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The Coffee Lady Delivers for Hines' Veterans
Birgette Riegels Doucet has been a volunteer at Hines for nearly 10 years, pushing the coffee wagon on Fridays for the last four years.
If you’ve spent a Friday at Hines VA Hospital, you’ve probably seen her walking the halls at Hines. Many of you have even tried her coffee. But what do you know about Birgette “The Coffee Lady” Riegels Doucet?
Our team had a chance to sit with her and talk about why she spends her free time pouring coffee for Veterans. Here’s a recap of our conversation.
What motivates you to spend your free time at Hines?
Volunteering at the VA, it’s very good to find a pleasure that gives your life meaning. It helps you to keep going.
Growing up in Denmark after the occupation by the Germans we heard a lot about how the Americans liberated us… it was the Americans who put boots on the ground that the war turned. Eventually, I got a job in America for a Danish company that led to a job in the Chicago area. My late husband used to say, ‘Of all of the apartments, in all of the world, why did you have to move in next to my best friend’s?’
What did you do before coming to America?
After getting a degree in business and home economics I worked in food promotion for the Danish government. That led to two years in Japan in connection with the World’s Fair from 1968 - 1970.
When did you begin volunteering at Hines and how did you get started?
My husband got a lot of his healthcare at Hines and I got involved with Hines because of him. After he passed away, I started to volunteer in September 2007. My 10-year anniversary is coming very soon.
I didn’t get to do the coffee wagon early on, but in 2013, another VA volunteer, Ray Arias told me about an opening and he said he would train me. Ray likes to play the guitar. We usually end up in the outpatient pharmacy. I tell the Veterans this is the only pharmacy where you get entertainment along with a cup of coffee.
Volunteering at the VA is truly a rewarding experience. America is the country with the best service for the Veterans. Freedom is not free.
It seems that you enjoy your time here serving our Veterans. Tell me about that.
They all need to be appreciated. World War II Veterans were treated like heroes and our Vietnam Veterans came home to horrible conditions. It’s important that people are thankful to all of our Veterans.
I hear your coffee comes with some spark. What does that mean?
I’m the only woman who does the coffee wagon and they say that I make the best coffee. I tell them that I make ‘European Coffee’ – It’s decaf, but if they tell me there’s no spark in it… I make it a little stronger.
What is your favorite part of being the ‘Coffee Lady’?
I meet so many of the nicest people who make the nicest remarks. There was a WWII Vet in a wheelchair who looked kind of beat up. I always say thank you for your service. He looked up at me and said honey, for you I’d do it all over again. What other kind of job can make you feel so good?
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