VAVS Volunteer: Donna Ray

Posted On: Tuesday, 12 March 2024

Veterans Affairs Voluntary Service (VAVS) supports the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs and Veterans Health Administration strategic goals by recruiting, supporting, and retaining a knowledgeable, diverse, and engaged supplemental workforce of volunteers to assist management in the delivery of VA health care. To learn more about VAVS, visit
Donna Ray, pictured here on left, is an ALA member from the Department of Ohio, shares her VAVS experiences as the third and final part of this blog series.
How long have you been a VAVS volunteer? 
I have been involved with the VA for 38 years. I have been a hospital representative for 10 years and enjoying every day I can be there to help.
What first interested you in joining VAVS?  
When I walk into the VA, I feel the joy of saying hello to all veterans and their families. I love seeing children come into the hospitals, holding their mom or dad’s hands for their appointment. I give coloring books and crayons to the children to give them something to do while they wait. This makes it easier for them to see we care.
What are some of the tasks you do as a volunteer?
As a representative, myself, deputy, Sons of The American Legion past commander, past district president, and a unit member help with delivering toiletries, snacks, word search books, blankets, socks to dialysis, Community Living Center, floors 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, and 7. It’s funny because when we get to the floors, some of the veterans will laugh and say, ‘Here come the goodies.’ We also help with the different holidays with gifts, cookies, fruit, and goodie bags for the Community Living Center. They love when we decorate and sometimes come dress up.
Why is it important to you to help our veterans in this way?
If you have ever walked into a VA hospital and watched some of the faces that are sad, you would see we need to be there. There has never been a day go by without saying, ‘Good morning! Can I help you find something?’ and make sure they get on the elevators and talk about how their days is going. Sometimes you have to try and make them smile to feel better. I love the VA and the veterans by keeping a smile on my face to show the day will get better.
What is your favorite reason for being a VAVS volunteer?
I’ve been given a chance to help a veteran, if only by saying ‘How are you today?’ If they are sad, smile, talk to them, say something positive, and you’ll be surprised just what an impression you made to the veterans.
Any personal stories you want to share from interacting with veterans and/or their families?
There are so many wonderful stories I’ve heard, but one I will never forget: We had a veteran who was 97 years old, and every Tuesday, he came to the hospital to volunteer. He had volunteered for 57 years at the VA. When he needed a ride home, which he lived close to me, I would drive him home and we talked about his service, family, and friends. When he passed, I felt like I had lost a grandpa and close friend.  
What advice would you give to fellow ALA members thinking about becoming a VAVS volunteer?
Give it a chance to be a volunteer. There are so many avenues you can go to be a volunteer. You sometimes will come into the hospital unhappy, and as soon as you walk in the door, you will see how important you are to the VA. 
Is there anything else you want to add?
Veterans and their families should be a big part of giving back and remember why we are free.

ALA Mission

In the spirit of Service, Not Self, the mission of the American Legion Auxiliary is to support The American Legion and to honor the sacrifice of those who serve by enhancing the lives of our veterans, military, and their families, both at home and abroad. For God and Country, we advocate for veterans, educate our citizens, mentor youth, and promote patriotism, good citizenship, peace and security.