JACKSON — The Louisiana War Veterans Home has various groups that volunteer to serve its residents. Then, there is the Curtis Jeffery family.
Jeffery has become a familiar face over the past five years to 133 residents at the home, one of five state-run facilities providing nursing care to veterans. Jeffery, his wife, Mary, and four children show up regularly to provide birthday parties, fast-food feasts and take the residents on outings. The Governor’s Office of Disability Affairs made Jeffery its Volunteer of the Year in 2014.
From Jeffery’s perspective, it’s an honor and a challenge.
“This ain’t about me,” he said. “It’s about my guys. We have five (veterans) homes, and I can’t be everywhere. We need more Curtis Jefferys at the other homes to do the things we do.”
Jeffery, 49, said he has volunteered for the Wounded Warriors Project and schools for more than 15 years, using his concessions business — he also is a contractor — to assist fundraisers. During one event, two Louisiana War Veterans Home residents spoke about the needs there, and that became the focus of Jeffery’s philanthropy.
Jeffery said he and his wife both lost family members in the Holocaust, which made the idea of serving World War II veterans especially appealing. One of the residents, Daniel Farley, helped liberate the Buchenwald concentration camp, saving some of Jeffery’s relatives. As time has passed, those veterans are being replaced by those who served in Korea and Vietnam, and all of them have become friends.
“My children know each man and woman by name,” he said. “They know their favorite books, their favorite movies, their snacks.”
That’s handy information, especially on fast-food days, when Jeffery brings all manner of goodies — cheeseburgers, pizza, tacos, boudin, cracklins, to name a few — along with Mary’s homemade banana pudding. It’s not that the residents aren’t adequately fed, but sometimes they crave a junk food meal.
On the most recent such day, Judith Jeffery, 17, dished up the treats while siblings Beau, 11, and Cassie, 7, brought them to residents sitting in the day room, chatting them up as they went. Curtis Jr., 8 months, slept nearby.
“This family is absolutely unbelievable,” said Douglas Cobb, 77, a Vietnam veteran from Baton Rouge who served in the Air Force. “They do more for us than they should. The kids are just as courteous, and never a problem. They go around to all the veterans and hug them. They’re just really super, super, super people.”
Louis Van Sickle, head of the residents council, flashes a thumbs-up sign when asked about Jeffery.
“The man of the year,” he said. “We thank them every time they come. Their entire family is thoughtful, outgoing, will do anything for you.”
Jeffery’s interest in veterans includes being part of a group that obtains tracked, all-terrain chairs that enable disabled veterans to get out in the woods to hunt and fish. While many of the veterans home residents aren’t physically up to such outings, Jeffery provides road trips to area restaurants.
“Getting outside is really big,” Cobb said. “Most of us in here, our families put us here because they couldn’t take care of us the way they wanted to. We’re kind of incarcerated.”
Jeffery’s goal is to make it seem less the case, and he’s interested in recruiting and training volunteers to replicate his role at the homes in Reserve, Jennings, Monroe and Bossier City. Jeffery’s email is email@example.com.
“A lot of people don’t know what to do,” he said. “They think it’s very time-consuming, but it’s not. We spend a lot of time here because we have time. It’s kind of addictive.
“It’s an honor to do this. It ain’t a job for us.”