• Scarlett Bauman, Fundraising and Marketing Manager

Helga: Happy and Fulfilled at Bob Hope Village

Helga, 81, was born in Germany at the start of WWII. Many of Helga’s early childhood memories are filled with nightmarish images – wartime bombings, bloodied bodies and torn limbs – that still haunt her today.

Helga was living in Europe and teaching middle school when she met her husband, Duane, a U.S. Air Force staff sergeant, in 1969. She says it really was love at first sight. The couple’s only child (a son) was born right after they moved to California – just one of several relocations the family endured throughout their time in the military.

After 20 years of service, Duane reluctantly retired due to failing health. He suffered multiple heart attacks and a stroke. Helga and Duane knew about Air Force Enlisted Village and toured Bob Hope Village in 1999. Tragically, Duane passed away just two weeks after that visit.

At that time, Helga went back to work but never forgot about Air Force Enlisted Village. Finally, four years ago, she moved into Bob Hope Village.

After her husband died, Helga explains that she struggled financially like many military widows, and that Air Force Enlisted Village has been her haven of hope.

“I would’ve lost my house and been stuck in a small one-bedroom apartment with no neighbors. No activities. It would’ve been just terrible.”

Helga’s life today is filled with cheer, friendship, and a host of engaging and healthy activities – including volunteering, which is very important to her. Among other duties, Helga works four days a week at the Bob Hope Village reception desk greeting visitors, runs the residents’ Wii bowling league, and visits the sick on the weekends.

Helga’s motivation to give back stems from her life experiences, both good and bad…

“I know what it is like to live through hard times, but I’ve also have had a lot of joy, too. And that’s what I want to bring to others. My goal in life is to put a smile on other people’s faces.”

Instead of being alone and struggling just to get by, Helga is now happy and fulfilled while being a blessing to other military widows just like her.

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