by Michelle Tanner, Volunteer Contributor, American Red Cross North Texas Region
Nothing makes Joan Jefferson happier than a Monday morning. Every Monday, Joan makes her way to the Dallas VA Medical Center, where she is known as the “Coffee Lady.” There, she greets the patients of the medical center, offers directions, and hands out coffee, drinks and snacks provided by the American Red Cross.
“I love it, I love it, I love it,” beamed Joan. “Nothing makes me happier than helping our military.”
It seems this position was developed just for Joan. Her father, ex-husband and even her son served in the US military. And, her mother handed out coffee, punch and cookies to US servicemen during World War II through the USO.
Joan first became familiar with the Red Cross services to the military through needs of her own. The Navy had just transferred her young family to Norfolk, Va., and the paychecks had yet to catch up to them. It was winter, her small son needed formula, and she needed food. She remembered a pamphlet from the Red Cross saying if she needed anything, they could help.
So, she called them, and they said if she could get to their office, they would help her. Joan felt she had no choice, so she bundled up her baby, rode the bus as far as it took them, then walked the rest of the way in knee-deep snow to the Red Cross office.
As she got to the front door, Joan says everyone was there to help her. They gave her and her son dry clothes, warmed them up, gave her coffee and a voucher for the grocery store. Then, a volunteer drove them to the store and even helped them unload the groceries at her apartment.
“I never forgot that, the kindness of the Red Cross…and the snow,” said Joan. “I said if I ever had the opportunity, I would volunteer with the Red Cross.”
Joan’s life took a more regular turn; she had two daughters after that, and eventually relocated her family to Dallas to be near her mother. While she waited for a full-time job to come her way, she volunteered for the USO at the airport. When she did get a job at the IRS, they let her have Tuesday mornings to serve coffee, punch and cookies at the MEPS (Military Entrance Processing Station) to parents and new enlistees.
Then, Joan retired from the IRS in 2011 and was able to fulfill her promise to herself: to volunteer with the American Red Cross. She’s helped with smoke detector installations, did some work with local disasters, and then she started working with the Service to Armed Forces Group. One day, her supervisor, James Calhoun asked her to come into his office.
“I think we found the perfect job for you,” he said. “Would you like to be a coffee greeter at the VA hospital?”
She agreed and hasn’t looked back. “It’s a pleasure for me.,” Joan answered when asked why she does it. “I love the veterans and am happy to serve those that served us.”