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Christ Church's Valentine's Day benefit assists injured vets at local VA hospital

In the midst of Silicon Valley, where hard work is the norm, perhaps the most heroic and difficult work of all is proceeding, unseen and unheralded, at the 15-bed Polytrauma Rehabilitation Unit at the Palo Alto Veterans Administration Hospital.

“Polytrauma” is a misleadingly bland name for one of the most searing legacies of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars: the devastating multiple injuries caused by roadside bombs. The U.S. military men and women who survive such explosions are often left with a constellation of wounds, including traumatic brain injury and loss of limbs. To regain simple skills that once came naturally, they work for many months in rehabilitation, in partnership with their family members and the Polytrauma Unit staff.

To offer the public an opportunity to support the local veterans and their families, Christ Espicopal Church has scheduled its second annual Valentine’s Day Dinner Dance 6:15 p.m. Feb. 8 at the church, 1040 Border Road, Los Altos.

The evening will feature wine and appetizers at 6:15 p.m., followed by dinner prepared by church members and dancing to live swing music by the Top Shelf Big Band. Proceeds will benefit outreach programs at the VA’s Polytrauma Unit and the Fisher Residence House.

The church’s Outreach Committee became aware of the special unit in 2011 when members received a request for personal hygiene items and art supplies. Project leaders Christopher Smith and the Rev. Lauren McCombs soon deepened their involvement as they saw firsthand the commitment of the servicemen and women, their families and the unit’s staff.

“The VA system provides modern facilities and highly trained personnel for the unit, but discretionary funds are extremely limited,” Smith said.

Renee Magana, the Palo Alto VA’s family care coordinator and community liaison, told Smith of specific items that donors and volunteers could contribute, and he set about to spread the word.

The response has been gratifying, Smith said, and donations continue to pour in from church members. Last year’s benefit dance provided funds for CD players, a lending library of music and DVDs, an Apple iPad and a monthly dinner program. Best Buy in Mountain View donated two portable DVD players, and Los Altos Hardware added a set of carpentry tools. Donations from Filoli garden volunteers support the unit’s therapeutic garden project.

Led by parishioner Alice Larse, one group from Christ Episcopal Church serves homemade food at Fisher House, which provides lodging for patients’ families.

Aided by support from The Pasta Market and Spot Pizza, another team from the church delivers and serves dinners at the Polytrauma Unit, offering patients and their families a chance to dine together.

“Our work at the VA is a good match for our parishioners, because many have served in the military and can relate to what it means to serve our country,” McCombs said. “By bringing one of the patients, a Navy SEAL, to our summer picnic, we were able as a community to bring a face to the war in Afghanistan and to more deeply understand the impacts of this war.”

The public is invited to attend and bring friends to the Valentine’s Day Dinner Dance.

Tickets, $35, are available at the door.

For reservations and more information, call 948-2151, email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. by Feb. 4 or visit www.ccla.us.

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