We fund monthly luncheons for the 32 inpatients and numerous outpatients at the Jefferson Barracks SCI/D Unit, which include patients, their families and unit staff. At an average luncheon, we will serve 80-100 people. We also fund holiday dinners for the inpatients. These occasions are a great opportunity for veterans who were injured years ago to meet with and provide support to the newly injured veterans at the spinal cord unit. It also is an opportunity for the family members to meet and share experiences. The Chapter also provides calling cards for patients to keep in touch with their loved ones, day room snacks and soda, volunteer's supplies and various other benefits to our veterans who must spend time in the hospital.
Gateway members serve as peer counselors to newly injured or diagnosed spinal cord disease veterans in a VA approved Peer Counseling Program. Members with years of experience living with spinal cord injury or diseases like Multiple Sclerosis, match up with the newly injured or diagnosed veterans. These newly hospitalized individuals, both men and women, may have been injured while on active duty in Iraq or Afghanistan, or several years later after having been discharged. The program tries to assign counselors based upon age, injury level, and life experience. Counselors undergo through training for their assignments and adhere to strict federal guidance on patient privacy. The counselors are members who can truly say to the newly injured: "I know what you're going through." Two of our Gateway Board members sit on the Advisory Council with professional VA staff, overseeing the Peer Counseling Program.