MARQUETTE, Mich. (WJMN) – D.J. Jacobetti Veteran Facility Coordinators Representatives work together as a group to support veterans living at the home . The group meets quarterly and works with the Activities staff to work as a team to enrich the lives of the veterans at D.J. Jacobetti.
“They weren’t treated right, especially the Vietnam Veterans so we don’t want that to ever happen again,” said volunteer, Donna Henschaw. “You get back more than what you give them. I had one gentleman one time. I just walked in the door and he just looked at me and says, ‘Oh you’re here, well I know we’ll get taken care of today.’ Just little things like that.”
“I get so much more out of it,” said Wanda Westman, another VFC. “The people that I’ve met, the stories that I’ve heard. It is wonderful.”
“We are volunteers,” said VFC Rep, Daniel Jackovich. “We represent the different veterans groups and auxiliaries and our main goal is to sponsor recreational activities for the residents. We have a variety of activities we do over the course of the year. We recently had a holiday party, a Super Bowl party. Every year, around St. Patty’s Day, we have a Las Vegas party. We set up blackjack tables and things like that. We’ll be having a summer carnival later this year and a few other activities and that’s our main goal is to put on these things for the residents.”
Serving veterans is personal for Jackovich as he is a veteran too.
“I served four years in the U.S. Navy. 1966 through 1969.”
Jackovich has been a VFC for about 30 years.
“I started in 1990/1991,” said Jackovich. “A friend of mine that was on the committee asked me to be on it and I said okay and I’ve been here ever since. Love it. I was a little hesitant at first. Those are the days when I’d like to go out and play ball and hockey and everything else. I thought, ‘Ah geez, I don’t know if I got time,’ but once I got involved with the VFC committee and saw what we do up here, and the activities we provide and what it provides for the residents, I really enjoyed it.”
“I believe I started in 2000,” said Henschaw. “My husband who was a disabled veteran, he was with the VFW organization and the DAV organization and he was the one that got me into it.”
“Well, I’m a cancer survivor,” said Westman. “And with the type of cancer that I had, four out of six women do not survive and of the two, one of them is on medication for the rest of your life. I was very grateful to be the one person that survived, I’m not on medication… but darn, I am now, but I wanted to find some way to give back. I went to an auxiliary meeting and someone said, ‘I sure could use some help at Jacobetti too at their bingo.’ I thought, ‘Well I can do that. You know, it’s bingo.’ That once a month event, turned into every week, sometimes twice a week.”
The small but mighty group is represented by 16 organizations and has close to 50,000 hours of recorded service for our heroes at D.J. Jacobetti Home for Veterans.
“All of the service organizations work so well together to enhance the quality of the life of veterans at Jacobetti and I think that really shows,” said Westman. “The staff is wonderful, the visitors, family, everything. But then the service organizations come in and they are able talk about service with them and you know there is so much more that we can help to fulfill their lives and expand because I think a lot of times when they come into Jacobetti, well like you and I, we’d rather be home but we have wonderful volunteers and I think that really shows with the group that we’re with. The VFCs and all of our outreach. I represent the American Legion Auxiliary, but we also have how many members across the U.P. and they are all calling to find out what they can do for Jacobetti.”
As long as the veterans are positively impacted, the possibilities are endless on ways these volunteers give back.
“Well you can go on visits,” said Henschaw. “Visit with them. There are individual things you can donate like puzzles, clothing, anything like that and then we’re into the activities like bingo, putting on a carnival. They bring in an auto show. And even activities that the facility plans and they need volunteers, then they can call us and tell us that they need the volunteers for a particular activity. But, we also sometimes plan different things. There are some organizations that will take them out to breakfast, out in the town and everything so they can get a different experience and they can get away from the home. We’re here to represent them and appreciate what they have done for us and they give back more to us then we have to them.”
And it’s the little things that make it all worth it.
“Maybe seven, eight years ago, I was volunteering with an organization at an evening bingo,” said Jackovich. “And there was a gentleman who had been up here for a few years already and he came to all the bingos. Well, I was cleaning up this table at the end of the night and he looked at me and he says, ‘Thank you folks for coming out tonight.’ He says, ‘I really appreciate it.’ And I said, ‘Well thank you.’ And he says, ‘Well if it wasn’t for this, I would have been laying in my bed watching TV. And when it sinks in, and you realize what you did for these folks to just make their day better and that’s what it’s all about.”
“I am up to 11,000 volunteer hours with the Jacobetti Home, but I have to say that as much as I give, I get so much more out of it,” said Westman.
For these volunteers at the end of the day, it’s all about making sure these heroes get the compassion they deserve.
“It’s such a heartwarming thing when you do help out and like I always say, it makes you feel better that you knew you made there day a little better for them,” said Jackovich. “You give them some activities, you get their mind off of the sitting in a room all day and things like that. It gets their mind off of the normal routine of living here and it gives them a brighter spot in their day.”
“It’s a very special place to be,” said Henschaw. “They have great people there who care about the men and the women who are there. They are constantly busy thinking of new ways of figuring out what they want to do to give them a good quality of life. It’s so important that we treat them as good as we possibly can because of the sacrifices that they have made and their families.”