Today, as Vermonters observe Veterans’ Day, the residents of the Vermont Veterans Home (VVH) in Bennington have only limited contact with loved ones due to the pandemic and staffing demands. But concerned Vermonters can take action to reduce their sense of isolation in the approaching holiday season.
The Vermont Veterans’ Home was established in Bennington in 1884. It is governed by a Board of Trustees appointed by the Governor. 12% of its funding – about $3 million – comes directly from the Legislature’s General Fund. Medicaid, Medicare, private and VA insurance comprise most of the rest of its funding. VVH offers a complete range of specialized care services for its residents.
“Many of our Veterans and Members are fortunate enough to have rooms where family and friends can just walk up to the window and visit whenever they want, unfortunately not all of our Veterans and Members have this ability,” CEO Melissa Jackson wrote online Nov. 5. “Recently we have been experiencing an increase in family members showing up at the facility requesting a window visit for a loved one that does not have a room that can be accessed by the family member, usually because their room window opens into one of the many courtyards that are enclosed by four facility walls.
“The incredible staff at VVH has been working very hard to try to accommodate these visits but the volume has increased to a point where we can no longer sustain these visits,” Jackson said. “The increase in volume is causing staff to have to be redirected from hands on care to moving a Veteran or Member to an area where they can have a window visit.”
VVH allows indoor visits but these also are limited, for the same reasons. Volunteers are not allowed inside due to the increasing community spread of Covid-19.
“These are not easy times for our veterans, members, their family members, and our staff,” Jackson said. And here’s how concerned organizations and individuals can help:
Send cards/letters to Veterans and Members. They love mail and the individual notes mean a great deal to them. Individual cards and letters can be addressed to “Any Veteran or Member” 325 North Street, Bennington VT 05201, or you can send a package of multiple letters to VVH Attn: Recreation, at the same address. We will be sure they are delivered to our Veterans and members.
Record a holiday message or your group (appropriately socially distant) singing Christmas Carols or other holiday songs and send it to us at [email protected] VVH now has our own in-house television station and we would be more than happy to share your messages with our Veterans and Members.
In lieu of individual holiday gifts for veterans and members consider sending wheelchair bags, travel cups with lids, acrylic paints, headphones, CD players, yarn and knitting needles, Bingo money, gift cards and Ipod shuffles, winter hats, gloves and scarves.
The original estate that houses the Vermont Veterans’ Home was constructed in 1860. In 1884, recognizing the need to care for veterans disabled in the Civil War, the State General Assembly appointed Trustees of a Soldiers’ Home and authorized a $10,000 appropriation as initial funding. The first of twenty-five residents were admitted on May 18, 1887. On April 14, 1971, the Soldiers’ Home was renamed the Vermont Veterans’ Home.
Construction of a cemetery began in 1884 with one acre devoted to the burial of Civil War veterans. Expanded to 17 acres, and containing about 300 gravesites, burial is now restricted to residents of the VVH.
Significant capital construction began in the 1960’s including renovation of the administration building, residential areas, and dining room, and construction of new nursing care units, a chapel, social hall, gazebo, and bandstand.
In the past several years, other significant additions and renovations occurred, including a geothermal system for heating and cooling, renovation of four residential units and development of a memorial area which includes monuments dedicated to Vermont Medal of Honor winners, Gold Star Mothers, and Vermont Veterans. Lighting systems, electronic controls, and information systems have been updated.
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