The following was written last year after months of preparation for the Rabun County Veterans’ Dinner. This year there will be another ride, bigger and better than the first.
Join us with your motorcycle or jeep on October 13th at the Rabun County, Clayton City Hall parking lot. To keep updated on the status of the ride and the dinner, please go to the Rabun County Veterans webpage.
Veterans’ Appreciation 2011 by Robin Watts
Four months of exhausting, exhilarating efforts reached a pinnacle of contentment on Friday, November 11th, 2011.
Regency’s Hospice for Heroes program was initiated to honor and serve veterans with a specific focus on understanding the needs of our veterans and offering recognition and gratitude in a respectful manner.
The Hospice for Heroes Motorcycle Run for Veterans offered a unique opportunity to the community to contribute time, money, and thought into creating an atmosphere of community awareness of the Veterans’ Appreciation Dinner and of veterans in general.
Trying to coordinate efforts for the ride was a new experience for our staff. The Georgia State Patrol, the VA Clinic, and City Hall were the beginning of the core product to be promoted. T-shirts, flyers, marketing, and praying for good weather were continuous activities for the months leading to the actual ride. Part of the t-shirt activity involved getting the ride sponsors recruited so their names would be displayed prominently by the registered riders. Bill Kellogg of Kellogg’s Specialties in Cornelia said he wanted to do something special for hospice and for veterans and gave me an awesome rate on the shirts even after I consistently contacted him with indecisions about what to put on the shirts. The flyers consisted of the usual distribution to community banks, stores and networking groups. No one told me how many times a flyer could change; too dark, too much information, not enough information, no map, and finally enough feedback submitted to proclaim the flyers as acceptable and now, marketing could begin.
The sponsors surely needed more than to have their name on the shirt. It was important for them to have a web presence and so the sponsors were put on the veterans’ web page. The web page just became a part of life after the regular work day ended. Day after day, I entered pictures of veterans on the web page and made sure the spelling was correct and that each person’s picture was accessible. This turned into my personal memorial service of gratitude. As each picture was posted, I discovered how much I appreciated each veteran individually and finally collectively. How blessed to be able to review these pictures and know that each veteran has a story and deserves more than a moment of thanks. The pictures were taken from a slideshow presentation that plays every year at the Veterans’ Appreciation Dinner. Ron Barden puts the slideshow together and I wonder if anyone knows how much effort is involved in his contribution. I have an idea and know I will be thanking him the next time our paths cross.
The day for the ride finally arrived and was quite successful with a great group of riders led by state patrolman Mike Hopkins and a picture perfect day to see the beauty of North Georgia mountains. Regency staff were waiting at the half way point of the ride with refreshments and a celebratory greeting of music and laughter as we pulled into the VA clinic parking lot. Arriving back at Clayton City Hall, the food was plentiful and I could feel a wonderful bond beginning to form. The band that played only contributed a few songs because I cut them short to announce door prizes and gifts. The Due West band had come from Kennesaw Georgia without charge. They were wonderful and although they may have felt like their show could have been longer, their contribution was invaluable. The donation from Clayton City Hall was an amazing end to the day. Cissy Henry and staff made this event happen from the first day I walked into the City Hall office and said, “I have an idea and don’t know what to do next”. They made calls and visits to secure donations of food, spoke on the radio, distributed flyers and offered use of the Clayton City Hall parking lot as a begin/end point as well as use of their cafeteria and then participated either in the ride or volunteering during lunch and clean up.
Every sponsor was gracious in accepting my request to donate. It was very important to ask for sponsors but not to pressure anyone into saying, “yes”. The people who sponsored gave proudly from the heart. Cindy’s Dragonfly, War Pony Customs, KES Group, Dr. Gober/Tiger Clinic, Dr. Jarrard, Greg Brown, Mountain Physical Therapy, Rabun Builders, Community Bank & Trust, and the City of Clayton were exceptional sponsors with many of them giving more than just the requested sponsorship dollars.
Friday, November 11th was the target of all this activity. The Rabun County Chamber of Commerce is to be commended for making sure this event grows stronger every year. The staff work to make sure it is memorable and entertaining. Kathy Blalock heads up the events committee for the Chamber. She and the chamber staff receive comments and accolades on a statewide level for their efforts. Kathy choreographed a large group of volunteers the morning of the 11th to set up the civic center to be appropriately decorated and worthy of welcoming each veteran.
I have no pictures of the evening except the one that will live forever in my memory. As the evening began, the lines moved slowly as each person filled their plate with the delicious food from the Dillard House. I was to speak at one point and had a 5 minute presentation prepared. I would speak about Regency Hospice and how we care for veterans. I would speak of veterans on our service for whom we have had recognition ceremonies and of those who have found resolution through our activities and service. I would end the speech with gratitude to all our service men and women. It didn’t happen quite that way.
At my table were sitting some of the most important people I will ever know – my husband who is a Vietnam veteran, my father who is a Korean Conflict veteran and my sister. As I took my prepared speech to the podium and the spotlight shone on me in front of more than 500 people, I introduced myself as a representative for Regency Hospice. I knew this night was about more than what we as a company have done. This was a night about what this particular audience has done to make it possible for me to have the freedom to stand before them.
I spoke of caring for patients physically, emotionally and spiritually and how many people think we have a difficult job.
“I know this from working in hospice,” I began. “All we have is this day, this moment, to say ‘I’m sorry, I love you, and thank you’ so it is important to tell all of you now how much we appreciate your service to our country”.
Four months after the first thoughts, I stood before our heroes to thank them. I then turned to my personal heroes and did what should have been done years ago; I thanked my husband and father publicly for their service to their country. 11/11/11 will be an evening I won’t soon forget.
Posted via email from Hospice Volunteer Training Online