OT alum prepares goodie bags for isolated veterans

Ericka Napoli (MS Occupational Therapy, 2011; pictured in front) along with Stacy Olson, both from Whole Health, stuff goodie bags that will be distributed to some of our most at-need and isolated Veterans.
Originally appeared April 3, 2020 on the Milwaukee VA Medical Center website. Leaving the Graduate School website
Before the coronavirus pandemic, the Milwaukee VA Medical Center was more than just a hospital. For many Veterans, it was their social connection to hang out with friends and share common experiences.

And now that’s gone away.

A group of Milwaukee employees from Whole Health, Voluntary Services and Logistics are doing what they can to help those most in need.

They are working together to mail out goodie bags to some of our Veterans who may find themselves more socially isolated than most people.

Ericka Napoli, who works in Whole Health, came up with the idea to reach out to those Veterans.

“We’ve been concerned for those who have no way to be social. What has been so rewarding is seeing everyone come together to make this happen,” she said.

Napoli first checked with Voluntary Services. Since normal donations such as clothes, books and other items are on hold during the pandemic, Torrie Hutchison dug deep into the reserves and put together enough for 33 bags.

Each bag contains a Whole Health folder with activities, playing cards with rules for different ways to play Solitaire, bagged popcorn, Bombas socks, puzzles, craft kits, a music CD and movie DVD, tissues and lip balm.

Each package comes with letter that says: “During this time of uncertainty, we want you to know that you are on our mind. The items in this Whole Health ‘Grab and Go Kit’ are meant to offer you an entertaining way to spend your time in hopes you find these activities meaningful as well as bring you some peace and joy.

“Please keep in mind this situation is temporary. Time will pass by, and soon we will be outside enjoying the warm weather, watching our favorite sports teams, smelling the neighborhood grills, planting our vegetable gardens and attending our favorite group/class at the Milwaukee VA … ”

Because donations were limited, Napoli went back to therapists and social workers to find those most in need at this time.

After she, Olson and Hutchison stuffed all the bags, they worked with Logistics for the final step, to box them up and mail them out. Each box cost $9 to send.

“I talked to a Veteran who does our programs, and he told me he never realized how much he misses VA. He never realized how much he needed it,” Olson said. “We hope this gives them something and lets them know they’re not forgotten.”