Remarkable Woman: Kathy Desjarlais

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A retired Navy veteran left behind the military but not a life of service.

Kathy Desjarlais is retired, yet still working every day, and her reward is no longer a paycheck.

Whatever the event, she’s the first to volunteer. She is the essence of what a volunteer means to the community, her friends say.

Desjarlais usually spends her days from morning to night volunteering with veterans programs or with the South Tipton County Chamber of Commerce.

“Whether it was the children’s fishing derby, our golf tournament, ribbon cutting, ground breakings, membership drive. Whatever we did, Kathy was there,” said Rosemary Bridges, president of the South Tipton County Chamber.

She’s there to help her community flourish and to lend a hand to her brother and sister vets.

“Any of us can end up in a bad situation,” Desjarlais said. “Most of us are three house payments away from not having a roof over their heads. Some of these guys may have done it to themselves. Some of them were in a bad situation but everybody needs a hand up sometimes.”

What she does is often back-breaking work with the Shay Project, an organization that furnishes apartments for veterans who’ve been homeless. 

Thanks to Desjarlais and another volunteer, veterans like “J.R.” no longer have to sleep on the floor. He’s got a bed, mattresses, a dresser, couch and other furnishings he needs.

“It would have been quite difficult if I had to do it myself but with the help of God,” JR said. “He made a way for me and I appreciate it very much.”

A simple request by a VA social worker trying to find a couch opened Desjarlais’s eyes to a need for this program. So far she has helped furnish homes for more than 70 veterans, some with families.

Kathy Desjarlais is nominated for the remarkable things she does, but with all the accolades she’s received, she still doesn’t see herself that way.

“I grew up in a family where if you saw something that needed to be done, you were expected to go do it,” she said. “It wasn’t a matter of getting credit for it or asking permission to go do it. It was, ‘Oh that needs to be done and I’m available,’ so you go do it.”

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