In the spirit of attending to the needs of others, Mateo Rivera and his sister Dulcé spent some of their summer volunteering at their local VA health care system in New Orleans.
The Rivera brother-sister duo joined over 30 other area high school students who participated in the Southeast Louisiana Veterans Health Care System’s Junior Volunteer Program and served in various roles helping care for the men and women who have worn the uniform.
For Mateo and Dulcé, giving up one day a week of their summer to support Veterans is second nature to them.
“From the time they could crawl, Mateo and Dulcé have shared in our family’s dedication and commitment to caring for those who have sacrificed so that we can live freely today,” said their father Fernando O. Rivera, Director of the Southeast Louisiana Veterans Health Care System.
Mateo and Dulcé join their father, older brother Fernando, Jr., former Junior Volunteer, and me, a lifelong VA employee, supporting Veterans in a very direct way.
For the Rivera family, service to Veterans is simply part of the fabric of showing gratitude to America’s men and women who served in the armed forces. Growing up, Mateo and Dulcé helped distribute gifts of socks and toiletries when they were younger, participated in homeless Veterans events, and even had the opportunity to share birthday and holiday celebrations with some of the United States’ oldest living Veterans.
This summer, Mateo was recognized for contributing over 100 hours of service in a mental health program known as the THRIVE Whole Health Program. There he helped provide administrative support and served as a friendly face and warm greeter to Veterans seeking care. His supervisor noted his gentle, caring spirit as a contribution to his practical work.
Dulce worked in the biomedical engineering department. There she learned how the equipment meets the health care needs of patients and provided inventory support to the newly built facility. She also contributed over 100 hours of service.
Mateo and Dulce serving Veterans during the New Orleans stand down
The Junior Volunteer Program at the Southeast Louisiana Veterans Health Care System is made possible by the contribution of senior Veteran volunteers who have blazed a trail for the younger generation. Mr. and Mrs. Stephen Lassere, (pictured below) representing the Military Order of the Purple Heart, provided funding to support this year’s program. They are living examples of volunteerism and the real-world benefit of giving back to those who served and are still serving.
Five people in a group shot of people at VA hospital
From left to right: Mateo Rivera, Stephen Lassere, Priscilla Lassere, Dulce Rivera, Fernando O. Rivera
Young or old, you, too, can share in this service to our nation’s veterans. If you are interested in volunteering at your local Veterans hospital, get more information here.
About the author: Stacie M. Rivera is the mother of Mateo and Dulce Rivera and is a Public Affairs Specialist with the Department of Veterans Affairs.