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Bronx VA vets showered with gifts

For Bronx Community College Professor Monte Gray’s Methods and Skills in Human Services class, the donations that students gave to the Bronx Veterans Administration Hospital soldier patients was a hands-on experience.

“There was a psychic satisfaction that they gained by giving items such as deodorant, soap, toothpaste and combs. The giving experience was important for students who aim to be professional social workers. They spent weeks asking people to donate the items which were then transported in gift bags to the hospital on Kingsbridge Road for distribution to 100 women and men patients in the Ambulatory Patient Care Center with the renal and eye section. The James J. Peters Bronx Veterans Administration Hospital was a site chosen by First Lady Michelle Obama and Dr. Jill Biden in October before they attended the World Series Baseball Playoff, which the New York Yankees won.

“With wars going on in Afghanistan and Iraq, our students wanted to do something for their country. Their relatives and friends are sacrificing and they wanted to sacrifice to support them. They are developing skills on the importance of giving, which will serve them in their careers,” said Professor Gray.

Some of the soldiers are not able to leave the hospital and purchase these necessities conveniently on their own. Other departments across the BCC campus who joined in the effort were the 25 tutors in the Perkins Tutoring Center, the Writing Center, the Library staff, the Veterans Affairs Office, and Physical Plant Services.

Receiving the toiletries and personal items on behalf of the hospital was BCC graduate (1998) Michael Williams, president of the Alumni Association, member of the Board of Directors of the BCC Foundation, and a 12-year U.S. Marine who fought in the Gulf War. “On behalf of the soldiers for whom I work as a Nephrology Social Worker, Bronx Veterans Administration Hospital really thanks you for what you have done. I refer to my patients as in-patients in their own home, but too often they are neglected,” said Williams. He addressed his remarks to students; Professor Gray; Dr. J. Juechter, project director of the Perkins Tutoring Center; and Sociology Chair Dr. James Freeman. Freeman then thanked the 15 students for their generosity and effort in taking up the collection.

The biggest surprise for Williams was meeting Psychology Professor Rafael Mendez. Mendez had taught Williams when he studied at Bronx Community College in the 1990s after his service. Williams personally thanked Mendez for what he had learned and the recommendation he had written for Williams for admission to Yeshiva University, where he earned his degree in social work.

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