INFOBOX: IF YOU GO

WHAT — Weekly Recreational Activities Program

WHERE — VA Health Care Center, 2601 Veterans Drive, Harlingen

MONDAY — Art from 2 to 3 p.m.

TUESDAY — Yoga from 2 to 3 p.m.

WEDNESDAY — Music (guitar) from 2 to 3 p.m.

THURSDAY — Tai chi from 2 to 3 p.m.

For more information, contact VA Recreational Specialist Jessica Hernandez at (956) 291-9000, extension 69698.

By ALANA HERNANDEZ

Staff Writer

HARLINGEN — For some, Mondays are an unpopular day of the week that arrives too quickly.

But for retired U.S. Army Veteran Lorraine Savastano, it’s a wonderful day where she’s able to channel her feelings and creativity.

Yesterday, Savastano and four other veterans attended a free art class held by The VA Texas Valley Coastal Bend Health Care System (VCB) in Harlingen.

The art class is part of VCB’s Recreational Activities Program, which offers free weekly classes for recreational activities such as art, yoga, music and tai chi.

A different class is offered Monday through Thursday from 2 to 3 p.m.

Art is held Mondays, yoga is held Tuesdays, guitar classes are held Wednesdays and tai chi classes are held Thursdays.

Each class has a max capacity of 10 people and is open to veterans on a first come first serve basis.

VCB launched the new program in June with the aim of helping veterans reach their envisioned healthiest lifestyle.

“Things like art classes, tai chi, yoga and music helps veterans express themselves in nontraditional ways, but still be able to get the benefits,” said John Miller, VCB’s Health Behavior Coordinator. “So, in whole health we look for different ways we can provide our veterans to be able to express themselves and learn how they can really live their life to the fullest by making these kinds of changes.”

The art class

From mixing colors to creating depth in their artwork, veterans are able to learn a variety of painting techniques through VCB’s weekly art class.

However, that’s not the only impact this class has for veterans.

For retired veteran Daniel Castillo, a volunteer art instructor for the class, art is a form of therapy.

“I find art to be relieving because it gives something else to think about besides home issues, medical issues or stuff like that,” he explained. “When they’re in this class, their mind is not on those things. It’s on what they’re going to paint and how they can improve their artwork.”

Mike Garcia, a retired U.S. Army Veteran, is one of the art classes’ pioneering attendees and has been visiting since it began in June.

For him, the class is relaxing and helpful.

“It helps you keep your mind off of your problems, your depression or whatever you’re diagnosed with,” he said. “You do what you got to do to take care of yourself I any way you can.”

Looking ahead

VA Recreational Specialist Jessica Hernandez said the ultimate goal is to expand the Recreational Activities Program to VCB’s facilities in McAllen, Corpus Christi and Laredo.

As a medically retired Air Force Veteran, Hernandez said working with the program is her way of being able to continue serving.

“This program is my baby,” she said. “My whole purpose of being here at the VA is to give back to my veterans and I through this, I want to offer them a fun way of relieving their stress.”

IF YOU GO

WHAT — Weekly Recreational Activities Program

WHERE — VA Health Care Center, 2601 Veterans Drive, Harlingen

MONDAY — Art from 2 to 3 p.m.

TUESDAY — Yoga from 2 to 3 p.m.

WEDNESDAY — Music (guitar) from 2 to 3 p.m.

THURSDAY — Tai chi from 2 to 3 p.m.

For more information, contact VA Recreational Specialist Jessica Hernandez at (956) 291-9000, extension 69698.