Volunteers at the Canandaigua VA give veterans assistance and companionship — and there's always room for more

Tommy Morgan was a sergeant in the Marine Corps for 11 years, beginning in 1963. He is a Vietnam veteran and now resides at the Canandaigua VA hospital. Quick to crack a joke the moment his interview began, he had a table of people laughing throughout the conversation.

Morgan is one of the many veterans in Canandaigua who benefit from volunteerism at the VA. Gary Humes, a retired civil servant, now volunteers every Thursday, visiting Morgan, among other veterans. Humes is a companion who drives Morgan to the barber or simply passes the time with a cup of coffee and conversation.

These minute acts of generosity are quite impactful.

“These guys are unreal. I don’t know how we could be here without them,” Morgan stated about volunteers.

On Thursdays, Morgan will wait to greet Humes at the beginning of every shift. Over time the two have become friends.

Volunteers Joe Arcoleo and Marty Badger offer company to veterans and often play cards and other games. They also take veterans to appointments. Both find the experience rewarding. “I’m honored to do it,” Badger stated.

The Canandaigua VA has a multitude of volunteer opportunities working with veterans of all generations and branches of the military. People can work directly with veterans, as Humes, Arcoleo and Badger do. There is also a need for clerical volunteers, gardening, and help with recreational therapy and hospice. The VA accepts younger volunteers, such as students needing credit or scouts working toward badges.

“We’re expecting to open the new Rochester outpatient clinic shortly. So when that happens we’re anticipating a lot more volunteer assignments up there, too,” Robin Johnson, voluntary service manager, stated.

To get involved, people can contact the office at 585-393-7759.

The voluntary service department also handles donations. The VA is currently in need of personal care items, cleaning supplies, clothing, paper products and much else. All donated items should be new.

“We really want to encourage people to volunteer, … We have a lot of opportunities for everyone to be involved in,” Johnson stated.