Giving a Bleep spares some time on Christmas day with veterans
Giving a Bleep: Give Your Heart, Not Your Wallet 11 a.m. to 2 p.m., Tuesday, Dec. 25 William E. Christoffersen Salt Lake Veterans Home, 700 E. Foothill Drive, Salt Lake City Free givingableep.com
Many nonprofits rely on donations of tangible goods like food and clothing to serve the community.
However, six years ago, Giving a Bleep, a Park City nonprofit that raises money for Utah nonprofits through an annual fall musical comedy, decided to make a year-end tradition by donating something that no one can see, but that everyone knows is there – time.
Each Christmas, Giving a Bleep volunteers and friends spend time with the residents of the William E. Christoffersen Salt Lake Veterans Home during an event dubbed Give Your Heart, Not Your Wallet. The facility is located in Salt Lake City at 700 Foothill Dr. across the street from the Salt Lake Veterans Hospital.
“One of the most precious commodities we have is our spare time, and what a better day to give our time than on Christmas,” said Annette Velarde, executive director of Giving a Bleep. “This is about giving people who aren’t mega-wealthy a chance to practice philanthropy.”
From 11 a.m to 2 p.m. on Tuesday, Dec. 25, Giving a Bleep’s volunteers are set to take four hours out of their Christmas and give the home’s residents their company.
Participants usually spend time conversing and watching TV with the home’s veterans, according to Velarde.
“Each year has been awesome, because we always get new people who come along with us,” she said. “And everyone is invited to enjoy some dim sum afterwards.”
The session is loosely organized and volunteers can meet Velarde in the facility’s lobby from 11-11:30 a.m.
“I will give out name tags, so we all know who each other is, and then I will give everyone the general layout of the facility,” she said. “From then on, we can visit with whomever we want.”
Velarde knows there will be some people who want to participate, but can’t until later in the afternoon or earlier in the morning.
“They can go down any time that is convenient for them, whether or not we’re there as a group,” she said. “They can just check in at the front desk and tell them they are from the Giving a Bleep group.”
Some volunteers like to bring holiday treats and other snacks.
“The cool thing is you can bring any kind of food to the veterans, because this facility cares for them until the end of their lives,” Velarde said.
Anyone interested in taking part in Give Your Heart, Not Your Wallet is encouraged to register online at givingableep.com, and they’ll receive updates on scheduling and weather conditions in the canyon.
Although the veteran’s home houses nearly 90 residents, there are usually around 40 who don’t have family nearby or aren’t healthy enough to be checked out,” Velarde said.
Some of the vets have dementia and Alzheimer’s, among other mental health conditions, she said.
“What my son, Ruli, does is bring music to those who are in the memory care unit,” Velarde said.
He puts together playlists of songs from the 1940s on his iPod for World War II veterans, and of songs that were popular in the late 1960s and 1970s for others.
“Ruli told me that it brings him to tears to see these veterans come alive and sing along to the songs,” Velarde said. “There is something about music that goes bone deep. It never leaves you.”
Sometimes, Giving a Bleep volunteers forge strong friendships with some of the residents during these Christmas visits, through talking and listening.
“There is always at least one conversation during the day that will change your perspective on life,” Velarde said. “I remember getting attached to a gentleman two years ago, and I began to visit him once a month until he passed away last fall.”
It’s also good to see familiar faces each year, she said.
“We are surprised to see some of the same vets year after year, because they are all getting old,” Velarde said. “So it’s an added bonus to connect with the same people each year.”
In addition to bringing some holiday cheer to the veterans, Velarde said Giving a Bleep also enjoys interacting with the facility’s staff.
“They do such a great job,” she said. “So we always keep them in mind when we visit.”
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