Since Jaqueline Reeves was a little girl, she has spent countless hours at VA North Texas Health Care System’s Dallas campus. Now, she’s doing it officially.
Reeves is one of 53 teens in the Summer Volunteer Youth Program at VA North Texas. She spends 24 hours per week assisting the 134,000 Veterans who get their health care at one of 12 system facilities in 38 North Texas counties.
For Reeves, volunteering at the Dallas VA Medical Center is a family tradition. She joins her grandmother, Theresa Hill, and great-grandmother, Evelyn Lopez, who have volunteered for nearly two decades.
Reeves’ Summer Volunteer Youth Program gives teens aged 16-18 a window of opportunity to assist Veterans and see how VA might benefit them via career opportunities.
“It gives the students a first-hand look at health care as a potential growth opportunity as they move in their endeavor through high school into college years,” said Bobbie Kay Scoggins, VA North Texas Chief of Voluntary Service.
The first family member to start volunteering at VA North Texas was Theresa, who is nearing twenty years of service with no plans to slow down anytime soon. Her volunteer efforts began when a friend invited her to volunteer at a VA bingo game.
“My dad served in WWII, my brother served in Vietnam, my husband was U.S. Army Airborne and I had another brother in the Navy,” said Theresa. “My family is full of military and I wanted to do more.”
Volunteering once a month at bingo eventually led Theresa to full-time service after she retired from her job. Her passion to help Veterans continued to grow and spread through her family as she enlisted her mom, Evelyn Lopez.
“I recruited my mom soon after I lost my dad,” said Hill. “My mom had a lot of spare time and we needed help at VA.”
Matriarch, Lopez, is the mother to eight, grandmother to 15, great-grandmother to 32 and great-great-grandmother to five.
On any given day, three generations can be found giving out snacks to Veterans in various waiting rooms, coloring books to children who are with their family members, or handing out blankets to patients in the chemo treatment clinic.
“I love the smile on their faces when we leave the room full of chemo patients,” said Reeves. You walk out of that room and see them with the blankets and enjoying the snacks we gave them and even though they are going through a tough time it takes their mind off it for just a moment.”
And Reeves loves that she can share these special moments and the volunteer experience with her mom and granddaughter.
“I think Theresa and her mom get as much out of their volunteer experience as they give to the Veterans and their families,” said Scoggins. “They find it both rewarding for them spirituality and the physical interaction of engaging with Veterans and their families.”
Reeves is a rising high school senior and hopes to one day become a psychologist.
“I enjoy volunteering as it’s what I’ve been doing since I was little, so I’m used to it,” she said. “I enjoy the patients, their expressions, and how polite they are even if they are in rough situations.”
Jennifer Roy is a public affairs specialist for VA North Texas Health Care System.