Schenectady County

Veteran raising funds for hospital

World War II Navy veteran “E J” Knapik was intent on helping to raise money to renovate the hospice

World War II Navy veteran “E J” Knapik was intent on helping to raise money to renovate the hospice wing at the Samuel S. Stratton Veterans Affairs Hospital.

“Hospice rooms should have a home-like environment for veterans in the VA,” said Knapik, 81, of Glenville.

Not one to sit on the sidelines, Knapik, a member of the Amsterdam AMVETS Post 21, helped jump-start a $50,000 fundraising campaign.

The General Electric retiree also personally donated a large sum of money for the project, though he didn’t want to disclose how much.

When renovations are complete, a room on the hospice wing will be named for AMVETS, which provides services to veterans and their families.

Knapik had noticed over the years that many other veterans’ and fraternal organizations had their names on different doors or wings at the Stratton VA hospital and thought it was important that AMVETS be recognized for the work the organization does for veterans.

“It’s a steep price, but I wanted AMVETS to be represented. I spearheaded and jump-started it,” he said.

The renovation of the hospice wing is part of a larger rehabilitation project that will be done this year at Stratton VA to make the hospital feel more “homey.”

“We are going through a transformation, making it more home-like and less sterile, less hospital-like,” said Peter Potter, spokesman at Stratton VA.

Lighting is being softened and new curtains put up to lighten rooms, and the furniture in the hospice wing will weigh less so family members who want to stay with a loved one can move a chair or other piece of furniture more easily for a more comfortable visit.

The hospice wing can serve 10 patients, and the goal is making the stay for veterans in the wing as comfortable as it can possibly be in a hospital room in the last days of their life.

The hospital is also redoing the pharmacy and dental clinic this year.

The Stratton VA is not just serving 50- or 60-year-olds anymore but younger veterans as well, and it’s modernizing services and amenities offered and has added things like baby diaper-changing stations.

Potter said the Stratton VA is always looking for projects that will benefit veterans the most, and the Geriatric Care Unit approached volunteer services to help raise funds for the renovation of the hospice wing. Many groups got involved, including AMVETS.

Knapik was instrumental in raising money, said Potter, and an AMVETS plaque will be put up to thank them and let veterans know these are people who have contributed to helping veterans. “Certainly we are happy to do this. It’s an important thing to notice folks for their dedication,” said Potter.

As for Knapik, he helps get things done at the Stratton VA, said Potter. “He’s out there always working for the benefit of the vets. He’s a pillar of the veterans’ community,” Potter said.

Many veterans receive care in the final days of their life in the hospice wing, and it’s important they have a home-like environment during that time, Knapik said.

“The words ‘AMVET’ will be on door and I can rest in peace,” Knapik, past state commander of AMVETS, said.

Knapik served aboard the light cruiser USS Miami during World War II as a petty officer. For more than 32 years, he has been the state AMVETS presenter of ROTC awards at local colleges.

“I’ve been promoting AMVETS my whole life, and I wanted to see it recognized. I feel good about it,” he said.

The Stratton VA has 152 operating beds, down from a high of more than 1,000 beds. Much of the health care provided has moved from impatient to outpatient care, and there are 296,000 outpatient visits a year at the Stratton VA for more than 32,000 enrolled patients.

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