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Feeding the Soul

Tim and Bobbie Perri
Photograph of Tim and Bobbie Perri.

If you ask Bobbie and Settimil “Tim” Perri what the best experience is in life, they’ll tell you it’s spending 7,500 hours as a volunteer at the Wilmington VA Medical Center.

For the last 14 years, the Perri’s have volunteered two days a week escorting Veterans to their appointments and never fail to brighten a patient’s day.

Tim, a retired Army Veteran, decided staying home wasn’t for him. He figured he needed to stay active, so in 2009, Tim called the Wilmington VA and asked how he can assist. Not too long after, Tim’s wife Bobbie retired in 2013, and she followed in his footsteps.

“Volunteering was an opportunity for me to give back,” she said. “I’m feeding my soul.”

“Volunteering gives me something to stay active and giving back to Veterans was the best thing I could think of,” Tim said.

There’s hardly a day where the Perri’s see a staff member or Veteran they don’t know. Volunteering their time at the medical center feels more like a social event because of how well-known and well-liked they are among the patients.

Tim stated it’s very gratifying to know Veterans appreciate what they do.

Along with their time at the medical center, the Perri’s also volunteer with Elks Lodge 2281 of Newark, Delaware where they’re a representative for the Wilmington VA Community Living Center (CLC). The CLC is a 40-bed nursing home facility on Wilmington VA’s campus. As representatives, the Perri’s donate requested items staff or patients need in the CLC, as well as host parties and social events.

Before the pandemic it wasn’t out of the ordinary for Bobbie to greet patients dressed as a clown, Easter bunny or other holiday character. She would visit every floor delivering cards and smiles along the way and was nicknamed “Smiley the Clown” by Veterans and staff.  

“I would give every Veteran stickers, balloon animals, handmade blankets and sugar-free hard candy,” Bobbie said. “They are all awesome.”

With as many volunteer hours as the Perri’s have between them, they noticed how Veterans like to be treated when they arrive at the medical center. They say all Veterans want is someone to take care of them and call them by their name and treat them with dignity.

“In all my years, I’ve never seen a Veteran who doesn’t appreciate our help,” said Tim.  Bobbie stated she had a Veteran offer to tip her for her good service, but she refused stating she was here to serve.

James Coty, chief for Center for Development and Civic Engagement, shared his appreciation for the Perri’s.

“Bobbie and Tim do everything around here and we love them,” Coty said. “They are what makes the world go around.”

The Perri’s think the best experience one can get is to volunteer at VA. They believe it opens hearts and minds to the rewarding aspect of giving back.

“You see the sacrifices Veterans have made to keep us free, and the satisfying part is knowing you’re helping a fellow human being,” Tim said.

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