Published Wednesday, November 15, 2023

The Osceola Council on Aging and The Home Depot Foundation Team, along with the Helping Homebound Heroes, teamed up on Veterans Day to build wheelchair ramps for Veterans living in Kissimmee and St. Cloud. PHOTO/OSCEOLA COUNCIL ON AGINGThe Osceola Council on Aging (OCOA) recently had the honor of celebrating Veterans Day 2023. Formerly known as Armistice Day, we have observed this day since the end of World War I. In the 1930s, Veterans Day on Nov. 11 became one of 10 national holidays recognized by our government to honor all Veterans who have fought for our country.

It is not just on Veterans Day that we celebrate these courageous individuals, as the OCOA champions our senior Veterans each and every day through our social services support programs.

One of those programs is our Meals on Wheels America program. The Council is one of only six agencies in the nation awarded a grant for The Helping Homebound Heroes Project, generously funded by The Home Depot Foundation. Through this program, our Meals on Wheels Veteran clients, and those with service-related disabilities, receive home modifications to enhance safety and accessibility. Services offered can include minor home repairs, installation of safety equipment (support bars, ramps, and smoke alarms), AC units, window replacement, insulation services and even leak prevention, all of which help decrease risks, while helping restore security and independence.

As an example, the OCOA and The Home Depot Foundation Team, along with the Helping Homebound Heroes, teamed up on Veterans Day to build wheelchair ramps for two local Veteran clients living in Kissimmee and St. Cloud.

In 2023 alone, we have had more than 40 senior Veteran clients receive home improvement modifications. Those same individuals receive meals through the Meals on Wheels America program, plus support by the OCOA staff and volunteers, on a regular basis Those volunteers also provide transportation as needed for medical appointments, grocery shopping, banking, and other necessary needs.

The OCOA also partners with the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA), to provide vital services to both Veteran clients and caregivers. Through the Program of General Caregiver Support Services (PGCSS) and the Program of Comprehensive Assistance for Family Caregivers (PCAFC), we provide extensive support.

“We take immense pride in our collaboration with the VA to provide community resources and assistance to Veterans and caregivers. Our Adult Day Health Care program and in-home services department are dedicated to helping Veterans maintain their independence and remain in their homes for as long as possible,” said Chris Hougland, RN, Senior VP of Health Services, Osceola Council on Aging.

Currently, our Adult Day Health Care program is serving 15 Veterans who have been referred from the VA caregiving support programs. Additionally, our in-home services department provides Health and Home Attendant services (respite care) for Veterans referred from the caregiver support programs.

As a token of our appreciation and to honor the Veterans benefiting from these services, we were also thrilled to host a special recognition event in collaboration with Halifax Health Hospice on Veterans Day. This event celebrated those Veterans in our Adult Day Health Care program and recognized the incredible dedication of their caregivers.

“We are committed to this important work to ensure our Veterans receive the care and support they deserve,” added Hougland.

Though Veterans Day is an important single day event honoring those who have served our country, I am proud of the efforts given by our staff and volunteers who support our local Veterans all year long. If you know or encounter a Veteran, please, along with the OCOA, thank them for their service.