FORT POLK, La. –
The American Red Cross, the United States Army Garrison and Bayne-Jones Army Community Hospital signed memorandums of understanding at 8:30 a.m. ahead of the installation Veterans Day Ceremony, Nov. 10 at the Joint Readiness Training Center and Fort Polk, Louisiana.
Col. Sam Smith, garrison commander said Fort Polk and the American Red Cross have a decade’s long relationship of mutual support.
“The Red Cross is a great organization,” he said, “This agreement will allow us to leverage their expertise and training. The Red Cross is an important asset to the installation. This is a great partnership and we are glad to be a part of it.”
Smith said the MOU outlines that the Red Cross will provide emergency services, build family resiliency through training opportunities, engage volunteers, conduct educational outreach briefings, provide information and referral services and develop programs as needed.
“Renewing our agreement with the Red Cross during our Veterans Day Ceremony is significant,” he said. “I’ve learned that there are a lot of veterans serving in their organization. It’s not just about being a veteran, but about giving back to our society and community. Being a Red Cross volunteer is another way you can serve your country.”
Col. Aristotle Vaseliades, BJACH commander, said he looks forward to getting Red Cross volunteers back into the hospital and the MOU outlines what that will look like.
“The COVID-19 pandemic impacted our ability to have volunteers in our facilities,” he said. “Renewing our partnership with the Red Cross will enable us to reinvigorate our volunteer and training programs at the hospital.”
Vaseliades said BJACH and the Red Cross are currently collaborating on a pharmacy technician program.
“The Red Cross is currently taking applications for the pharmacy tech program, a 26-week classroom and clinical training opportunity for military Family members 18-years and older,” he said. “This certification program will give military Family members a transportable career that they can take with them from duty station to duty station. Our partnership with the Red Cross is vital not only for the military treatment facility but our installation.”
Leslie Jones, service to the armed forces, regional program director for the Red Cross said the MOU is crucial because it solidifies the relationship the American Red Cross has with the military.
“Fort Polk is considered one of the big 20 installations in the country, which is why we have a full-time staff person stationed here,” she said. “We want to make sure the support is outlined formally. There is so much that the Red Cross does that Soldiers, Families and veterans don’t even realize.”
Jones said having the support of the Garrison and BJACH commanders enables the Red Cross to bring their services to the community.
“With COVID-19 there was a big shift in how many volunteers were allowed in the hospital,” she said. “We are really excited to get the word out that BJACH is ready for volunteers. The Red Cross is the only organization that facilitates volunteerism at the hospital and its facilities.”
Chuck Lopushansky is currently one of three Red Cross volunteer on staff at BJACH. As an Army veteran, Lopushansky began his military career as a telephone line installer which evolved into information technology.
“I began volunteering at BJACH in 2018. I work two days per week at the information management division’s help desk. I have a background in IT and a bachelor’s degree in computer science so it’s a great fit for me,” he said. “It is really rewarding, knowing you are making a difference. I love showing up and helping people out. This MOU is important to me so I can continue to volunteer at the hospital.”
Editor’s Note: For more information on becoming a volunteer at BJACH, contact Lorie Warchol, regional program manager, American Red Cross, Service to the Armed Forces & International Services, Louisiana Region at 337-375-5644 or firstname.lastname@example.org.