By Ashley Henyan
Photos By Federica Brecha
I had the pleasure of accompanying this team of four on Tuesday, March 13, as they made their regular rounds through the Los Angeles VA Hospital, distributing comfort kits to hospitalized veterans and bringing a smile to every visible face around.
Their work as Red Cross Service to the Armed Forces and Veterans volunteers is made possible through one of the Red Cross’ partner organizations, PathPoint, a nonprofit that educates and trains adults living with disabilities to obtain full-time employment and thrive as full-functioning, contributing members of society.
Founded in 1964, PathPoint believes that all individuals with disabilities and/or disadvantages can achieve self-sufficiency and dignity. With this philosophy, they have become leaders in the fields of employment, community access and residential and behavioral health services—all while arming participants with the skills and experience necessary to land a full-time job.
As we walked from floor to floor and pod to pod, I got to learn some of the reasons why Hannah, age 31, volunteers with the Red Cross. She is on her way to landing a position in operations, communications, or in the food services industry. Through PathPoint, she has interned (as she called it) in the media departments at hospitals and universities, with the Red Cross and in corporate cafeterias. “Helping the service men and women is my favorite though,” Hannah told me, “some of my relatives were in the military and it makes me feel good to help.”
I also had the pleasure of speaking with Sean, whose goals through the PathPoint program are quite different than Hannah’s. Sean is at a point in his life where gaining experience to land a new job is no longer a priority. However, he specifically joined PathPoint to become a Red Cross Veteran’s Hospital Volunteer. “My Grandfather was in World War II, Sean said. “He was stationed over the Pacific and I want to help people who served in wars, like him.”
Rick Carberry works at PathPoint and helps to manage the group’s duties at the VA Hospital. Though MaryRose, Hannah, Danielle and Sean can easily perform their Red Cross volunteer work unsupervised, Rick came along on Tuesday, specifically to speak with us for this article. While in the middle of telling me how much pride the entire PathPoint organization takes in their partnership with Red Cross Services to the Armed Forces and Veterans, Rick’s phone rang. It was a former participant of the PathPoint program and he was calling with great news—he had just been hired at Ralph’s Supermarket! Rick passed his phone around so that the group could offer congratulatory words to their former teammate, then said, “It is my hope that the skills learned as Red Cross Service to the Armed Forces and Veterans volunteers will springboard every PathPoint participant toward living full lives, complete with a satisfying career.”