It looks like COVID isn’t likely to vanish soon. Because of restrictions everywhere, long-term patients at Department of Veterans Affairs hospitals might have a lonely winter when their regular visitors are either limited or banned altogether. You can help.

While you probably won’t be able to visit patients, you can help to break up their long days with gifts, cards and notes to let them know that people on the outside are thinking about them.

First stop is the website for your local VA hospital. Look for Voluntary Services and give them a call to see if they have a wish list. They might be looking for anything from thick socks to XXL T-shirts. If you’re lucky, there might be a special list for the coming holidays that includes handheld electronic games, books of a certain genre or small radios with ear buds. You won’t know until you ask.

Your call to Voluntary Services might reveal that instead of needing things for the patients, they need your help with those who have been discharged. Maybe there’s a homeless veteran being moved into his own apartment. He’ll need a move-in basket of everything from new towels to TP to a manual can opener.

And there might be even more ways you can help at the VA hospital. Drivers are a big deal, and taking a van around to pick up patients who need to come in for outpatient treatment is a way to guarantee that those veterans don’t miss crucial appointments.

If you’re in a veterans’ service group such as American Legion, enlist members to help with the financial end of buying gifts and necessities. One way or another, don’t let this coming winter go by without doing something for your fellow veterans. They’d be there for you if the tables were turned.

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