SALISBURY, NC (WBTV) - Provided to WBTV by the Salisbury VA Medical Center: With a low of 23 degrees, the week before Christmas was unseasonably cool for North Carolina. It wasn't unusual for a Veteran to come to the Mental Health desk and ask to see someone in the homeless program. The program provides a range of services, from housing assistance to connecting Veterans in need with resources. In this case, the Veteran just wanted a coat.
Shadarius Barksdale, an advanced medical support assistant who was scheduling and checking in Veterans at the Mental Health desk that day, called the homeless program social worker on duty who came and assisted the Veteran. But, the Veteran returned empty handed.
"They didn't have his size," Barksdale said. "He was a bigger guy. As you can see, I'm a big guy… my coat was a 5x, and he looked like he was about 4x." So, Barksdale took his coat and handed it to the Veteran. "It was right around Christmas time so I was like 'Merry Christmas'."
Azjah Stallings, another MSA, was working that day. "It was cold then, and Shadarius just offered his coat," Stallings recalled. According to her, the Veteran asked 'are you sure?' and Shadarius just replied, 'Yes, I'm sure. Trust me, it's fine."
According to Stallings, "That's just his character. He's a very giving person."
For Barksdale, it was just the right thing to do, even though it was his only coat. "I always try to put myself in other people's shoes. I treat people the way I want to be treated," Barksdale said. "What you put out is what you get back."
For the Veteran, the coat might not have come at a better time. The week of Christmas, Salisbury had a low temperature of 15° F, but North Carolina experienced one of the longest cold snaps in recent history. The temperature in Salisbury dropped to a low of 3° the first week of January, with an average temperature of only 20°.
For his selflessness and compassion, Barksdale has since received several recognitions, including a small monetary award to help reimburse him for the new coat he had to purchase.
"Shadarius is a shining example of the caring and compassionate employees who go above and beyond while serving our Veteran population every day," said Interim Director Linette Baker. "He is a testament to our entire staff, and we're proud to have him."
If you see, or know of, a Veteran who is homeless or at risk of homelessness, call or share the number for the National Call Center for Homeless Veterans: 877-4AID-VET (877-424-3838), which is available 24/7, or visit www.va.gov/homeless for 24/7 online chat support.
While the cold snap may be over, the Salisbury VA Health Care System is always looking for men's and women's clothing to serve homeless and in-need Veterans. Clothes, shoes and other donations can be dropped off at the Salisbury VA Medical Center campus to the Voluntary Services department, located in Building 6. For specific information about donation needs, call 704-638-9000 ext. 13409.