Northern California Coastal Region supports vets with comfort kits

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SAF Director Go Funai, Kathleen Lenihan, Marilyn Byington, Leeann Woodward, and Julianna Jaynes deliver comfort kits to the San Francisco VA Medical Center.  Photo: Nanette Shamieh | American Red Cross

The Covid-19 pandemic has hampered more than a few activities, but it has also spawned a number of opportunities. For example, shelter in place orders forced the canceling of several stand downs. A stand down is an event hosted for veterans where they can avail themselves of a variety of resources in one place. Resources include medical and dental treatment as well as haircuts in a safe and secure temporary environment.

Each veteran attending receives a comfort kit. These kits typically include a toothbrush, toothpaste, washcloth, shaving cream, razor, shampoo, etc. According to Kathleen Lenihan, a retired Army Officer and Service to Armed Forces volunteer, “Walmart and other generous partners donate money, goods or make the kits.”

And with the cancellation of stand downs, a number of kits that were going unused.

However, SAF volunteers throughout the region seized the opportunity. Go Funai, Regional Director of SAF, worked with volunteers Camille McCormick and Tony Virrueta to facilitate the distribution of 250 kits to the Veteran’s Transition Center of Monterey in Seaside, CA. These kits were gratefully received by the Center as part of their mission “to empower Veterans to transition from crisis to self-sufficiency.”

The Central Coast Chapter of the Red Cross SAF hopes to get an additional supply of kits and provide them to the California Army National Guardsmen who have been activated to support Covid-19 related activities in Monterey County.

In San Francisco, comfort kits were provided to patients of the San Francisco VA Medical Center. According to Ms. Lenihan, “Patients are not provided with everyday toiletries and the kits help the patients feel better about themselves and more comfortable during their stay.” The kits are given to veterans in the Emergency and Admissions areas when they are admitted.

There were 54 kits given to men and women veterans who visit the San Francisco VA Clinic. The Clinic provides a variety of medical, nursing, and health care services for veterans. Another 54 kits were delivered to the Hoptel, a facility of the San Francisco VA that provides temporary lodging for people who will need to be hospitalized or recently discharged but can’t go home.

SAF volunteers coordinated by Marilyn Byington also delivered kits to the Santa Rosa VA Medical Clinic with other deliveries scheduled for Eureka and Clear Lake.

NCCR SAF volunteers turned the letdown of the stand down cancellations into an opportunity to brighten the day of veterans across the region. SAF continues to serve Veterans throughout the region during the Covad-19 pandemic and accomplish the Red Cross Mission of supporting our military.