Jess Chairez volunteers to promote organ donation. As a Red Cross volunteer, he travels near and far to help disaster victims. He also makes quilts covered with police patches that people send from around the country.
For 30 years, Chairez, 62, was a West Sacramento roofer. His life path changed dramatically after the death of his son in 2000. "I didn't go that extra mile until my son died. He planted the seed. He's my hero," he says.
Joe Chairez, a Sacramento Police Officer, died at age 24 of a brain aneurism after handcuffing a suspect.
Afterwards, Chairez found himself bitter. Then, he said God spoke to him in a dream: "He didn't want me in man's shadows. He wanted me in His light." He obeyed. Now he shares his son's legacy by helping others.
He's currently working on a quilt for the widow of a Richmond Police officer, who died in the line of duty. "They're healing my heart," he says, "and I'm healing theirs."
Chairez describes his son, Joe, as a happy-go-lucky guy who would do anything for anybody. The youngest of three sons, Joe wanted a career in law enforcement because he would watch the news and was concerned about crime. "As a little guy he always wanted to help others. He took it one step further. He didn't just help mom and dad. He'd help his neighbors." Chairez said.
The last time Chairez saw his son was on Thanksgiving day. He had never been one to give his sons many hugs but before he left that evening he gave Joe a hug goodbye. He got into his car and as he had one foot in and one foot out he said he heard the voice of God as clear as day telling him to go hug his son again. So he got out of the car and gave Joe the biggest hug he could muster and the father and son each said that they loved each other. The next day Joe died.
"I thought I loved my sons," Chairez said. "After my son passed aways, I REALLY love my sons." He makes an effort to do more with this other two sons now. "In a blink of an eye someone you love can be gone."
"I learned the true meaning of love, of honor, respect and obedience," Chairez said. "I believe God stripped me down to nothing to get me to do what He wanted me to do."
He learned about honor when he honored his son's wishes to be an organ donor after his death. Four lives were saved by his organs. He learned about obedience through following the dreams and instructions God gave him to put him on his path. By being obedient he was able to have a meaninful goodbye with his son and his volunteer work is helping him close the hole that grief leaves in a parent that loses a child. "God already wiped away the tears of sorrow. Now they are tears of joy."
Whenever Chairez goes out to volunteer he wears a hat that says Joe 238, the number representing Joe's police badge number. When people ask him about the hat he shares with them the story of his son, and he gives them a card with his address on it. He asks those he meets to visit their local Police Department, share his son's story, and send him a patch. As a result, he consistently recieves mail containing police patches from around the country, which he uses to make quilts out of. He displays these quilts to inspire others, or makes them to comfort someone else who is grieving.
Do you know someone with an extraordinary story behind their volunteer efforts? Please send suggestions to Autumn Payne at email@example.com.