Saturday morning, “Operation Christmas Stand Down” took place, with local officers and officials from the Washoe County’s Sheriff’s Office visiting the Veterans Affairs Hospital located at 1000 Locust Way in Reno.
Volunteers dropped off gift bags that included crossword puzzles, hygiene supplies and stationery that had been donated by the community and for part of the morning, spent time with the men and women residing at the hospital.
Co-organizers Maureen Callis and Lisa Lane said they were pleased with the turnout, this being the first event of its kind.
“It’s overwhelming because you’re looking at the men and women that make this country what it is,” Callis said, explaining that visits spike during the holiday season but are relatively low the rest of the year. “It’s important to us, because this is important to them. They are hungry to talk to someone.”
One man in particular, Mike McCaw, was especially hungry to talk and share his hearty laugh with others.
McCaw served in the Vietnam War and was an avid skier before having one leg amputated below his knee as a result of diabetes complications, but he doesn’t let it get him down.
“I’m not discouraged about it,” McCaw said, mentioning that once his wound heals, he plans to ski and fish again with the help of a prosthetic. “It gives me hope to know that there is a future.”
On a day-to-day basis, McCaw said he keeps up his positive attitude in order to cheer up his fellow patients, some of whom, he explained, have no other place to go.
“My whole heart is about lifting people up,” McCaw said. “But the morale (after Christmas) does go down. Having different people come in to see breaks up the monotony.”
With plans already in gear for a similar visit after the Fourth of July holiday, Lane said they hope they can keep the momentum going with outdoor activities like bicycle trips.
“It was really good to walk into their rooms and interact with them,” Lane said. “They were very receptive.”
In another part of town, the Koz’s Kloset, which is a part of the Koz’s Kids program that helps children in transition between homes, foster care or emergency shelters, was opened and dedicated at the Kid’s Kampus Activity Center at 2805 Longley Lane.
Koz’s Kids was created in memory of Cheryl “Koz” Kosewicz, who had served as a deputy district attorney in both Washoe and Clark counties, and was particularly active in helping the children involved in domestic cases. Kosewicz died in 2007.
The Koz’s Kids committee, partnered with the Reno Rodeo Foundation, has been working to help children, particularly those whose families are involved in the courts system. Koz’s Kloset will provide one part of that service, giving new luggage, clothes and backpacks to help with the oftentimes difficult transition.
“Our goal is to service as many of the foster kids as possible,” said Linda Nordvig, co-chair alongside Kelli Anne Vilorin. Both women were close friends with Kosewicz. “These are the kids that Cheryl helped, they’re the victims … they can’t do it themselves, we need to help them.”
Administration director at Kid’s Kottage Emergency Shelter Bert Wells said he is pleased with such a program, explaining that everyday supplies like a backpack are vital to these children as many are uprooted from their everyday home situations with nothing but a paper or plastic bag in which to carry their belongings.
“These kids, many times, come with few things, some nothing at all,” Wells said. “As they leave to the next step, we do anything we can do to make their situation more normal because this is a very traumatic situation for then.”
Also present at the dedication ceremony were Kosewicz’s parents, Ted and Ann, who have also started up a Koz’s Kloset in Las Vegas where they live.
“I know that my daughter loved children,” Ann said. “She helped kids and now we’re helping them.”
For more information about Koz’s Kloset, visit www.renorodeofoundation.org/kozs_kids.htm.