For Jessica Montesi, helping those in need is a huge part of her work and personal life.
The 2006 Todd Beamer High School graduate and Federal Way-area resident owns Braveheart Construction and Remodel with her husband, Brandon.
“We do remodel and additions and just standard general contracting work, but we also have a contract with the VA [Veterans Administration], and we do accessibility remodels for people with disabilities,” Montesi said. “We install lift equipment to where they can independently get out of bed, get out of their chair and use the bathroom. It kind of turned into a passion for disabled people, the vets and the elderly. It really just kind of grew from there.”
While enrolled in Federal Way’s Advancing Leadership program in 2015, Montesi saw the need to serve senior citizens in local care facilities.
“We had servant leadership day at Hallmark Manor where we went in and decorated for Christmas,” she said. “I had talked with a few of the staff members there just to see what Christmas looked like for them. It was really somber. They said there used to be people that donated … They said ‘we don’t have that anymore,’ so it became a burden for staff members to pick a person there or buy something for that person.”
The experience spurred Montesi into action.
“It broke my heart,” she said. “I went back to the (Advancing Leadership) class and just asked if anybody wanted to contribute financially or if anybody wants to adopt a person.”
At first, Montesi told Hallmark Manor the class would adopt 10 of its residents.
“I thought ‘I can’t do that,’ ” she said. “It’s Christmas, and they are alone.”
The first year, Montesi and others in her class gave gifts to 110 residents. The second year, they expanded to Life Care Center of Federal Way and Life Care Center of Puyallup, delivering presents to 400 seniors.
“They are just forgotten, and I wanted them to know that not everybody forgot,” Montesi said.
Montesi reaches out to her fellow Advancing Leadership alumni and others in the community for support. Top contributors to Montesi’s efforts include Keller Williams Reality Puget Sound; Grace Church in Federal Way, which Montesi and her family attend; and South King Fire & Rescue.
Montesi gets a list of residents from each facility and ideas of gifts they want or need and what they can’t have.
“Every single person gets an individualized gift that we purchase for them based on their needs and wants list,” she said. “Everybody gets a gift bag that has a bunch of stuff that I have collected over the year – toiletries, socks, individually wrapped treats, soft plush blankets.”
Montesi recruits her children – Avery, 4, Riley, 6, and Wyatt, 12 – to deliver the gifts.
“We go to each of the Christmas parties,” she said. “I bring my kids and a few of my friends’ kids, and the kids take (the gifts) to each individual resident and hand them out and wish them a Merry Christmas and visit with them.”
Both the residents and the children enjoy the visits.
“It starts out as kind of a novelty of ‘how sweet, I have this gift that I get to open,’ ” Montesi said. “But, it’s the interaction, and they look and realize it is something that they needed or wanted. They are just so really grateful for it. It is really fun to watch.”
Montesi’s children look forward to delivering the gifts each year.
“As we start to get toward Christmastime they say ‘are we doing the grandmas and the grandpas this year?’ They look forward to it. They assemble bags with us,” she said.
Sharon Lucas, activities director at Hallmark Manor, said she is grateful for Montesi’s work.
“She is so easy to work with,” Lucas said. “She is so kind. She is so caring. I look forward to it. I don’t have to worry about my residents having a good Christmas because she is helping me. Some of our residents don’t have anything. They have no family. Some of them have been homeless.”
Lucas said she is impressed by the detail Montesi puts into the gifts she selects for residents.
“She gets personalized to where one lady likes coloring books, so she got coloring books and a coloring set,” Lucas said. “For one of my gentlemen, she got an art set so he could paint.”
Montesi said she enjoys giving back to the community where she grew up.
“I have to work, so it might as well be rewarding, and if I can combine income with impact, I just feel like everybody wins,” she said. “In narrowing down what I do with work and in my personal life, I just feel like there is a lot of overlap. Not all of them are disabled for the Christmas project that we do, but my heart was kind of there because of where my work leads me and the people that it impacts. I see what a difference it makes.”