United States Department of Veterans Affairs
 Health Care
Veteran Volunteer Still Helping at Age 91
Woman standing in front of dutch door wearing hospital smock.
Volunteer Betty Rose at her duty station. She is also a WWII Veteran.

Meet Betty Rose.

She is a Veteran, she is a volunteer and she is 91 years old.

To put that into perspective, consider that Rose says she has two “kids.” They are 61 and 62 years old.

The year she was born, Woodrow Wilson was President of the United States, gasoline was 26 cents a gallon and Congress approved the 19th amendment, giving women the right to vote.

Rose’s impressive volunteer career began at the age of 24, when she enlisted in the Women’s Army Auxiliary Corps, which later became the Women’s Army Corps. She served at Fort Sill, Oklahoma.

Today, 67 years later, she volunteers every Wednesday at the VA Medical Center in Battle Creek, Michigan, in the ambassador program. She serves coffee and cookies to outpatients and their family members, gives directions, answers questions, and makes Veterans feel welcome while they wait for their appointments.

She does all this even though she is legally blind and can barely see the faces of the Vets she is helping.

Why?

“It’s like sunshine for me,” she said. “I like what the Veterans have done for our country. Paying them back fulfills me.”

Rose started volunteering at the medical center in 1959 and has given a total of 6,122 hours of her time to serve Veterans.

Over the years, she has not only worked every week in the volunteer ambassador program, she also has delivered personal care comfort kits for newly admitted patients, worked bingo games, provided refreshments and sponsored summer picnics. She has provided clerical support, purchased and wrapped gifts for the annual Christmas Gift Shop for patients, and cooked and served hot dogs at a booth for the Patient Carnival.

She has a special place in her heart for women Veterans and for many years has hosted special parties for women, provided women’s clothing, and escorted female patients on a boat trip in Detroit.

Of the dozens of volunteer roles she has performed in her 67-year career, however, one stands out as most rewarding for Rose: the time she led an effort to get clothing to needy Veterans.

Finding Clothes for Those in Need

Rose noticed that some Veterans needed clothing, but couldn’t get to the Donated Clothing Room because they were too old or frail. So she led a volunteer group that worked with Medical Center staff to implement a clothing delivery program.

“I finally went over to the Salvation Army and even if it was just sweat shirts, we found some clean clothes for some of these folks who had nothing.” She proposed that volunteers choose, mark and deliver clothing for individual Veterans based on a list prepared by ward nursing staff. The pilot program proved so successful that it was expanded from two wards to four wards.

When asked at a recent Volunteer event if she planned to be back next year, she shot back, “Of course! It never entered my mind to not be here.”

Betty Rose is truly a remarkable person and a testament to what volunteerism is all about. It is impossible to calculate the number of people she has touched over the years. One way you can gauge her service: every time she walks into the waiting room, Veterans smile.

By Hans Petersen, VA Staff Writer