No generation gap here — Cheerleaders join RSVP volunteers to honor vets

ESCANABA – What do the Holy Name cheerleaders, elderly volunteers and aging veterans have in common?

Plenty, according to Theresa Nelson, director of the Retired and Senior Volunteer Program (RSVP). The cheerleaders were recently recruited for the second year in a row to do a special project for veterans throughout the local area. They were assisted in the project by a number of RSVP volunteers.

In observance of the 9/11 National Day of Service and Remembrance, the Menominee-Delta-Schoolcraft Community Action Agency and Human Resources Authority, Inc. RSVP collaborated with the local Long-Term Care, Adult Foster Care and Assisted Living Facilities throughout Delta County to honor area veterans.

“They had $125 that was given to us to do the project,” said Nelson. The Iron Mountain group did one project. The Marquette group did another project. And the Soo group did something else. We decided to do picture frames, with the vets’ pictures inside, and give them to the veterans as a remembrance. We purchased the frames and we needed someone to paint them and someone to decorate them.”

Under the direction of Coach Shendell Legault, it was arranged to have her Holy Name cheerleaders assist the RSVP volunteers/staff with this patriotic event. RSVP received written permission from 48 veterans and a volunteer then visited each one at their place of residency to take their photographs. Wooden picture frames were prepared and painted by RSVP Volunteers while the Holy Name cheerleaders creatively and uniquely decorated each frame. The pictures were then placed in the frames and delivered to each veteran by UPCAP AmeriCorps and RSVP Volunteer/U.S. Navy Veteran.

RSVP Volunteers referenced 9/11 in their conversations while painting the frames. They discussed where they were on Sept. 11, 2001, described news reports they had seen and shared feelings.

The 10 cheerleaders were given an opportunity to not only honor veterans but, also to have an open discussion regarding the tragedies of Sept. 11, 2001.

“When the cheerleaders came in their uniforms, we thought it was so cute,” said Nelson. “While they were working, some of the young women shared personal experiences of their families’ surviving while living in New York. Others have visited Ground Zero.”

Nelson said the cheerleaders were enthusiastic about helping with the project.

“Last year they did holiday cards for veterans and they already said they want to come back and do it again this year,” she said.

The prepared frames were delivered to veterans in Gladstone and the Flat Rock area by Ralph Young, adjutant of Legion Post 82 of Escanaba.

“They (the vets) just loved it,” Young said. “I think it was a very nice way to thank them for their service. And it’s a big deal to them to visit them and spend a little time with them.”

Nelson said she appreciates getting the elderly involved in a project with youth throughout the area.

“I think this is such a wonderful intergenerational opportunity,” Nelson said. “We need more opportunities like this.”