We just celebrated Veterans Day in Phelps County less than two weeks ago. It was a time to give thanks to those that have served our country in wars and global engagements in the name of democracy and it comes with a heavy price. One retired veteran is seeing to it that a tradition is carried on—one that started when he served.

We just celebrated Veterans Day in Phelps County less than two weeks ago. It was a time to give thanks to those that have served our country in wars and global engagements in the name of democracy and it comes with a heavy price. One retired veteran is seeing to it that a tradition is carried on—one that started when he served.
Karl Jacobs is a Salem native, but has lived in too many countries to count and probably feels their isn’t much he hasn’t seen. It was time to come home and now lives in Rolla, owning the Visiting Angels franchise in the area that provides in-home care for seniors.
“I was just thinking about ‘What can I do for veterans?’” said Karl. “We always had a tradition in the military where the lower ranking [soldiers], or the ones that needed it the most, were provided with a turkey or a ham.”
He thought it would be nice to do something similar, so he contacted Chris Burrell in Salem who is with Visiting Angels and Sam La Presta a consultant and Rolla Rotary Club member to help with getting donations for the food baskets. “I took the Cuba and Waynesville area,” he said. He also contacted the VFW posts in all four areas, the American Legion, the Korean Veterans and the Department of Veteran Affairs to get names of those that could benefit from a gift basket.
“I did a statistical analysis between Crawford, Phelps and Pulaski counties,” Karl explained. “Seven percent of the population are veterans in those three counties. It’s the highest density per capita of veterans of anywhere in the United States.”

An energetic group made up of Boy Scouts, Rotary members and Visiting Angel employees met at the Price Chopper to pack the first boxes. Five were to be delivered on Saturday and over sixty are going to be delivered today. Randy Booth is the general manager of Price Chopper and a Rotarian who thought the receiving area of the grocery on Forum Drive would make a great place to get the produce and canned goods packed into boxes. Each box is packed with a ham, bacon, pumpkin pie, a six-pack of rolls, a six-pack of Pepsi, canned goods, cereal, perishable items like fruit and salad and a toothbrush.

Random Bailey is an employee with Visiting Angels and was one of the project volunteers packing boxes. She was already involved in her own veterans project, sending cards to servicemen overseas, thanking them for their service. This is her third year doing the card project. Karl asked if she would be interested in helping out with the gift boxes. She said, “Yeah!” “I just jumped at it.”
She said her step-dad was a veteran, her former step-mom was a veteran and that in general, most people in her family are vets.

The Rotary Club of Rolla made a nice donation to help get everything started. “We started out with 10 baskets, we went to 30, went to 50, then sixty and looks like we might be up to seventy [boxes],” said Rotary member Sam La Presta. LaPresta contacted the Boy Scouts through District Executive (River Trails) Aaron Jeffers, who also happens to be a Rotary member. “I wasn’t sure how many scouts we’d need, so I asked for a couple and we got three,” he explained. Scout master of Troop 81 Randy Dodd showed up with JJ Giesey, Aaron’s son Jeremiah Jeffers and Trevon Watson. They meet at the United Methodist Church gym on Monday nights at 7 p.m.
Walt Bowie, a co-manager with Price Chopper got the group organized and Starbucks Barista James Creager brought coffee for everyone. Karl’s grandkids, Kaiden and Kyleigh Jacobs kept everything interesting and in no time, the boxes were ready.

Karl was ecstatic with the success of the first veterans basket give-a-way and he wants to make this an annual project. He says 30 to 35 area businesses helped with donations.
“As a veteran, it’s always about giving back to the community and giving back to the service, so I’m blessed and figured it was time to give back—and what better way to do it?” he said.