ALAMEDA -- A center that provides housing to veterans on Alameda Point got some extra attention on Martin Luther King, Jr. Day thanks to the efforts of Kaiser Permanente volunteers.
"A lot of people showed up, and that's a great thing," said Carl Drisker, a veteran who lives and helps manage Operation Dignity, a group of apartments for more than 60 adult veterans and more than children at Alameda Point.
This is the 10th year that the health maintenance organization has sent volunteers to the housing complex as part of its MLK Day of Service. (In addition to sending about 25 volunteers to Alameda Point, Kaiser Permanente had some 1,000 volunteers working on projects from San Jose to Sacramento.)
"There's lots of work to be done in our communities, and this is a way we can pay tribute to Dr. King," said Chuck Columbus, chief human resources officer for Kaiser Permanente, who has done volunteer work at Alameda Point in past years. "It's good to start with those most in need."
"The veterans in our community, and some come home with disabilities, deserve to be lifted up. That's why I'm here to volunteer," said Dr. Ronald Copeland, a surgeon, U.S. Air Force veteran, and senior vice president and chief diversity officer for Kaiser Permanente, who lives in Alameda. "Anything we can do for them aligns us with the values of Martin Luther King, Jr."
The residents of Operation Dignity, which includes seven buildings, are asked to share about 20 hours each month to keep the area looking good, according to David Rivera, a case manager for the program, which is funded by the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs.
"It's critically important to help returning veterans transition to civilian life," Rivera said. "We owe them a debt of gratitude for their service."
Some churches in Alameda share gifts with veterans that are part of Operation Dignity during the holiday and support the program in other ways, Rivera said.
"We would definitely like to see more donations and funds, so some residents can attend important family events that are out of town," he said. Residents also need a recreation area.
Rivera plans to reach out to city officials and organizations to see if a fundraising event like a 5K/10K run could be put together for Operation Dignity.
"We're grateful that Kaiser Permanente has volunteers come out here every year," he said. "They do a good job, and it's a very kind, important service they provide to this community."