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Jackie currently juggles two jobs. She is Resident Manager of the Babcock-Smith House Museum in Westerly, caring for the museum’s three buildings, which include the Granite Museum and the Old Homestead. Additionally, Jackie serves as Parish Administrator at Christ Episcopal Church in Westerly. She coordinates the work of 32 committees, provides administrative aid to the priest, and supports community service efforts with a current focus on literacy. She serves on the Advisory Council of Literacy Volunteers of Washington County.
Although Jackie had an older relative in the DAR, she was entirely unaware of this when she was growing up. Always interested in history, she began exploring her own genealogy in the 7th grade. In 1997, when ancestry.com was just starting up, she used it to discover that she had forebears all the way back to colonial America. While doing her searches, she came across DAR citations, but details were unavailable to her at that point.
When Jackie was 17, her great-grandmother Estelle Wilkins died, age 104. At the funeral service, a number of women Jackie had never met attended to honor Estelle. To Jackie’s astonishment, the women sported a raft of DAR pins. One of them was Sally Small. The woman told Jackie that her great grandmother had been Rhode Island State Regent – 40 years earlier! (Estelle Wilkins served as RI State Regent from 1962 to 1965.)
Her aunt Lois Puglisi and grandmother June Smith (Rhode Island State Regent 2009-2011) both joined in 2002 with the help of Sally Small. Jackie joined the DAR when she was 20.
When asked how quickly she took a leadership position in the DAR, Jackie laughed. “This is Rhode Island, so – immediately!”
Her first leadership position was State Chair of Insignia. Soon after taking on this role, she was asked to fill a vacancy as Recording Secretary. That role continued through the next full term.
At 24, Jackie said she was excited and overzealous. She was also “learning not to step on toes.” She became Chapter Regent for Bristol later that year. Sally Small and her grandmother June Smith were her mentors.
Jackie served as Rhode Island State Regent from 2017-2019. How proud Estelle would have been! As State Regent, Jackie initiated a project to digitize the State Society archives, in particular the 100+ years of scrapbooks that are in storage. She and Sandy Berman got started with some of the scrapbooks from the 1960s, following guidelines from National. The hope is to have the scrapbooks be indexed and searchable.
In 2020, Jackie was named National Outstanding Junior. National’s website says:
“Candidates are DAR members, ages 18 through 35 inclusive, who have been selected by their respective chapters… A young woman who is active in DAR and her community, in furthering of the DAR’s historical, educational, and patriotic objectives, in accordance with the DAR motto, ‘God, Home, and Country,’ is an Outstanding Junior.” Jackie’s list of accomplishments was read at the announcement of her winning this award. To mention just a few, Jackie has served in the DAR as: Page, Chapter Regent, Delegate at State Conference and Continental Congress, President of state Page and Junior Clubs, senior leader for CAR, and State Regent.
After all of those accomplishments, what is next for Jackie in R.I. DAR? She has been nominated for the role of State Chaplain.
Continental Congress experiences
Jackie first attended Continental Congress in 2007. She drove to Washington DC by herself and met her grandmother and aunt there. She did not know what Paging was. Seeing the flag drop was “spectacular, unforgettable.” She has not missed a Congress since then. Jackie has tried to make sure all new Pages from RI have the opportunity to Page on opening night to experience the magic. What is the magic? “The feeling of patriotism and togetherness.”
What the DAR has meant for her
Jackie received enormous support from her Bristol chapter for her earliest community service efforts. One of these occurred when she met some Syrian refugees living in her apartment complex. The communication barrier they faced was painfully high, in part because Arabic, as a Semitic language, does not use the Latin alphabet, and does not share word roots with English as many Indo-European languages do. Thus her Syrian friends did not have a ‘key’ to begin to unlock English. The mother of the family that Jackie encountered was intelligent and literate in her own language, and found her illiteracy in English extremely frustrating. Jackie helped by finding smartphone apps that could do sight-translation between Arabic and English. In this and other service efforts that Jackie worked on, the Bristol chapter provided moral and practical support as well as networking connections to other community members who could help out.
How many gowns are in your closet? Jackie said, “Over 50 gowns! but it’s 20 years of gowns. They get enough use to make the price worthwhile.”
For pleasure reading, Jackie says she has always had a thing for biographies. One she recommends is Lincoln the Unknown by Dale Carnegie.
Jackie is currently collaborating with Charles Roberts of the Rhode Island Slave History Medallion project. Two medallions will soon be placed in Bristol. Jackie is working on a couple of stories from the Westerly area. She helps Roberts by finding stories of ordinary (i.e., not famous) Rhode Islanders that can be celebrated through this project. She notes that the focus is not on slavery directly, but on bringing to light accomplishments of slaves and former slaves: “Taking people for a walk in their footsteps.”
Advice for people getting involved
Jackie recommends first choosing something you are really interested in, and working on a project around it. Every time you do something new, you’ll be working with different people. Sometimes you’ll get pushback and it can be very discouraging. It can even feel as though people don’t like your ideas or don’t like you. Consider it another opportunity to learn to work with different people, or an opportunity to listen and to do a better job. You may very well have a better outcome than you expected.
She adds a sage suggestion: Don’t try to hurry the changes you feel are needed. An organization changes slowly. First learn the processes and how things have worked to date. Additionally, “Every large group of people isn’t going to have only your favorites. Sometimes people won’t like you and you’ll want to retreat and wonder why you ever joined an organization. Focus on the really supportive women who have the same goals you do and are happy about the same things.”
To anyone intimidated by new things, she suggests: “Don’t back off, find your place in DAR. There is a place for everyone, something fulfilling for everyone. The number of great people you are going to meet is endless.”
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