The 2018 Oxford Hills Comprehensive High School Chorus sing holiday classics for residents at Maine Veterans’ Home of South Paris. Christmas festivities are sponsored every year by the Western Maine Veterans Advisory Committee. Facebook photo

PARIS — The Western Maine Veterans Advisory Committee is looking for more volunteers as it aims to reignite its support for programs at Maine Veterans’ Home in South Paris.

The COVID-19 pandemic and a dwindling number of volunteers set back the committee’s work with the home’s residents, committee leader Richard Schur said.

The retired New York City police officer has been with the committee for about 20 years, taking on a leadership role over the past five years. He said calling the pandemic a “long stretch” is an understatement.

While the stringent guidelines put in place for residents’ health were necessary, it has been hard getting much-needed social activity programs up and running for residents, said Schur.

The committee’s work in the past has ranged from something as simple as offering company for coffee, watching a game or giving gifts at Christmas, to grander outings such as having meals out at local restaurants, and attending parades and fairs.

“We used to bring them here and there, but for the last three years they’ve been basically shut-ins,” Schur said.


Residents of Maine Veterans’ Home of South Paris enjoy a lunch shortly before the COVID-19 pandemic during an outing with the Western Maine Veterans Advisory Committee. Facebook photo

On Memorial Day, the committee helped honor fallen soldiers and veterans who have died, especially those due to COVID-19, Schur said. The home’s staff were honored with a plaque for their “hard work and sacrifice and dedication during the pandemic.”

Schur said he hopes the committee’s renewed efforts to bring back their work at the home will inspire more people to volunteer with them.

Maine Veterans’ Homes Communications Director Christine Henson said staff have always enjoyed welcoming committee members and volunteers into the home for face-time with residents. Having that partnership has meant much to residents and staff alike and the connections have been key for enriching residents’ lives, she said.

“They enjoy that kinship and, beyond that, just having a friendly face. It’s kind of a contagious thing when everyone is smiling and having a good time,” Henson said. “We’re grateful for their community outreach and the support they’ve provided through the years … and having partners like the Western Maine Veterans Advisory Committee is part of that full circle.”

Financial contributions from many surrounding towns and veterans groups has allowed the committee to fund all their activities over the years. Schur said the committee now hopes to fund a new position dedicated to outreach at the home.

The committee “will supply the money, supply the manpower,” Schur said, an attitude that lends itself to a “tell us what you want” model.

“These people,” Schur said, “we owe them and I’ll be damned if they’re going to be just warehoused.”

Anyone interested in volunteering with Western Maine Veterans Advisory Committee or at Maine Veterans’ Home in South Paris can call Schur at 207-743-8141.

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