Wednesday, December 24, 2014

Miss Edna Henke and the VA Gift Shop

L-R.  Ken Manning, two nurses, John Dambach, others unidentified, and Edna Henke
This is a small selection of the several dozen photos we have of the volunteers and patients at the Veterans Administration Hospital. Most of the photos center around the Christmas Gift Shop program and including Miss Edna Henke.  We may put some more up another time.

Edna Henke, founder of the first Veterans Administration Hospital gift shop, used a wheelchair because she suffered from polio as a girl.  She spent much of her life serving others.  In 1935, while volunteering at the Kerrville Veterans Hospital, she noticed that at Christmas the patients were sad because they could not go home to their families, nor could their families visit because most of the patients had tuberculosis.  Edna arranged for presents to be donated.  She displayed them in the trunk of her car so the patients could choose presents for their family members.  There was no charge to the patients.
The next year the Gift Program expanded as other volunteers pitched in to help and the presents were displayed in an unused closet.  The patients selected the gifts and the volunteers wrapped and mailed them.
In 1948 her pain in getting around was noticed by hospital authorities who prevailed on her to accept a wheelchair, which the hospital furnished.
By 1950 the Gift Program had become a feature in every VA hospital in the country.
Edna Henke died March 28, 1983, at the age of 88 and is buried at Glen Rest Cemetery in Kerrville.

The four men on the left were patients.  On the right are Dr. Judd Kirkham, Bessie Adams, and Edna Henke.

In the photo on the left are Miss Edna Henke and Billy J. Wolfe from Fort Worth.  Standing left to right are Gus Garcia of Laredo; Dr. Judd Kirkham; Mrs. Jane Rishworth, State Secretary-Treasurer of the American Legion Auxiliary; and Frank Pavlicek of Shulenburg, Texas.  In photo on the right, Charles W. Page of Tecumseh, Oklahoma.

This photo shows Efis LeBlanc, a gift shop volunteer, who lived here and here.  The second house, once the Kerrville Fire Dept. headquarters, was removed in summer 2014.  The other two people are Edna Henke and Travis Lee, director of volunteer work.

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