Luzerne County Veteran Affairs Director James Spagnola said he’s been frustrated by the lack of government programs to help the injured and ill veterans and surviving spouses who regularly call his office seeking temporary help with household tasks.
“While there are a number of current federal and state programs that provide assistance to veterans in need, they do not address every situation that gives rise to the need for assistance that our veterans and their families experience,” Spagnola said.
In response, he is trying to round up a network of volunteers throughout the county willing to help veterans and their spouses while they are battling health issues or other emergencies.
Some examples of the assistance he wants to provide include grocery shopping, light housework, pet care, lawn maintenance and snow removal, meal preparation, transportation and routine home repairs.
“Maybe some volunteers could stop by to simply visit with a veteran who is recovering from an illness or is homebound,” he said.
Spagnola recently sent letters to all county veteran service posts asking them to publicize the new program and has reached out to the media.
He is working out details as he seeks volunteers. For example, background screening of volunteers may be needed to protect veterans. Volunteers also may be required to sign a waiver to shield the county from liability.
Spagnola said he successfully pitched the new program to new county Manager C. David Pedri as part of Pedri’s challenge for managers to come up with fresh ideas to improve services.
While volunteers may end up forming a bond with those they help, they won’t be required to continue providing assistance after veterans or their spouses are back on their feet, Spagnola said.
“It’s really geared toward emergency-type situations, when these veterans or surviving spouses need help getting through a convalescent period or some unforeseen difficulty,” he said. “It would be on a short-term basis.”
An estimated 25,741 veterans reside in the county, which is the eleventh largest population out of the 67 counties in Pennsylvania, Spagnola said.
Spagnola said he is confident the community will embrace the opportunity to help the men and women who “served to help them.”
“Our population here is an older population, and a lot of our older veterans are getting to a point in life where they really need our help,” he said.