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Marion VA hosts eventful ‘Stuff the Bus’ food drive, health fair

MARION — If you come out to the Marion VA Medical Center on Thursday, you might have thought fair season opened early with all the music, tents, lawn games, drumming, lawn yoga, and refreshments. 


Participants return from the VA2K walk at Marion VA Medical Center Thursday during a health fair event.  

Robert Robbins

People came to the VA campus to see what the event was all about, which was a multifaceted health fair put on by the VA and community groups.

“We couldn’t ask for better weather for a better day!” said Willy Martinez, Public Affairs Specialist for the VA. 

The health fair wasn’t just about one thing, but several.

There was a food drive called “Stuff the Bus” where people could donate their pantry goods in attempt to fill up a bus. 

The Stuff the Bus event, meant to be a creative take on past donation drives, drew lines of people donating to food insecure veterans.

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Stuff the Bus

A bus is parked outside the Marion VA Medical Center on Thursday during a fair-like gathering. The bus was filled with pantry donations for veterans who need help with food.  

Robert Robbins

“I just want to say thanks to all the community partners who have come out to help us stuff the bus,” said Martinez. 


A woman is seen walking across the parking lot of Marion VA Medical Center on Thursday during the health fair, near information tents educating the public about all the services the VA offers. 

Robert Robbins

Another event going on was a health walk called VA2k, where community partners helped to put on the event and staff could be seen walking the campus grounds along the sidewalks. 

VA Hosts health fair, VA2K, and food drive

Robert Robbins

“We walk to show health and to support different veteran programs that are out there,” Martinez said. The VA2k walk is a modest 1.2 miles along the beautiful sidewalk paths at the VA. Informational lawn placards decorated the way, educating participants of different health concerns and ways to treat them, from heart disease to tobacco use.  

The fair also included tents and tables where participants could visit and receive information about all the VA has to offer.  

“We have 24 different VA services out here, from LGBTQ services to home services to community in the care to PTSD to recover services; you name it, we have them out here,” said Martinez. 

“We’re here to support having healthy relationships, because veterans are twice as likely to have had traumatic events that affect their relationships,” said Hayley Orendoff, Intimate Partner Violence Assistance Coordinator, who had a table at the event.

“So we have trauma in our lives, it affects how present we are in our relationships, and that can increase the conflict, the aggression, all those things. So we are here with resources with the VA or we partner up with our community resources to help them out with solving those issues and having better, safer relationships,” Orendoff said.


A yoga instructor demonstrates a yoga pose Thursday during the Health Fair on the lawn of the Marion VA Medical Center. 

Robert Robbins

For those who were more hands-on, the VA offered Tai chi, yoga, and reflexology demonstrations, as well as a drum circle.

The VA regularly offers outdoor adventures, archery, hiking, kayaking, drum circles, art therapy, writing classes, as well as a host of whole-health programs for veterans looking for more than just a doctor checkup or prescription. 

“We’re changing the paradigm so that the veteran is at the center. The veteran lets us know what it is we can do to make them feel better. It’s not what’s the matter with them; it’s what matters to them,” Martinez said. 

“So if the veteran has the a goal of being able to fit in a uniform or maybe their daughter is getting married in eight months, they will connect with one of our whole-health coaches and then they will set them up with different classes that they can take, they’ll set them up with a dietitian, they can take yoga classes along the way, just whatever their life goal is, we try to supplement whatever it is we can do for them, so that they can live fuller lives and enjoy the moments that they have,” added Martinez. 

“It is more body maintenance than anything. You take your car to the mechanic every six months to get the oil changed. That’s the same concept we are trying to adopt here,” Martinez said. 

The health fair drew dozens upon dozens of people who had the opportunity to learn all about the many services the VA offers veterans. 

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