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Profiles in Service: DMVA Activities Staff Recognized for Keeping Veterans Homes Residents Active, Connected to Family During Pandemic

07/06/2021

Harrisburg, PA - The Wolf Administration today recognized the Department of Military and Veterans Affairs (DMVA) activities staff at Pennsylvania’s veterans homes for keeping residents active, engaged and connected to family during the COVID-19 pandemic.

“The activities staff across Pennsylvania’s six veterans homes showed enthusiasm, creativity and passion at a critical time when residents were socially distanced from one another as well as separated from families due to the COVID-19 pandemic,” said Brig. Gen. (PA) Maureen Weigl, DMVA’s deputy adjutant general for Veterans Affairs. “It can be isolating when you are stuck indoors, but not with our team. Our residents continued to be entertained, active and connected to those they love.”

Activities staff at long-term and personal care facilities typically coordinate engaging and stimulating group activities for residents such as Bingo, musical entertainment, and craft making. They also organize fieldtrips such as shopping, sporting and cultural events, movies and picnics. COVID-19 safety protocols put an end to group activities and fieldtrips, but the innovative and energetic activities staff members at each home resorted to safe one-on-one activities such as planting flowers, portable golf and board games; unit-based activities such as listening to music; and doorway activities like socially-distanced group exercise and remote-control car races.

While visitation was put on hold for safety purposes, activities staff worked hard to keep residents connected to loved ones. This entailed staff working one-on-one with residents and scheduling appointments with families to communicate via electronic and digital means such as video chat, Zoom, Facebook Messenger, Duo and Facetime. Window visits and drive-by parades also helped to keep residents’ spirits lifted.

The 80 activities staff members spread out among DMVA’s six veterans homes worked relentlessly to keep the nearly 1,000 residents active, smiling and in touch with family and friends. 

“I am proud of my team and activities colleagues at all of the homes for adapting quickly to the new safety measures, remaining flexible with activities programming and for finding creative ways to keep residents engaged through therapeutic activities and regular connections with family,” said Christopher Veitch, CTRS, who oversees activities at DMVA’s Southwestern Veterans’ Center (SWVC) in Pittsburgh.  “The demand on our staff increased, but their passion and desire to serve the veterans who once served all of us never waned. It has been a pleasure to be part of such a caring team.” 

The six homes and their locations in addition to SWVC are: the Delaware Valley Veterans’ Home in Philadelphia; the Gino J. Merli Veterans’ Center in Scranton, the Hollidaysburg Veterans’ Home in Hollidaysburg, the Pennsylvania Soldiers’ and Sailors’ Home in Erie and the Southeastern Veterans’ Center in Spring City. 

Watch a short video of how Veitch and his team worked creatively to keep residents active and safe during the pandemic 

For more information about Pennsylvania’s six veterans homes, visit www.VeteransHomes.pa.gov. You can also follow DMVA on Facebook at www.facebook.com/padmva or on Twitter at www.twitter.com/padmva.

MEDIA CONTACT: Joseph Butera - jobutera@pa.gov

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