Friday, January 16, 2015

Community Services Committee: Make A Difference Day - Adopt A Veteran Was A Huge Success

By Lisa A. Esposito

When Lara LaVoie and I agreed to chair the Community Services Committee (CSC) two years ago, we did it to make a difference. We wanted to have a positive impact in our neighborhoods, to help change the negative perception many people have about our legal community. Thanks to our members’ generosity, we are doing just that: making a difference!

For example, the CSC just chaired Make a Difference Day, Adopt a Veteran, and it was a huge success! For the second year, we adopted every veteran on the James A. Haley Veterans’ Hospital’s hardship list. In fact, the list almost doubled from last year, but the CSC was undaunted. We got to work, ensuring every veteran was adopted. 

For those who are unaware of this amazing project, these veteran heroes sadly have no family and live in small group homes, as they can no longer take care of themselves. They have limited funds, so with the help of generous volunteers, gifts are assembled for delivery to each of them. In fact, many of you said that reading these soldiers’ wish lists brought tears to your eyes. We agree. Their wishes are simple ― a shirt, some socks, perhaps a puzzle ― but their needs are great. 

It wasn’t just purchasing gifts that allowed us to make a difference; it was the time we spent with them. The hours we spent meeting these soldiers and hearing their stories left its mark, not only on them but on us, too.  

More than 50 volunteers got up super early on a Saturday, all to make a difference, and it was definitely worth it. (In our defense, Lara and I did bring some tasty doughnuts). Lawyers and paralegals came; Gators, Bulls, and Noles came; parents brought their children ― all to honor our American heroes. 

I personally had the honor of meeting two veterans, one was in WWII, and the other was in both Vietnam and Korea. Andy refueled ships during WWII. Can you imagine? He lost his wife and only son but still has a positive outlook. Andy was almost 90 but still feisty and quick with a retort. He got a deck of cards in his care package and informed me he would be playing poker later, even hinting it may be the lose-an-article-of-clothing type of poker. I didn’t press it. I moved on. Walter was career Navy, did 20 years. While in the Navy, he traveled to many locations but loved Spain the most, at least what he could disclose as some things were still classified. 

The soldiers we spent time with smiled that day, delighted to have someone to reminisce with, and we got to learn about their experiences and history. In reality, we thought we gave to them, but we walked away realizing that we got much more.