CHILLICOTHE — The VA Voluntary Service (VAVS) Awards Program is an opportunity to showcase stellar VAVS programs within the Veterans Health Administration (VHA); celebrate accomplishments of VAVS volunteers and community partners who significantly contribute to the mission of VA; and recognize the leadership of the professionals who manage these critical programs that, for the past 75 years, have supplemented the care of our staff and enhanced the healthcare experience for veterans, their families and caregivers.

The Chillicothe VA was honored this year in receiving two of the coveted 2021 VA Voluntary Service Awards.

The Knights of Columbus were awarded the Faith-Based Award. This award highlights partnerships with local faith-based organizations to provide volunteer support to a local VA facility or health care system.

The Knights of Columbus sponsor the Annual Summer Carnival for the residents at the Chillicothe VA and volunteer time to assist veterans at the event. For the past several years, they have also sponsored one of the VA’s most successful events, Big Time Wrestling. This event always brings joy to veterans as they sit around the “big ring” to watch live wrestling, cheering on the winner and reminisce about wrestling with siblings and friends in their younger days.

“Here at the Chillicothe VA, we are blessed to work with many organizations that make it their mission to cater to the needs of our veterans. All of them deserve special awards. However, one that sticks out is Knights of Columbus. They are hard-working, dedicated and selfless.” said Heather Murphy, chief, Voluntary Service.

Knights of Columbus does not just sponsor events, they have over 300 volunteer hours which also involve working with patients in hospice. It takes a special volunteer to dedicate their time to these men and women at the end of their lives. Without these types of organizations, our community would lose out on the wonderful opportunities we are able to provide for our deserving veterans.

Mrs. Jamie Russell was named the 2021 Unsung Hero. This award exemplifies the spirit of the Voluntary Service. The recipient is a person who, through their hard work and selflessness, goes above and beyond what is asked of them.

Russell is the heart and soul of the Chillicothe VA Voluntary Service. She began her career with the VA as a nursing assistant in March of 1988 and transitioned to Voluntary Service in 2011. Russell brought unmatched knowledge to the service when she arrived, she knew the needs of the patients that called our VA home and knew all of the veterans by name.

When donors and volunteers first wanted to cater meals for the Community Living Centers, she understood the veterans wanted food that reminded them of home. Not only do the veterans enjoy delicious meals, but the conversations held over those meals sharing memories of dinners with their families touch all the donors and volunteers. Russell truly captures the heart of the veterans.

When conducting volunteer orientations, Russell always makes sure the volunteers understand the importance of being a VA volunteer. She explains the mission of the VA, to fulfill President Lincoln’s promise, “To care for him who shall have borne the battle, and for his widow, and his orphan” by serving and honoring the men and women who are America’s veterans. She breaks it down to her version of explaining to the volunteers, they are here to make a difference in a veteran’s day.

“The success of Voluntary Service is a direct result of the relationships built with volunteers, coworkers and community partners.” said Murphy, “Jamie was absolutely born to carry out this mission.”

Join the Chillicothe VA as we congratulate and thank these recipients for their hard work and dedication to our veterans.

For more information about the Chillicothe VA, or how to become a volunteer, visit online at www.va.gov/chillicothe, follow on Facebook (facebook.com/ChillicotheVAMC) and Twitter (@chillicothevamc).

Veterans not enrolled in the VA healthcare system are encouraged to visit www.chillicothe.va.gov/enrollment.asp to register or call 740-772-7170 with questions.

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