Strax with tapestry

By Linda Wright Reilly, American Red Cross

When I met Lauren Strax, I remembered something Mother Theresa once said: “It’s not how much we give but how much love we put into giving.” Lauren certainly exemplifies that maxim.

“Lauren works at Michael DeBakey VA Medical Center providing snacks, hygiene totes and genuine smiles and conversation to patients,” says Service to the Armed Forces (SAF) specialist Kimberly Isola. “Lauren doesn’t wait for us to ask her to help, she asks us. I think she’s amazing.”

Lauren is one of a handful of volunteers the American Red Cross has deployed to the hospital, located in the heart of the Texas Medical Center.  She has been volunteering there for two years, sometimes up to 35 hours per week, helping them as they deal the challenges of life after service.

But she’s quick to give the vets their due. “No one I’ve ever had the privilege of helping has ever been so selfless,” she said.

“They come in broken, sick, young…some of them are so young,” she continues. “I take care of the ins and outs of what they need, basic hygiene items, but also stuffed animals, snacks, tooth brushes. Sometimes I rummage through my house looking for a pillow I can give them. They are so grateful.”

The Red Cross provides Totes of Hope filled with useful items for veterans the world has sometimes forgotten. Lauren’s big heart makes her want to do, and offer, even more.

“Several of the rooms have multiple beds,” she explained on the phone. “Often when I offer socks, the patient asks if there are enough for everyone. They don’t want to take the last pair.”

I asked if any of the patients she’s worked with stand out…what keeps her coming back. She said yes, many…but there was one…a homeless vet, who came into the hospital a few months back. He was dirty; his clothes were torn and ragged.

“I gave him the basic stuff,” said Lauren. “Fresh socks, underwear. A couple of weeks later, he tracked me down in the hospital. He was cleaned up and had gotten a job since I saw him last. It felt so great when he thanked me.”

I thought back to Mother Theresa’s adage. “It’s the love you put into the giving.” Lauren has found her place.

If you would like to join Lauren as an SAF volunteer, please visit Become a Volunteer.