Nancy Staiger has volunteered with Honor Flight Chicago for just about as long as the organization has existed.

Staiger was new to Chicago, having recently moved from California, when one of Honor Flight Chicago’s co-founders recommended she come out to Midway to see a Welcome Home celebration.

“I went along, not knowing what on Earth it was going to be,” Staiger said, “and I spent a majority of the time sitting in the corner crying because I was so moved and touched by what it was.”

Staiger immediately volunteered to assist with future Welcome Home celebrations. Before long, she was helping in the mornings at Midway as well. Then she volunteered as a Guardian and started coming in to help with odd projects in Honor Flight Chicago’s Lincoln Park office.

As time went on, Staiger began to fill any gaps she could for Honor Flight Chicago: she trained volunteers, submitted application data on the computer, answered questions posted on the organization’s website, and even organized one of Honor Flight Chicago’s biggest fundraisers, the annual Chicago Police Department vs. FBI Hockey Classic.

Staiger doesn’t have family members who served in World War II or the Korean War, but she recognizes the impact Honor Flight Chicago has on anyone who touches the organization.

“I see the change in the seniors when they come home at the end of that flight,” Staiger said. “They get a new sense of self-worth and rebirth in terms of their futures.”

Staiger has witnessed countless instances where this new energy impacts a veteran’s relationship with their children, grandchildren, community, neighborhood and other veterans.

“Many of them are at a point in their life when they are wondering ‘does it make a difference whether or not I’m still here?’” Staiger said. “And it does. It so does.”

Just as Staiger took on a number of different responsibilities, she stressed there are always opportunities for volunteers to do something they’re interested in.

“You could be the person who is really good at stuffing envelopes, or you could be the person that has an incredible background in grant writing or web development or nursing or medical care,” Staiger said. “There are so many different ways to make a difference, and the feeling of making a difference is huge.”