Giving back to those who served: Youth Volunteers - VA Texas Valley Coastal Bend Health Care System (VCB)
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VA Texas Valley Coastal Bend Health Care System (VCB)


Giving back to those who served: Youth Volunteers

Collage features images of teens working as youth volunteers at VA Texas Valley Costal Bend Health Care System (VCB) during their summer break from school in 2019. (VA photos and collage by Luis H. Loza Gutierrez)

Collage features images of teens working as youth volunteers at VA Texas Valley Costal Bend Health Care System (VCB) during their summer break from school in 2019. (VA photos and collage by Luis H. Loza Gutierrez)

By Luis H. Loza Gutierrez, VCB Office of Public Affairs
Monday, August 26, 2019



Giving back to those who served:

 Youths volunteer at VA during summer break 2019

HARLINGEN, Texas -- The new school year is upon us and as students across the country return to their academic studies, many of them begin to share stories with classmates and friends about the things they did during their summer break.

For close to a dozen of students, some of those stories will include experiences of working as volunteers at VA Texas Valley Coastal Bend Health Care System (VCB). Students like Lisa McBride, who devoted two weeks of her summer break from school by working as a volunteer at the VA Health Care Center (HCC) here.

The 17-year-old student from Loma Linda Academy in California volunteered 90 hours and spent a lot of her time helping organize files and prepare informational materials and documents that were then mailed out to numerous Veterans enrolled in the local VA's home-based primary care program. It wasn’t glamorous work, but it was important and the teen found her time as a VA volunteer to be very beneficial.

“I appreciated my time volunteering at the VA because it not only helped her give back the Veterans of our nation, but also helped me learn more about different jobs in the medical field, which I think will help me in the future with my goal of one day becoming a veterinarian,” said McBride.

McBride ‘s grandmother, Carmen Llerandi, works as dietician for the VA and helps Veterans alter their nutrition based upon their medical condition and individual needs. But Llerandi was not the only VA employee who had a young member of their family volunteer this summer.

Janette Piccio, a registered nurse who works as the transplant coordinator for VCB had not one, but both of her children help Veterans and their families. Her daughters Alexandra and Ysabella who are students at Med High in nearby Mercedes, Texas, combined for a total of 160 hours. The initiative by her 16- and 17-year-old daughters to help Veterans was source of pride for the VA employee.

“As a mother I think it’s important for us as adults and parents to educate our children about the importance of giving back to our communities in positive ways,” said Piccio. “That is one of the reasons why I was very proud of Alexandra and Ysabella when they came to me and expressed their desire to donate their time and energy to help the VA serve our Veterans.”

Piccio said she would regularly ask her daughters how their days at the VA went. Whether it was handing out snow cones, providing directions to an office or cleaning a wheelchair with a disinfectant wipe, the proud mom said that their conversations have led her to believe her two teenage daughters now have a deeper, understanding and greater appreciation for the service and sacrifice Veterans have made because they had that direct exposure to different types of people who served in the armed forces from different eras.

“One of the things I believe make this country and its military so great is the diversity of its service men and women,” said Piccio. “That’s what you see here every day at the VA. Men and women from different ages, faiths, races, and sometimes from different countries of birth – all of them at some point in time served and made sacrifices to keep us safe and free. I’m glad my girls got to see what so many of us see every day as an employee, and why so many of us are passionate about doing our best to help our Veterans receive the medical care and services they deserve.”

The two sisters were among a group of 10 high school students ranging from ages 14 to 17, who volunteered a combined overall total of 589 hours. Seventeen-year-old Stefanie Grimaldo was the sole teen to volunteer this summer at the VA outpatient clinic in McAllen. She accounted for 52 hours on her own. The nine other students are thus far the largest number of youth volunteers the healthcare system has had during the summer.

“It is wonderful to see high school students volunteer because it sets a positive example for other youth in the community to follow,” said Lilia A. Garcia, the voluntary service specialist at HCC.

Volunteers are a priceless resource for the Department of Veterans Affairs. We were so happy to have so many new youth volunteers helping us serve our Veterans. We look forward to having many of them back next summer, and we encourage the youths from the Rio Grande Valley and the Texas Coastal Bend communities to consider becoming a VA volunteer and helping us fulfill our mission of serving those who have served.”

Volunteering opportunities for youths and adults are available at any of the six medical facilities under VCB, located in the cities of Laredo, McAllen, Corpus Christi, or Harlingen. Individuals or groups interested in serving our nation’s Veterans by volunteering can do so by calling one of the three voluntary service specialists listed below.

Harlingen, Texas: Lilia A. Garcia, 956-291-9000, extension 69093

Laredo and Corpus Christi, Texas:  Gary Burger, 361-443-4283 or Valentine Lara at 361-500-1657

McAllen, Texas: Patrick Hawkins, 956-618-7100, extension 67180

For additional information about becoming the VA Voluntary Service click here.


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