COLLINS, MS (WDAM) - When James Sanford began preaching Thursday night services ten years ago at the State Veterans Home in Collins, little did he know, his personal service would extend beyond the walls of the chapel.
"I came here to be a blessing," said Sanford, "But I'll tell you, I've received a much greater blessing from what I've been able to be to these people."
An army veteran himself, Sanford spearheads a group known as Veterans OutReach which helps veterans in the home with expenses not covered by the state.
"Most people that I have meet have the impression that people in a state veterans home are totally taken care of by the federal government and state government, which is not so," said Sanford.
It's a common misconception nursing home coordinator for the Veterans Affairs Board Eric Jordan says overshadows the harsh reality.
"Individuals residents have needs sometimes that we can't meet as a state agency we turn to veterans home outreach," said Jordan.
From the furniture inside the home to personal items for the residents, the outreach helps to meet those needs, all of it on a volunteer basis.
"We pay for our own gasoline to go get stuff for them. We send our own time. In other words we don't have an expense account," said Sanford. "Every dime that's given to us goes directly to the veterans one hundred percent. There's no operating costs at all."
The grassroots organization did get some recognition from the home which honored Sanford with a plaque for his work and service to veteran residents.
"As employees of the home we try to provide for their every need, but at the end of the day, we're employees and we're paid, "said Jordan. "It is very special for somebody that is not paid that volunteers their time to come in and to just share with them. It's truly amazing."
While the purpose of this group is to provide for the veterans who call this place home, the hope is to eventually expand and provide for those who live outside the walls.
"There's a lot of veterans that's in need outside this home that need help and there are a number of them out there, I've met them all along," said Sanford.
And the needs are never ending. As long as they exist, Sanford says the outreach will work as long as it can, operating solely off the generosity of the community.
"The most important thing that we try to do here is create an atmosphere of caring for these veterans," said Sanford. "Trying to make the home more like a home rather than so institutionalized, make them feel at home."
A home where many have no family and where it only takes a visit from a stranger, a little outreach, to brighten a day.
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