Members of the National Society of the Daughters of the American Revolution (NSDAR) are not your stereotypical elderly ladies gathered around their ancestral charts examining their ties to the past.
They are women of all ages bent on community service, especially service to veterans.
One annual service project completed by the local Roanoke Valley Chapter of the NSDAR is making and delivering blankets to the veterans at the Virginia Veterans Care Center (VVCC) in Salem. The VVCC is located on the campus of the Salem VA Hospital on Shenandoah Avenue, but operates separately from that facility.
On February 11, the DAR members, who hold their meetings at St. Timothy’s Lutheran Church in Vinton, met at the church and carpooled to deliver 49 blankets to residents at the center. They were greeted by VVCC Activity Director Susan Reynolds, who facilitated their visit.
Member Judy Bishop purchased the patriotic fleece fabric online in July. The group met at Jan Carter’s home in August to trim and fringe the blankets (she is the Blanket Project chairman) which they knotted at their November meeting at the church, affixing labels indicating that they were made by the chapter.
The Virginia Veterans Care Center is one of two state homes for veterans in Virginia. The mission of the VVCC is “to provide affordable, high quality, comprehensive nursing and domiciliary care to Commonwealth of Virginia residents who are admitted to the VVCC.” It was officially opened on Veterans Day in 1992.
There are four separate units at the VVCC: two nursing home/rehab units, a Dementia and Alzheimer’s Unit with an enclosed Wandergarden, and an Assisted Living Unit. The VVCC has 240 beds with about 20 beds available in the assisted living unit.
Residents come from all branches of the service. There are still several World War II veterans at the center.
Residents go through an application process. They must have been born in Virginia or have done their basic military training in the Commonwealth, or have resided in Virginia for at least one year. They must also have been honorably discharged from the service.
When the DAR members arrived at the VVCC, they visited each unit to distribute the blankets they had made, presenting them to individual veterans, thanking them for their service, and interacting to hear their stories. One resident shared that she and her late husband both served in the United States Navy and that their granddaughter is now in the armed forces. Another veteran told the visitors that his mother had been a member of the DAR.
In the spirit of the season, members also brought Valentine cards to be handed out.
DAR member Lisa Gascoyne was an activities director at the VVCC about 15 years ago, and reminisced about the programs she had led in the nursing home/rehab unit. She explained that her task was to improve their quality of life– to “get the patients to want to get out of bed.” She developed a program in which residents could exercise their whole bodies while remaining seated. There was wheelchair dancing and a favorite “Girl Watchers Club” mobility activity.
The local NSDAR group is a vibrant and growing chapter, with several prospective new members in the process of completing the paperwork that documents their lineage to a patriot of the American Revolution. They meet generally on a monthly basis at St. Timothy’s on Hardy Road in Vinton.
In December, they celebrated the 55th anniversary of the founding of their chapter in Vinton, back in 1961.
Their Roanoke Chapter works with six schools, including William Byrd High School, where a DAR Good Citizenship Award and scholarship is presented each year to a student chosen by their peers. They also present the WBHS Air Force JROTC Medal Award each spring.
In the past year, in addition to the VVCC, the chapter has supported Ronald McDonald House and the Veterans Hospital. Local DAR members have participated in the W.E. Cundiff Elementary School Breakfast for Veterans, and Project Patriot USA, as well as serving as Commemorative Partners with the United States of America Vietnam War Commemoration and supporting deployed troops from Andrews Air Force base.
Sharon Menzies is the current Regent of the local NSDAR. Her husband Gordon is a veteran, having served tours of duty in Vietnam, Germany, and Panama. Her daughter Heather is a flight nurse in the United States Air Force Reserves, currently deployed in the Middle East.