Friday, August 19, 2005

An Inspiration

They say that one person cannot make a difference in the world, but what about one person who is not even with us? For that person to make a difference is truly a miracle.

These are words that I wrote about my missing son, Jason Jolkowski. Sometime after his disappearance, we started our nonprofit organization, Project Jason. In his name, we are able to reach out and potentially make a difference in the lives of thousands or people. We consider that to be a blessing and a miracle.

I would like to share with you the story of how one of our awareness programs was born. Come Home is the first ever national missing person's locator program that seeks the missing among the homeless. We feel confident that a large number of the homeless population are reported missing people. In our situation, we must be creative in trying to think of new ways to create and foster awareness.

I worked with three families of missing young men who suffered from mental illness. I would ponder over and over, asking myself: "Where are they?" What is the common thread between being missing and having a mental illness?

One night I was looking at websites on the Internet. I was not looking at anything related to what I do in my work for the missing. I was on a site and saw links to the right of the screen. One of them indicated it was a site that contained a list of a large number of homeless shelters. I do not know why, but I felt a need to click on that link. The second I clicked on it, I knew that this was the piece of the puzzle I had been searching for in the cases of the missing young men. This was exactly how we needed to connect the dots between the homeless and the missing.

It was no coincidence that I had found this page at this moment. Everything happens for a reason.

Over the course of the next few hours, I devised a plan to build a database of homeless shelters and soup kitchens nationwide. We would have bi-monthly campaigns of missing persons who could be among the homeless and have those shelters display those posters. We went to work to build the shelter database right away, utilizing a team of 25 volunteers. The Come Home program has been in place since February of this year.

While we have not located a missing person directly because of one of our posters, we are confident that we will. We also do not know the ripple effect the campaigns may have. Other homeless persons, upon seeing the posters with the personal messages written by the families to their missing loved ones, might be encouraged to contact their families. The campaigns also give the dual and sustaining gifts of hope and awareness to the families of these missing persons. When I speak to families when their loved one is going to be on the program, you can hear the lift in their voices and in their spirits. Hope is what keeps us all going day to day until our loved ones come home.

Remember when I said that it may seem impossible for one person to make a difference in the world, especially one who is not even here?

We know that is not true. You see, one of the three missing young men who inspired the Come Home program is Michael Jarvi.

James and Kathy Jarvi share with us some thoughts about their son, Michael, who has been missing from Naselle, Washington, since March 24th, 2002.

“Michael is a fun and caring son who always has a smile on his face. He loves camping, fishing, and family outings. He hoped to be a top computer programmer. We always tried to have a family outing at least twice a month, which meant a lot to us. Now it is very hard with us missing one. We also miss our walks together along the beach.”

Kathy tries to keep busy since Michael’s disappearance. She even started to volunteer at a local soup kitchen once per week. Michael had been spotted there at one time. Even though he was never seen there again, Kathy felt that helping the nameless homeless who went through the line, was, in a sense, helping her own son. Still, there is sadness, fear, and frustration.

“We don't know what happened to him. Our greatest fear is foul play, and the only way we can deal with it is to hope he is somewhere living happily. It has been a terrible impact on our lives, always wondering, always looking at strangers, wondering if they have seen him, hoping he is warm and safe. Hoping he will through the door someday.

There is a part of our family gone, and we can only hope it is not forever. It is frustrating not knowing where our son is, and why no one has seen him when we have put flyers out and continue to do everything humanly possible to find him. The only thing that could end this frustration is to find him.

What we learned is that you should always hold your family close to you, take many pictures, and never take anything or anyone for granted. Enjoy each day as it comes. Sometimes you take people for granted and that they will always be phone call away, that's not always true.”

When we started the Come Home program, Michael was the featured missing person on the first campaign. We had a press conference here in Omaha to announce the program. All four of our television stations came to the conference, and gave us excellent coverage. Michael’s face was all over Omaha, but yet, back in his home state, there was silence from the media. We can only keep trying.

James and Kathy, you have hope in your hearts that you will see Michael once again in this life. I can tell you that your hope is justified. Take comfort in the fact that even if you do not see him in this life, you will in the next. We are eternal creatures, and our existence here is oh so very temporary. May that knowledge bring all of you joy.

“We see Michael living somewhere and is happy, although he cannot remember who he is, but he will remember someday,” Kathy expresses with a lift in her voice.

I wish that I could hug Michael and thank him for all of the families who are effected by this program. I would want to thank him for giving these people the gift of hope and for bringing about a little miracle in the lives of others.

Remember that love is a bond that is never broken regardless of time or distance. It is everlasting, just like us.

...And we know that we will see him again.

To read more about Michael, please visit

To learn more about the Come Home program, please see


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