Yale Veterans Association, EBRS team up for day of service at VA Center

Volunteers from Yale work side-by-side with veterans to prepare and plant the West Haven VA’s Blind Center vegetable garden.
Volunteers from Yale work side-by-side with veterans to prepare and plant the West Haven VA’s Blind Center vegetable garden. (Photo credit: Glen Gechlik)

In its continuing efforts to support local Veterans in Connecticut, the Yale Veterans Association (YVA) hosted a Day of Service in partnership with the Eastern Blind Rehabilitation Service (EBRS) of VA Connecticut Health System.

Volunteers took part in an educational program, met with blind veterans, planted in the Blind Center Garden, shared lunch, and had the opportunity to experience some of the adaptive equipment used in blind rehabilitation.

Over 50 volunteers attended this year. Logan Driscoll, a senior at Guilford High School brought about 30 other students from the school’s baseball team. Also in attendance was Linda Schwartz, a Vietnam Veteran (U.S. Air Force) who was former commissioner of veterans affairs for Connecticut and assistant secretary of veteran affairs for policy and planning under President Obama.

The event started with an overview from EBRS staff about working with blind veterans, what their needs are, and how the EBRS works with blind veterans to improve their functionality. EBRS staff instructed volunteers on how to guide visually impaired veterans while traveling. Veterans then joined the group and introduced themselves and noted where they served in the military.

A veteran talks to a group of volunteers at the VA hospital in West Haven, CT.
Veterans joined the group and introduced themselves and noted where they served in the military. (Photo credit: Glen Gechlik)

The program continued with volunteers working side by side with Veterans to prepare and plant the Blind Center’s garden — planting flowers and vegetables, weeding, and preparing the area for further planting. Vegetables grown in the garden will be used by living skills instructors for teaching training techniques in the Blind Center later in the season.

All participants then headed back in for a lunch and socialized. 

Yale Day of Service culminated with an awards program. Under Schwartz’s direction, the high school students pinned official Vietnam Service lapel pins on Vietnam veterans, saying, “A grateful nation thanks you and honors your service.” 

Guilford high school student pins official Vietnam Service lapel pins on Vietnam veterans.
Guilford high school students pinned official Vietnam Service lapel pins on Vietnam veterans. (Photo credit: Glen Gechlik)

Those from the Yale community who received the lapel pin were:

  • Tom Opladen ’66  (president emeritus, Yale Veterans Association)
  • Larry Lipsher ’62   (treasurer, Yale Veterans Association)
  • Martin Platt  (a budget analyst in Yale’s Facilities Department)
  • Jack Beecher ’84 M.P.H.  (veteran and military liaison at Yale)
  • Richard Silverman ’66  (former director of admissions (retired), School of Medicine)

All volunteers were given certificates of appreciation.

Special thanks go to Stephanie Hotchkiss and John Daniels from Voluntary Services for coordinating the lunch,” said Dr. Glen Gechlik ’05 M.BA., who organized the program organizer. Gechlik is an ER physician and administrator with the VA Connecticut Healthcare System.  He is also a US Air Force veteran and a board member of the Yale Veterans Association.

Special thanks as well to the entire Blind Center Staff who helped organize the activities on behalf of VACHS, including Jennifer Ettenger, Blind Rehabilitation Specialist, and Bernadette Kern, Chief of the Blind Center,” said Gechlik.

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