Newsroom > DHHS News Release

August 25, 2009

Jeanne Atkinson, Communications and Legislative Services, (402) 471-8287


Volunteer Work-Therapy Program at the Grand Island Veterans’ Home is Updated

Lincoln - A volunteer work-therapy program at the Grand Island Veterans’ Home (GIVH) is being revamped to focus on meaningful activities that give therapeutic benefits to members of the Home in a safe and secure environment.

“We’re expanding the choices for members who want to do volunteer work-therapy jobs and eliminating any that might be considered dangerous,” said Alex Willford, administrator of the Home, which is part of the Department of Health and Human Services. “This will allow the Home to continue to meet federal requirements after a deficiency regarding providing a safe environment was noted in a recent survey.”

Staff worked very closely with the Veterans Health Administration, the Licensure Unit in the DHHS Division of Public Health, the State Ombudsman, and representatives from the Department of Labor to modify this program so it complies with all regulatory requirements governing the Grand Island Veterans Home.

Approximately 25 members currently volunteer for this program. Members want to be involved for the enjoyment of the work itself, and to earn a little extra spending money. Staff appreciate their assistance, too, Willford said.

Members can choose from 21 possible work-therapy job tasks in various departments including activities, dietary, office, facilities, housekeeping and maintenance. Under the updated policy, staff will more directly supervise members to ensure their safety, and will be able to observe and document members’ ability to perform these tasks. Members were notified of the proposed changes in a special meeting, and again at a recent Member Council meeting.

Members must have a health assessment completed by GIVH’s staff physicians to determine if they are capable of completing the desired tasks. Approved tasks are then included in each member’s daily care plan.

“We’re reducing the hours that members volunteer from a maximum of 40 hours per week to no more than 25 hours per week,” said Willford. “We want to make sure they have the time to pursue and enjoy other interests and hobbies, too.”

John Hilgert, director of the Division of Veterans’ Homes in DHHS, said that the work-therapy program reflects the more than 100 years of service to veterans at the Grand Island Veterans’ Home.

“You can see the historical link from the days when soldiers and sailors would be responsible for helping to grow their own food, to today, where numerous work-therapy opportunities are provided to members,” Hilgert said. “Those opportunities contribute to the quality of life of those who call the facility home, and they are provided in a dignified, safe manner.”