In 2003, Jean Sacatsh was honored for her exemplary volunteer service with the Retired and Senior and Senior Volunteers Program’s Outstanding Quality Service Award, given to the volunteer who most displays the qualities of leadership, assistance and performance above expectations for a volunteer agency.
At first glance it might seem odd that working with young would be what keeps Jean Sacatsh coming back to volunteer at Judson Retirement Community in Cleveland. But that is how this seventy-five-year-old RSVP volunteer is involved with the Eden Alternative, a program that aims to temper the institutional aspects of long-term care by introducing animals, plants, and children into resident’s lives on a daily basis.
Jean, who worked for thirty years with special education students as a speech and language pathologist, was diagnosed with the early stages of Alzheimer’s disease some years ago. She began volunteering at Judson as a way to say ‘thank you” for the support and camaraderie she received from water aerobics class there. Staffers who were developing implementation and expansion of the curriculum used for the weekly visits and “summer camp experience” of fifty kindergarten and second grade children from St. Joseph/Collinwood School. Although previously able to teach on he own, she now team teaches with a staff member, at her own request, because she doesn’t want her cognitive issues to interfere with the information presented to the children.
Arriving for programs dresses appropriately for the theme, including her earrings, Jean always has a big smile and a cheerful hello for everyone. Her sense of fun is contagious. Jean herself says, “The best thing about my experience at Judson is loving the kids and watching the kids, residents and myself grow. And when something clicks, when the “ah-ha” moments come – those are the best!”
She also served as a volunteer at the forerunner of the Cleveland Botanical Garden. She continues to work at the Hershey Garden in the summer, and for the Botanical Garden on indoor projects during the winter. She also gardens for her church.
Jean’s enthusiastic efforts to enrich the lives of Judson residents, especially in light of her own personal situation, are a testament to her strength of character and her commitment to volunteer service.