October 6, 2020

VITAS Partners With Women's Veterans Support Group for VA Flu Shot Health Fair

A collage showing the group of women at a shopping center with a trunk full of goodies they bought; and, at right, dozens of the filled goodie bags

VITAS Admission Liaison Carole Quackenbush and her fellow members of the Ladies Auxiliary of the Military Order of the Purple Heart purchased goodies to provide to veterans at a drive-through flu shot health fair. Quackenbush and her coworker, Eric Grombala, filled hundreds of bags.

Leading outreach to our Cincinnati patients who are veterans, Carole Quackenbush operates under a guiding philosophy: Every day is Veterans Day.

To Carole, a VITAS admission liaison, this means supporting veterans throughout the community at all stages of life, whether they’re VITAS patients or not.

When Carole received a flyer from the Cincinnati Veterans Affairs (VA) Medical Center advertising a drive-thru flu shot health fair, she recognized an opportunity to connect local veterans with preventive care and offer a little extra assistance.

‘Like Lucille Ball on the Candy Production Line’

Carole contacted Nicole Cromer, volunteer manager at the Cincinnati VA, to ask how she could help on behalf of VITAS. She learned that, in addition to free flu shots, the VA would be providing bags of food to veterans who were experiencing food insecurity during the COVID-19 pandemic. Without hesitation, Carole volunteered to help assemble and distribute the goodie bags.

“We want the veteran community to know that we’re here for them.”

Carole knew she had a roster of willing volunteers ready to help veterans in need: She is a member of the Ladies Auxiliary of the Military Order of the Purple Heart Post 3620, an organization for female relatives and descendants of Purple Heart recipients. With a few calls, she recruited a team of shoppers.

Once the volunteers finished shopping, Carole and VITAS Representative Eric Grombala prepared the bags.

“Eric and I went in a couple of days before the event, and we assembled several hundred bags of goodies,” Carole says. “I felt like Lucille Ball on the candy production line.”

‘Just Appreciative to Know That Someone Cared’

On the day of the health fair, Carole and Eric met at the VA Medical Center parking lot. It had been cordoned to create a one-way traffic loop marked by several stops: a computer station for check-in and temperature scanning, a health questionnaire station where vets could confirm upcoming appointments, the flu shot station, and finally a return to the start where Carole and Eric waited with goodie bags in hand.

VITAS Admission Liaison Carole Quackenbush and VITAS Representative Eric Grombala show some of the goodie bags they filled

Carole and Eric show a few dozen of the hundreds of goodie bags they prepared.

“Eric and I directed traffic all dressed up in safety patrol jackets and hazmat-looking outfits,” Carole says. “I kept joking that we’re all set for Halloween.”

As they drove through each station, more than 100 vets received flu shots, plenty of canned goods and snacks, and information on VITAS’ veteran care. Individuals facing severe food insecurity were also given fresh produce.

“It was a beautiful day. Everybody was really happy to get a free flu shot, and they weren’t expecting the food,” Carole says. “With the state of affairs of today, with the pandemic and a lot of people being out of work, they were just appreciative to know that someone cared about them.”

Doing Whatever It Takes to Support Veterans’ Needs

VITAS Admission Liaison Carole Quackenbush with Veterans Affairs Dr. Andrew Grubbs

Carole talks with Dr. Andrew Grubbs at the VA.

Carole also had the chance to speak with several VA doctors and nurse practitioners during the event, all of whom agreed that the drive-thru flu shot format—while designed to prevent the spread of COVID-19—shows promise as a streamlined method of community-level preventive care and resource distribution in a post-pandemic future.

VITAS remains committed to doing whatever it takes to support veterans’ needs in every community we serve. Employees with Carole’s dedication, compassion, and local connections make it possible to accomplish that mission.

“Veterans are frequently overlooked,” Carole says. “At VITAS, every day is Veterans Day, and we want the veteran community to know that we’re here for them.”