each veteran gets approximately the same gift(s).  

Yes, Zack asked if he could have a blanket and we had a quick discussion about the karma surrounding that kind of choice.  

After that, he joined me in stacking and counting and rolling.

I learned (from experience) to sort the shoes and clearly label them by size.  

 This year I wanted to do something new,  something that would represent how my parents always go a little bit extra, so I made gift bags for each veteran.  They are always asking for razors, so I gave them 2-3 triple bladed razors, a bunch of chocolate, and a few rocks and shells.

 This isn't the first time I've brought shells and rocks and asked questions like "how fast can a dead snail run" so don't worry about the veterans thinking they got coal in their stockings.

 Here is the story that explains rocks and shells:

Anyway, I enjoyed this immensely.

After all that, I added a giftbag to every towel and tied a cute bow around the towel too because I'm representing my mom and while I tend to race through things, she always takes the extra time to make sure things are "nice."

After that, I  loaded up my car and headed out to meet other people from the TCC community (you know who you are!!) to give the veterans warm holiday food, plenty of sweets, and our wishes that the New Year will bring blessings, wisdom and happiness. 

EW: To give parents a break knowing that their kids are safe and ok is a gift that no monetary value would cover

AMH2020 student 

            “We need more kindness, more compassion, more joy, more laughter. I definitely want to contribute to that.” - Ellen DeGeneres. Throughout the semester I did multiple service projects besides the main one of veterans village. One of them was being the official note taker for the 11:15 class period however to me that wasn’t a service project I mean yes I was helping people but it did't take any extra effort. I simply had someone copy the notes and bam I was done. So to me it wasn't enough to see the direct effect it could have on someone so I decided to find another thing to do to make a difference and man did I land the jackpot of all service projects?

 I found a group on FSU campus called hang tough. This is a group for families in the Tallahassee area who have a child with a life altered illness or disability. Families can use this as a support group to connect with other parents going through similar situations they can also use it as a fun activity for their kids and as a date night for the parents. I was a volunteer at two events for this foundation during the fall semester the first one was a Halloween event where the kids got to go “trick or treating” and play fun spooky themed games while the parents got to meet with a social working and have small in order to relate and talk about their daily lives. 

The other event I am doing is called Santa days this is their biggest event of the year and how the whole program started. They rent out a church for Santa to go to and sterilize the whole interior minimizing germs ensuring that kids with a repressed immune system from treatment can have the experience of sitting on Santa’s lap. Kids are given an appointment time to cut the waiting in line factor out of the whole thing. Wanting to be an elementary school shows my passion for kids I love kids with all of my being and to be able to help kids who’s lives are effected by illness or life-altering conditions truly brightens my day. Working with children is something that I value and that I have since I was a young kid myself. These kids are stronger and face more challenges then I could ever imagine. To be able to take their minds off the aches and pains even if it just for 5 minutes is something that I cherish and can only imagine how much joy it brings the kids to feel as though they are “normal”.  To feel like you are accepted for who you are and not have to be worried about what others may think of you or if the area you are in is safe for you is something that these kids don’t get very often, which us sad because I know for fact when I was little I took that as a privilege. To give a safe haven for these kids means the world to them and me but I feel like it means more to their parents. While this program was founded on having fun social activities for kids it has grown into so much more. At every event a social worker is brought in to talk to the parents and allow them to have the open dialog needed when you are going through a hard time. These parents have regular full time jobs but to care for a child with special needs is a job all on its own. 
To give parents a break knowing that their kids are safe and ok is a gift that no monetary value would cover. More then anything to see your child be filled with joy and happiness in their eyes is something these parents live for. At more core it is made up of love this project let that shine through more then any other project could possibly allow it to. To give these kids love, hope and happiness shook me to my core and the time spent with these kids is something I will always remember. Hearing the stories of the kids affected by the illness or by the siblings who are they through it all being supportive and taking the back seat some days are stories I will cherish forever. While I plan to work with children in a school setting it most defiantly made me curious into exploring the possibility of working in a hospital setting. This project made me realize that I really do love working with kids and that I am looking forward to helping children for the rest of my life. 

MS: You do not necessarily need to speak to someone to be able to communicate something towards them

AMH2020 student
 “We need more kindness, more compassion, more joy, more laughter. I definitely want to contribute to that.” – Ellen DeGeneres

            For my second service project, I completed another box to send to troops serving in Afghanistan. After working on completing and sending the first box, I realized the small impact it had quickly made on my life. I was much more interested in knowing about how these boxes impact the servicemen and women and what kind of items they are specifically in need of. Being a part of a simple project where I am able to send boxes to those who put their life on the line for the safety of my friends and family every day is something that is much more than a small token of my appreciation. While I wish I could contribute more, the best thing I can do for them to show my appreciation is to do what I am able to which is to send them this box to serve as a symbol of my sincere gratitude.
            In this box, I wanted to send similar items to my first box but not exact although each item has the same meaning behind it. For snacks, I included Candy, Chips, Cheese Crackers, Chewy Granola Bars, Freeze Dried Fruit, and Trail Mix. I know that snacks seem as a simple thing that we may take for granted but I feel that for troops in Afghanistan, these supplies may not be as readily available as we would expect them to be for us. In addition to the various snacks, I included activities to put a small smile on their faces and maybe cause a welcome distraction: pens and a Notebook, Playing Cards, and a Wheel of Fortune Word Seek book. Like the last box, the most important item in there to me was a handwritten thank you note that truly expressed my sincere thanks and appreciation for all that the servicemen and women do.
            One of the reasons this project means so much to me is because my grandmother created a similar concept to send my grandfather when he was serving in the Marines in the late 1960’s/early 1970’s. Herself and her neighbors in Brooklyn, New York used to send my grandfather a small box of essentials while he was domestically serving. My Grandpa Allen, to this day constantly says that the boxes were what he looked forward to receiving and that people, some neighbors he didn’t even know cared so much about his happiness and his safety that he was truly honored and beyond appreciative of the small effort that people made specifically for him. Knowing someone who has personally served and received something like this that makes a difference in their life means more to me than I will ever be able to describe. Although I do not personally know many currently serving servicemen and women today and get a physical opportunity to say thank you, I feel that having the ability and means to put together and send these boxes to troops in Afghanistan allows me to contribute in a small manner that truly goes a long way.
            This project connects to my core values because of the fact that giving back to others and doing charity and volunteer work has always been an important aspect of my life. Additionally, being a part of a society and a group where coming together to do something strong for the community allows me to understand and connect to the service project on a deeper level. As a communications major, my eventual career will be talking to people and communicating with them in all different types of ways. I feel that I am communicating my gratitude to the servicemen and women by sending this box. To me, this is just a small way to contribute my appreciating and it ties into the communication skills that I learn each day. You do not necessarily need to speak to someone to be able to communicate something towards them. It takes the strength and motivation behind your communication to convey the message that you want sent across whether it is through symbols or physical speaking.
            I hope that my box brings happiness and a sense of joy to those troops serving in Afghanistan. My simplistic goal of putting this box together is to express my sincere gratitude and show joy for all those who have exemplified extreme bravery and are serving our country. I hope to have that impact on a servicemen or women’s life that I contributed to the small bit of happiness they may have experienced that day. I love the concept of this project as it is a simple way to express our appreciation in just a small way and I hope that by me continuing on with it because I enjoy it, I can inspire others to begin to do the same. To know from a personal experience story like my grandfathers, this little bit goes a long way whether we are aware of it or not. To get the community involved in an amazing project like this could lead to so many stepping stones for great success. I hope to be a part of this project and its incredible concept for many years to come. 

NL: I hope that these men and women enjoy their christmas gifts and I hope that they can get back on their feet

AMH2020 student
“Help others and give something back. I guarantee you will discover that while public service improves the lives and the world around you, its greatest reward is the enrichment and new meaning it will bring your own life.”
- Arnold Schwarzenegger

            At first I was going to cook pulled pork for a veterans BBQ at the Veteran’s Village, but then my boss accidentally scheduled me to work on the day of the BBQ. So I ended up signing up to give holiday gifts to homeless veterans at the Veteran’s Village. I love helping people in need and I am in Army ROTC and I will be an Army Officer in about 3 years. Homeless veterans are in constant need and they served our country and deserve to be treated as honored veterans. Some of these homeless veterans were heros and have not even been recognized for the heroism that they have done. The Veteran’s Village temporarily houses these homeless veterans that are in need. For this service project I bought two $15 fast food gift cards, one was to Wendy’s and the other was to Taco Bell. I hope that these men and women enjoy their christmas gifts and I hope that they can get back on their feet and maybe even help other homeless veterans in need someday.