Jackie Zagers’ list of volunteer jobs is 100 yards long—Spectrum Health Blodgett Hospital gift shop, Butterworth Hospital’s welcome center and gift shop, St. Mary’s Hospital gift shop, Michigan Blood bank, Frederik Meijer Gardens & Sculpture Park and the Forest Hills Performing Arts Center.
The 81-year-old volunteers most every day of the week, including Saturday.
But Sunday is her time. And during the fall, that time is spent watching professional football.
Jackie comes by her fondness for football honestly. After an outstanding career at Michigan State University, her late husband, Bert, was drafted by the Detroit Lions in 1955 and played running back for the Washington Redskins for several years.
Jackie does a lot of running herself, well, fast walking anyway, at her job as a greeter and way-finder at Spectrum Health Butterworth Hospital’s welcome center.
She estimates she logs 3 to 4 miles every Thursday that she volunteers there.
Jackie doesn’t have an offensive line in front of her, but she jukes through crowded hallways and leads visitors to elevators, radiology, or wherever they need to go.
Bert passed away 22 years ago of a heart attack. She still misses him. But volunteering is a great way to stay socially connected.
“You can either sit home or get up and get going,” Jackie said. “Volunteering is rewarding. The people are wonderful. I really look forward to this.”
On a recent Thursday, Jackie stood at the Butterworth welcome center desk, leaning her arm on the counter, awaiting someone in need of directional assistance.
A mom with two children in tow approached, in search of the “C” elevator.
Jackie, with erect posture and swift steps, led them south down the main hall, pausing to let a blind woman with a cane cross from the cafeteria exit.
She continued on, then pointed out elevator “C.”
“Almost everyone says thank you,” said Jackie, who moved to Grand Rapids from Traverse City about a year and a half ago.
And guess what? She volunteered at Traverse City’s Munson Hospital for 14 years before relocating.
The retired school guidance counselor said she feels grateful that she is still physically and mentally on top of her game.
“I have some energy and I don’t like sitting home,” she said after a day of volunteering at Frederik Meijer Garden’s Butterflies are Blooming event. “I like to get out and do something every day. I get to walk some miles to help myself and I also help others. You can’t sit home and dwell on stuff.”
Jackie is a member of both the Sallie Bender Guild at Butterworth Hospital and the Steketee Guild at Blodgett Hospital. She loves being a part of gift shop guilds because proceeds go back to the hospitals for projects and research.
“I love giving back,” she said. “And I love meeting people and talking with people.”
Out of all her philanthropic efforts, her favorite volunteer post is… She’s not saying.
“It’s like apples and oranges,” Jackie said. “They’re all great. They all have different benefits. Every week I learn something new.”