“Holiday Cheer” is one of our favorite events of the year!
Thinking about all of the “Elfs” involved, from our hands-on volunteers to the “Elfs” across the country who help make the event possible, it is overwhelming. Your support and help is deeply appreciated by those who are the recipients of your kindness.
The past several years we have held “Holiday Cheer” at Mercy Hall. However since the transition of Walter Reed to Bethesda, the dynamics at Mercy Hall have changed and we thought we could better serve our mission by hosting the luncheon on 4 Center, the 4th floor surgical ward, received permission to do so, and forward we went.
To our delight and complete surprise an Elf said, “Janie, pick up two chaffing dishes, a popcorn popper, two 6′ portable tables and a 4′ table. A check’s on the way to cover the cost.” When I opened the boxes to wash the chaffing dishes, I thought I had died and gone to Heaven. A very welcome addition to MM-B’s “Stash of Stuff” for the luncheons!!! Thank you SO much!!!
Plans for “Holiday Cheer” began this fall when the holiday card collection began. Information was sent out in our newsletter and on our Facebook page.
Many of our card “Elfs” send year after year. We begin receiving inquiries about them in August. Cards started coming in from all over the country in October. Lots and lots of cards from Florida this year thanks to Jan and her Florida “Elfs” getting the word out.
Always love the cards from “Our Lady of Victory School” in Baltimore – pre-K through 4th grade and their Girl Scout Troop. This is the third year they have participated in the card collection.
One group of cards came to us from Iowa; and there must have been 25 signatures from different people in each card, each signature with a different message to the troops. Screening the cards is one of my favorite things to do during “Holiday Cheer”. The messages are very heartwarming. Each card bundle had approximately 22 to 25 cards.
Once again, Chris and the Bayside Quilters’ Outreach Ladies made the stockings (and sent cards). Elf Jess did the shopping and with the help of Elf Bobbi and the crew from “Covers and Soles”, wrapped and filled them.
The empty table was filled to the brim with scrumptious food! Sausage cheese appetizers and a fresh veggie tray; potato soup, chicken wings and bourbon chicken, Sloppy Joes, a garden salad, fresh fruit, southern green beans, pasta salad, sweet cole slaw, Rice Krispy treats, cookies (including peanut butter cookies for a Marine we heard was craving them), assorted drinks and of course, smoothies.
The luncheon went well and the families and patients were very appreciative of the food and the nifty gifties, with one highlight being the 54 movie DVDs from Mary’s friend, a fire fighter in New York City.
It was touching to watch the family members pick through the movies carefully, looking for the perfect movie for their sons or husbands, or in one case, for their big brother. They do not think about themselves – they think about their Loved Ones. One of the dads told me after his son had watched the movie, he was going to Continue reading July 24, 2011 – 5 East: ARE YOU HUNGRY???→
Janet and Lew coordinated the event, and Lew, Katie, and Julie hosted it.
Menu: Tuna salad and chicken salad sandwiches; potato salad; baked beans; cole slaw; stuffed eggs; Texas Caviar with tortilla chips, fruit salad, chips, olives and pickles, brownies and cookies, drinks, and smoothies.
Special thanks to Janet’s friends – Coleen, Kay, Tina, and the Campbell family for their help with the meal.
Here’s Katie’s report:
Lew got there first and had 2 carts upstairs, was setting up when Julie and I arrived. When I got to the 5th floor to get a cart from Lew the floor was very busy with lots of family in the halls and TV room. I started to let families know as soon as I saw them who we were and that we would would be serving a light lunch at noon. Then I saw the Marine on Duty… he was already telling families were we there. Lew had talked with him when he came in.
We kept the door closed and got the food set up, make two blenders of smoothies, one blueberry and one strawberry. We had a long line of families when we opened up to serve about 12:10. People were very friendly and talkative.
We ran out of the two blenders of smoothies right away and made more. The fresh fruit bowl and the fresh whole peaches went right away. The baked beans and potato salad were all a hit. The Texas Caviar was all gone as well. Desserts? I think they were all gone??? We only had a little bit of food leftover to put in fridge, some were olives, some were beans, some were sliced tomatoes.
Lew was able to get out to see some of the Wounded on our list after the families went thru the lunch line. I was able to talk with all of families at the door, Julie got to talk with some in the pantry and hall. At the end when all was packed up Julie and I went to see Jason, talked with his mom for a long time, never did get to talk with Jason as his doctors came in. Julie and I then went down to see Michael and his fiancee. We left the hospital at 3pm. Lew left about 20 – 30 minutes earlier.
Thanks to everyone today, great team work! Janet thanks for all you did to make today happen, missed you. Big thank-you to your wonderful friends and neighbors!
We didn’t have a camera today with us……sorry no pictures.
Thank you Janet, Lew, Katie and Julie! Job Well Done!
Until next time, continued prayers for our military and their families.
The “tweens” are a little less labor intensive than the big luncheons we do every other month on 5 East.
Back in January after the luncheon was over, our volunteers expressed an interest in coming more often. We added five extra dates “in between” the dates already in the schedule, with a very limited budget for them and 3 to 5 volunteers instead of 7 – 9 since the menu would be simpler.
Janet, Lew and Elizabeth hosted this Father’s Day visit.
Ham sandwiches, Pasta Salad, Fruit – watermelon, cantaloupe, grapes, and strawberries
Fresh fruit is one of the first things to disappear.
Cookies – Snickerdoodles and others
Root Beer, Diet Coke, Ginger Ale
Water is something we take a few cases of when we can, leaving one of the cases in a waiting room for the families to help themselves. There are water fountains of course, and it tastes just fine (I’ve tried it), but you know how it is, nice to have a bottle with you, and this saves them a little pocket change for other things.
Smoothies – The smoothies, a staple of all of our luncheons, were a big hit again…
“This is the only thing my son has eaten since we’ve been here.”
It was a little quiet on the hospital ward. From Janet:
“One couple sat in with us while they ate their meal. They were only up for the weekend as they both work. Their son had his wife with him. Arkansas was their home state. A really nice couple!!! Lew spoke with him for a long time in the hallway … they were talking about Father’s Day and sports and how it felt hearing your son is injured.”
Janet and Lew’s son was an out-patient at Bethesda while on convalescence leave this time last year after spending some months on the surgical ward recovering from gun shot wounds to both legs from a fire fight in Afghanistan.
“Lew and I consider it a privilege. Lew was hoping for more opportunities to go this year and the TWEENs are allowing that. Being able to volunteer allows us to give a little back to them. “
Thank you, Janet, Lew and Elizabeth, for taking a beautiful Sunday – Father’s Day – and serving the patients and families at Bethesda.Job Well Done!
Until next time, continued prayers for our military and heir families
Washington State Operation Thank You asked us to look for Josh so we did, and we found him and his Dad. We had a packet of notes for Josh along with the pantry bag of snacks and a beautiful quilt made by Bayside Quilters for him to give to his wife.
Janet and Lew coordinated the luncheon. Menu was lasagna, a pasta dish with tomato and sausage, Diane’s delicious potato soup, deviled eggs (they were being taste-tested by a mom before they had barely been set down on the luncheon table), cheese platter, salad, chips and dip and fresh fruit.
The desserts were, as always, luscious.
Thank you, Becky, Colleen, Diane, Mary Jane, and the cookie bakers for your contributions!
This was Sarah’s first visit with us so I grabbed her for a quick walk around the ward during a slow spell.
Signs and artwork on a door to a Corporal’s room.
I showed her where the massage therapists do the seated massages.
Jaime and Kelly had a little respite from doing their seated massages so Kelly worked on Jaime a little bit to get the kinks out.
They were working in one waiting rooms.
The waiting rooms have bookcases filled with games and books.
And comfortable chairs facing a big screen TV, with computer and internet access.
We couldn’t pass by the opportunity to take a picture of the Marine flag! A General and a Sergeant Major were there visiting their Marines and took a picture of two of our volunteers. Thank you!
We ended up back at the doorway to the luncheon room where the cart with the notes, quilts, and pantry bags are placed. They are handed out as the patient or family member leave the luncheon room.
Julie shopped for and packed the bags. Janet formatted the emailed notes into a word document, printed them out and packaged them up. Thank you, Ladies!
Not a whole lot of food leftover to label and stash in the pantry.
Fresh vegetables are always welcome.
They don’t last long after we leave!
We loaded up and I had to bug out early, leaving the crew recapping the events of the day. Our volunteers came from within a two hour radius of Bethesda and it is always a pleasure spending a few minutes after a luncheon catching up and chatting together.
Our MM-B volunteers are great. They all share in the work load, each one taking on tasks that make the luncheons so special, picking up where others run into glitches when needed.
It is heartwarming to see their care and concern for the patients and families, and each volunteer goes the extra mile to ensure their needs are met while we are there; whether it’s making sure they know where the pantry is or helping them carry things back to their rooms or just lending an ear to listen. . .
Today’s luncheon crew:
Janet, Lew, Katie, Stephanie, Elizabeth, Mary, and Sarah
With Jaime and Kelly from “Touch of Relief” Thank you! Job WELL done!
Each one of us brings something away from our time spent at the hospital, and we each have our own reasons for wishing to serve our HEROES by volunteering with the luncheons.
When someone says to me,
“I don’t know how you can continue to go month after month and see what you see,”
I think to myself,
“How can I not? If those of us who can – don’t – then who will?”
Whether it is volunteering at a military or VA hospital, planning special events for homecomings or to recognize Veterans from past wars, writing letters and sending care packages, making neck coolers to send to “over there” as the temps rise above 100 degrees, or organizing a support group for families, or sending food back to the base with your son as he heads back after a weekend home, or standing in a flag line at a funeral, posting a message on a legacy page for a Fallen Hero, or inviting 12 Marines to your home and enlisting the whole town to provide the support to give them the best weekend they’ve had in a long time, or supporting those who do any of these things – all is needed and all is appreciated more than most of us will ever know – unless we ourselves have been there/done that…
To see the patience of a father as he helps his son into a wheelchair to go to physical therapy – the time it takes, the effort it takes… neither one complaining…
To listen to a girlfriend express her feelings about the war and her boyfriend losing both of his legs…
To see a mom again – for the sixth luncheon…
To watch our volunteers come together and pull off yet another fabulous meal to honor service members and their families who have sacrificed so much…
After leaving Bethesda, I stopped by a friend’s house. Gladys and Bob were hosting a BBQ for their Marine Corps League Detachment and had invited me to stop by on the way home. The Detachment was honoring one of their members who was headed “over there” very soon…
This war on terror is going on ten years now… and actually before then, but many of us just didn’t realize it and some still don’t.
Every service member serving right now volunteered to do so.
I am grateful for the opportunity to show support to the Marines, Soldiers, and Sailors we meet at the hospital.
Today’s luncheon was a very powerful one to me.
6/8/2011 – I received an update from Josh’s Aunt the other day that included a video made by a friend of their family.
After following his recovery since the end of April, watching this video was very special! I just wanted to stand up and cheer for Josh!!!
Back In January as we were ready to leave Bethesda after the luncheon, the crew expressed an interest in visiting the hospital ward more often.
The luncheons really do lift the spirits of the patients and families. The visits break up their day, gives them someone different to talk to, and they leave with a full belly of “real” food.
I threw the idea out to all of the volunteers and there were enough interested in the idea that we decided to do “tweeners” – not a full “all out” luncheon – just a quiet, laid back visit with 3 or 4 volunteers serving light fare, drinks, and smoothies. Continue reading April 30, 2011 – 5th Floor: “Tweeners”→
When we plan a menu for our luncheons, our volunteers keep “Touches of Home” in mind. Stephanie and Elizabeth decided to do a breakfast brunch, a very ambitious undertaking!
Silver Dollar Pancakes with blueberry topping, sausage gravy and biscuits, and cinnamon apples by Stephanie brought back memories of the holiday open houses her family had when she was growing up. Mary’s Creamy Potatoes are a favorite in her family. Three kinds of quiches, mini-muffins, fresh fruit salad, pasta salad, assorted sandwiches, chili, taco dip and chips, cheese and pepperoni platter, luscious desserts, assorted drinks, and smoothies rounded out the menu.
Arrival time is officially 10 AM but our enthusiastic volunteers began arriving around 9:15. Never know what the traffic on the beltway is going to be like!
Set up in the room was quiet, busy, and well-organized.
Hallie and Jill joined us for the first time.
Sean and Mary were with us again. The microwave was made good use of for reheating the quiches and cinnamon apples.
After the past few luncheons and problems with the electric (too many crockpots), we decided to use some buffet servers.
One had the sausage gravy, one had biscuits and pancakes, and one held the potatoes. The crockpots had chili and cinnamon apples, and the warming tray kept the quiches toasty warm.
Bob stayed busy again making smoothies. Friends of Elizabeth and Steph sent the desserts. I thought the cakes, one chocolate and one yellow with a jelly filling, were professionally made but Elizabeth said no, her friend does it as a hobby.
Julie offered to take over shopping for and filling the pantry bags.
She passes them on to Katie to bring to the luncheon.
We set up the pantry bags and niftie-gifties outside of the luncheon room door.
Little things tickle us and the large metal cart was one of those little things. It holds twice what a regular cart holds, meaning fewer trips up and down the elevator.
Quilts, pillowcases and wheelchair bags from Bayside Quilters are popular, especially the ones made out of specific service branch fabric.
Jaime and his seated massage chair had a work out. He did at least 15 seated massages in four hours. Katie was able to spend time in the waiting room talking with the families. Gladys took most of the pictures for the luncheon. (Thak you for sharing them with us!) Elizabeth and Stephanie kept the luncheon room organized.
During a quiet time right before we began serving, our volunteers chose our 2011 Raffle Quilt. Cut out and pieced by Mary C. from Bayside Quilters, tickets will go on sale May 1st for our major fundraiser. This is a picture of the quilt top.
It’s at the long-armer’s right now waiting to be quilted. More details coming in late April. We are very grateful for Bayside’s support.
Thank you to everyone who helps make our visits to Bethesda possible. We recognize our Supporters at the luncheon room doorway, listing them so everyone can read who made this month’s luncheon possible.
“It was a joy working with you all. I know I can also speak for Jillian and Hallie when I say it is an honor and a privilege to support the patients and their families and we are grateful to be part of the team.” – Mary
Our volunteers expressed and interest in visiting more often so we have scheduled five more dates for 5 East over the course of this year, bringing our total to 17. Teams of three or four will provide light fare, drinks, smoothies, and seated massages during what will be a more laid back visit.
Each visit to Bethesda is special. Some luncheons affect me more than others and this was one where the tissues came out on the drive home.
Can one put a monetary price on the cost of war, when so many lives will never be the same?
Today’s luncheon crew:
Stephanie, Elizabeth, Mary, Katie, Sean, Hallie, Jill, Gladys, and Bob,
with Jaime from “Touch of Relief” Thank you! Job WELL done!
Until next time, continued prayers for our military and their families.
Plenty of good food – fried chicken wings, mild Buffalo wings (with hot sauce on the side), and Bourbon Chicken. Chili, toppings, and corn bread to go with it. Roast beef, turkey, and ham sandwiches, wraps, carrot-ginger soup, cheese and pepperoni, and assorted pickles.
There’s more! Taco dip and scoops, onion dip and chips, mini-hot dogs in sauce, and nuts. Then moving on to the sides there was pasta salad, potato salad, corn and tomato salad, garden salad, fresh veggies and dip, and fresh fruit salad. Can’t forget the desserts – brownies, cookies, and Entenmanns’.
The luncheon was sponsored by “Caring U.S. Naval Academy Graduates” with instructions to provide a
festive, all out, soup to nuts meal.”
Thank you all for making the day amazing!
January’s volunteers traveled from south of DC, the Annapolis area, south of Baltimore, Southern Maryland, the Eastern Shore of Maryland and points in between.
Elizabeth and Katie were great, jumping right in with their help and menu ideas when we began planning the luncheon back before Christmas. They will be coordinating future luncheons for MM-B.
Our favorite guys were with us and helped carry in the huge amount of food we brought with us.
Mary joined us for the first time and we are looking forward to having her with us in the future. Barb and Don, thank goodness for them! What didn’t fit in my car fit in theirs’.
Brenda, one of our original crew members, was with us for the first time in over a year. It was nice catching up with her on the drive over and back. Gladys and Bob shopped for and packed the pantry gift bags. Everyone contributed to the menu in some way.
We are very grateful to be partnering with “Touch of Relief”. Jaime and Kelly set their massage chairs up in one of the day rooms away from the hustle and bustle of the ward. Once word spread around the ward that they were there, they stayed busy working out the stress on family members with their “magic fingers”.
Pillowcases and a baby quilt from Bayside Quilters and all of the lap robes crocheted by Marya’s friends were given out. Miss Shirley sent along this note with the lap robe she made:
“I would like to donate this lap robe for a disabled veteran in honor and memory of Robert “Shank” Todd for his dedicated service to his country. Thank You!”
Melissa in Ohio sent more of the beautiful fleece blankets to pass out with gorgeous handmade cards attached to them. Two of them went to Louisiana Marines and one went to a wife who was there with their two daughters while their Marine recuperates. Nice and cozy to snuggle in on these cold Maryland days.
All of the pantry bags were given out along with the notes of encouragement. (Thank you, Note Writers, OTY, Joanna, Mary, and our other “Elfs”!)
Food was taken to 7 East, ICU, over to Mercy Hall, and leftovers were stashed in the pantry for the patients and families to help themselves to later. We all stayed busy! We even had a chance to sit back and get to know each other a little better.
It was nice having the extra helping hands at the luncheon. We were able to do everything we try to do while we are there but aren’t always able to accomplish.
Our luncheons are more than just putting food on the table. We try to spend a little time talking with “our guests”, listening to stories about their Marine, Soldiers, Sailors. I said to one Marine mom that I wished I had a tape recorder. Her son was a year out of high school, had a great job, was making great money, brand new truck, living “the good life” but felt something was missing. He wanted to “make a difference” so… he joined the Marines. The admiration in her voice for her son… this is where I told her I wished I had a tape recorder.
You won’t read much here on our website about specific details of the conversations we have with the patients or their families. We don’t mention full names and ranks, and we have very few pictures of our wounded Warriors or their families on the site. We are in “their space” when we host a luncheon and we believe the privacy of the patients and their families is extremely important.
Why? Well… how would you want to be treated if you were far from home during a very challenging, very emotional, very stressful time? The patients and families have enough on their minds without worrying if what they say to us is going to be quoted online, or that names and ranks with pictures will be posted on our site.
From the mother of a wounded Warrior:
“You are so cautious, Jane, when it comes to protecting the patients and their families…. I’m grateful for your commitment to helping but not pushing to get into the lives of the patients. “
There is this little word that comes to mind:
R E S P E C T
We are there to provide a meal, encouragement, and “touches of home” to make their stay at the hospital a little brighter.
There are other support groups that work hand in hand with the hospital to provide needed assistance to the Warriors and their families. There are articles online (if you dig deep enough into a search engine – the mainstream media doesn’t often carry Warrior stories on their front pages) if you would like to read about anything more detailed than what we post here. I have seen quite a few written about Marines and Soldiers we have met on the hospital floor or at Mercy Hall. Check the stories out – they are inspiring… stories of true HEROES.
Until next time, continued prayers for our military and their families.
Some of us Marine Moms and Dads have known each other since boot camp, others since our sons’ first deployment. Maybe our kids grew up together in the same neighborhood and joined the Marine Corps together. Still others we have met along the way through one support group or another, whether it is from the MarineParents.com site, a Yahoo group, or from homecomings, local events, a Blue Star Mothers chapter, or, yes, even chasing down a car in town with a USMC sticker on it! We are everywhere. It’s just the hooking up with each other that may difficult sometimes.
One thing we have in common is we claim every Marine we meet as our own, and we do our best to “fill in” for the parents who can’t be there for their son or daughter.
My hope is that every military family is connected to another military family. It really does help with the roller coaster ride.
The friendships you make will last a lifetime.
Britt stopped by a few days before the luncheon to pick up the “must have” supplies to pass on to Deb for the food prep. Early Sunday morning Barb and Don swung by to pick up the quilts, the notes, pantry bags, and the rest of the supplies.