As Veterans Day approaches, I wanted to take this opportunity to thank veterans in our community for their service to our country, including the more than 400 veterans who currently work for Lee Health. I would also like to thank Lee Health’s Military Support Program and its founder, Kim Gaide, Manager of the Community Benefits Outreach Program within our Community Affairs Department. Since 2003, the Military Support Program has been assisting, encouraging, comforting and supporting Lee County servicemen and servicewomen and their families.
The program supports active duty troops throughout the year by sending monthly care packages with personal hygiene and comfort items, as well as cutting and sending coupons to military families to use in base stores. The Military Support Program also communicates with military families for any immediate needs, such as food and utilities. The support doesn’t end after deployment, as Kim and her volunteers assist returning troops with VA benefits, wheelchairs or durable medical equipment needs, or with readjustment to civilian life.
Kim was instrumental in launching the Cape Coral Hospital Veterans Visitation Program in 2019, which joins the efforts of Lee Health, American Red Cross, United Way’s MISSION UNITED™ and Home Base Veteran and Family Care to visit veterans admitted to hospital. Veterans Visiting Program volunteers provide information about available programs and resources, along with a comforting word. The Cape Coral Hospital program was the first in the country in a civilian hospital.
Lee Health proudly supports the Military Support Program as a community affairs program, and assistance to our local service members and their families is funded solely by the generosity of our community, including the annual ham sale at Thanksgiving honey. This sale, scheduled for Monday, November 21 and Tuesday, November 22 at Cape Coral Hospital, Gulf Coast Medical Center, HealthPark Medical Center and Lee Memorial Hospital, raises funds for monthly care packages .
There is also an opportunity for our community to support our military and veteran families this holiday season by “adopting” a family. The Adopt-a-Military/Veteran Family Program allows military and local military and veterans who are experiencing financial hardship to apply to participate in the program and members of our community can sign up to purchase gifts for families with children 15 and under. .
You can find more information on how to support the Honeybaked Ham fundraiser and the Adopt-a-Military/Veteran Family program on the website; go to www.tinyurl.com/LHMSP.
The success of the military support program is undoubtedly the result of the generosity and patriotism of our community, combined with the passion and tenacity of Kim and his team of volunteers.
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Larry Antonucci, MD, MBA is the President and Chief Executive Officer of Lee Health, Southwest Florida’s leading healthcare destination, providing acute care, emergency care, rehabilitation services and diagnosis, health and wellness education, and community awareness and advocacy programs. Visit www.LeeHealth.org to learn more.