Giving a Bleep will visit veterans on Christmas
Last year, Annette Velarde and a team of volunteers established Giving a Bleep, an organization that hosts events that raises money for all the nonprofits in Summit County.
The main fundraiser is a live stage performance that pokes fun of Park City’s quirkiness and other strange happenings around the world. (See accompanying story titled "Giving a Bleep is moving to Prospector")
Giving a Bleep also finds opportunities for people who can’t donate money to participate in service events.
One of these programs is called Give Your Heart, Not Your Wallet.
"Not everyone can contribute cash," Velarde said during an interview with The Park Record. "So we came up with ways where people can simple contribute their time and their caring."
On Christmas, next week, Velarde will take a group of people to the Utah State Veterans Home, 700 Foothill Dr., in Salt Lake City, between noon and 3 p.m.
Volunteers will have the opportunity to bring come Christmas spirit to some of the veterans whose families, for some reason or another, don’t visit or check them out for the holiday.
"The home does a great job of providing these veterans activities, but the staff is a skeleton crew on Christmas," Velarde said. "So we go and spend time with these guys."
Volunteers can sit and listen to war stories, watch TV or play an array of board games with the veterans.
"Many of them love to play chess or checkers," Velarde said. "Some just want to tell their stories and are so grateful for the time we give them."
This will be the second year Giving a Bleep will visit the home.
"Last year, I sat between two veterans and held their hands while we watched ‘Gunsmoke,’" she said. "It was a wonderful experience for everyone."
The reason she went to Salt Lake was because there is one rest home in Summit County it already had a group scheduled to visit that day.
"So we went to the Utah State Veterans Nursing Home and they usually have about 200 residents, but on Christmas there are usually about 30 aren’t away with family," Velarde said. "We had such a great time."
The home has an aviary and volunteers can sit with some of the veterans to watch birds, and some of the vets are confined to their rooms, so volunteers will sit at their bedside and listen to stories about their families and lives, Velarde said.
"Last year we had a couple who sat in a vet’s room for a couple of hours because his family didn’t want to pick up him up because they said it was too weird for his grandchildren to be around someone who couldn’t move around," she said. "I was astounded, but also found out that things like this are more common than you would like to think."
In addition, the group included a pianist who played Christmas carols.
"That was great because there were some vets in the home who weren’t cognizant," Velarde said. "But it was amazing to see what happened when they heard music they recognized. They went from being slumped over staring at their laps to sitting at full attention while listening to the music. If all they could do was pat their hands on their knees, we knew we touched them somehow, and that brought tears to my eyes."
Last year, Velarde took 20 people to the home, but there isn’t a limit of how many can participate.
"This year, we are looking at 25, but the rest home is so large that we could probably take 100 people and we would all still be busy," she said.
Age is welcome to volunteer.
"We want to encourage parents to pull their kids away from the electronics for a while and connect with real people for a couple of hours," Velarde said. "I know that some kids will initially feel uncomfortable, because something like this is outside their comfort zone. And some of these veterans would just die to hold an infant again."
Last year a couple even took their dog.
"The vets loved it," Velarde said. "It does something when they make a connection to the outside and it’s a great way for all of us to learn the real meaning of Christmas.
"It’s not about the stuff they unwrap in the morning," she said. "It’s about serving others."
Anyone interested in joining Giving a Bleep on Christmas to visit the Utah State Nursing Home can register by visiting http://www.givingableep.com .
Registration will be accepted until 11 a.m. that day.
"Registration isn’t really necessary," Velarde said. "It will just give me a way to let people know that we will set up a carpool at the Jeremy Ranch Park and Ride lot at 11:30 a.m., so if they want, people can just also meet us directly at the nursing home."
Also, volunteers don’t have to be there right at noon or stay until 3 p.m.
"If they can only come from 1 p.m. until 1:30 p.m. that would be great also," Velarde said. "This is a very casual event, and any time they give will be so much appreciated."
Giving a Bleep will host its Give Your Heart, Not Your Wallet volunteer gathering at the Utah State Veterans Home, 700 Foothill Dr., in Salt Lake City, on Christmas, Wednesday, Dec. 25, between noon and 3 p.m. Registration is available by visiting http://www.givinga bleep.com.
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