Skip to Main Content
Hunger Beat

"The least I can do is give back’: Veteran volunteers help hospital that helped them

In 2014, Bob McMahon found the Edward Hines, Jr. VA Hospital Food Pantry after he was living in a tent near the Chicago River for more than three years. During Bob’s time as a patient, he visited the food pantry located inside the hospital. “As good as this hospital is to me, the least I can do is give back,” Bob said. “This hospital made me a better man.” The Hines VA Food Pantry opened in November 2014. The pantry, a collaboration with the VA, AmeriCorps and the Food Depository, was one of the first pantries in Illinois to be housed in a VA hospital. Bob has been volunteering at the pantry every Thursday for more than two years. “I know some of these people are not feeling good so if I can do something to help them feel better, I will,” Bob said. “I give back to these guys who are in worse shape than I was.” Bob, a disabled veteran, cannot work because he has chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD). He originally came to the hospital to have eye surgery. “I can’t work, but I can volunteer,” Bob said. “I stand here and smile, which makes people happy to see me.” Bob's story is also featured in the From Hungry to Hopeful™ campaign. Alongside Bob, Rich Urdiales volunteers two to three hours every week.
Rich Urdiales at the Hines VA Food Pantry

Rich Urdiales served in the Vietnam War. He volunteers to give back to fellow veterans.

Rich has been volunteering at the Hines VA Food Pantry for the past two years. After visiting the hospital, he felt as a veteran in good health he should give back. Rich, a cancer survivor, says his previous health problems motivate him to keep volunteering. “When you see these guys, you can see it is tough for them. I am very grateful I still have my health and am able to help out,” Rich said. Rich said he enjoys serving at the pantry because he gets to talk to a variety of young and older veterans. Rich served in the Vietnam War, but he said he learns a lot about the Korean War and World War II by talking to veterans who come to the pantry each week. “I’m grateful for what they did and they are grateful for what I did,” Rich said. Each week, volunteers like Bob and Rich distribute fresh produce, meat and other food to more than 120 veteran households. If you are interested in learning more about volunteering with the Food Depository, visit our volunteer page.

Share This Post

More Recent Stories