Veterans Serving Veterans

Since 2006, RSVP volunteer Jim Wolter has given more than 750 hours of his time as an escort at the St. Cloud VA Healthcare System in St. Cloud, Minnesota. He transports visitors and patients in a golf cart or van from the parking lots to the building where their appointment is located.
Jim was an US Army medic for 25 years. He feels, as a veteran himself, a sense of camaraderie is reinforced through volunteering, “Servicemen take care of each other,” he says. His rides are the beginning of an escort program that continues inside the building. Some of the veterans physically cannot walk or would exhaust themselves getting across the beautiful but large campus, others are anxious or nervous, but all are coming to the VA to improve their quality of life.
Jim says that everyone has a story and part of his volunteer job is listening to those stories. Volunteering has allowed Jim to meet veterans who have won medals and awards to go along with their stories. Jim thinks that these decorated and visible veterans represent “the rest of us,” the veterans who are not publicly known, but are just as important.
Military service changes people, “some for the better and some don’t come out okay,” according to Jim. His time as a medic made him familiar with death, but it also made Jim want to help people when he can. In the future, he sees himself volunteering in the St. Cloud VA Healthcare System Center’s Hospice services. Jim is a board member for the Co-Op where he lives. He has volunteered for other organizations; and helps his 94 year old mother in East Chain, MN maintain her quality of life.
Volunteers at the St. Cloud VA Healthcare System do not have to be veterans. When asked if he would recommend volunteering as an escort, Jim said he would absolutely encourage it. Jim also said, “it’s good to remember sometimes it’s the little things that matter more than the big ones.”
RSVP plays a very important role in providing support to veterans. The Greater St. Cloud Area RSVP has forty-one (41) active volunteers serving veterans at the St. Cloud VA Health Care System. Within the last year, they served a total of 3,510 hours. In addition to providing volunteer support to veterans in the community, RSVP also supports veterans who chose to serve their communities through volunteerism. Of the 1,323 total volunteers enrolled with the program, 133 volunteers have self-reported as veterans. These veteran volunteers not only serve the communities in which they live but also receive the health benefits of volunteering.

-Charlotte Strei