Business & Economy

VFW donation helps expand Namaste program at Veterans Home

Editor’s note: This article is by Mark Rondeau of the Bennington Banner, in which it was first published July 14, 2014.

BENNINGTON -- A large donation from Manchester Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 6471 has enabled the Vermont Veterans' Home to expand its Namaste program.

This included buying furnishings for the Namaste room, which has a scenic view of the landscape and pond in back of the home.

"For those of you who don't know the history of Namaste, ‘Namaste' is Hindu for ‘honoring the spirit within,' and several years ago a consultant, Joyce Simard, worked with the staff at the Veterans' Home to do a Namaste at Freedom Village and that program has gone international," said Veterans' Home CEO Melissa Jackson at a ribbon-cutting ceremony for the room Sunday.

"We've had incredible success with this program, giving non-pharmacological intervention to anxiety, dementia behaviors, and we're finding that for our individuals with a mental illness or MS, the soothing environment helps their symptoms as well," Jackson said.

"Our wish list, after our geothermal project ended, was to make this room used more than it was, and the VFW came to us," she said.

According to a booklet available at the event, the mission of the Namaste Living program at the home is to capture positive responses in the Namaste environment during sensory, reminisce, and relaxation therapies; to "utilize and set up (a) pleasant environment and encourage staff and family participation in a quiet atmosphere;" the foremost goals are respect, dignity and pain management.

Col. Al Faxon, chief operating officer of the Veterans' Home, said the Manchester VFW wanted to do something for the veterans.

"And I said, ‘How about if I come up and give you a quick presentation on something that we're sorely lacking, something that we've wanted to do, because we have a Namaste room on the other side of the building," he said. "Once I showed them what we would like to do, they jumped right on board with it and $40,000 -- some of it we haven't spent yet."

Veterans' Home Trustee Brenda Cruickshank, an official with the state VFW, said the post received a national award because of this donation to the home.

Rein Tofer, commander of Manchester Post 6471, said it built up a fund of $60,000 and donated $40,000 from that. The post's members voted to use the majority of that money to benefit their fellow veterans instead of spreading smaller amounts around.

Joseph Krawczyk, president of the Home's Board of Trustees, said the home is not part of the Veterans Administration, and only occasionally gets grants from the VA for capital projects.

"It's so important that the local community organizations, the service organizations and fraternal organizations contribute so much."

He also noted contributions from the Bennington VFW post and companies like Home Depot, which gave the home $10,000 for construction of an outside deck.

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