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Air Force veterans make the most of retirement through volunteerism

April 17, 2020

Spotlight Volunteers
Ken and Linda McEnery are volunteers for United Way partner Downtown Ecumenical Services Council (DESC).

In honor of National Volunteer Week, April 19-25, United Way of Northeast Florida is highlighting outstanding community volunteers dedicated to making a difference all year long. 

It was the desire to donate a sewing machine that brought Air Force veterans Ken and Linda McEnery to the doors of United Way partner Downtown Ecumenical Services Council (DESC). Their curiosity about how they could help DESC provide basic essentials for families and individuals in need, has turned into years of community service, always done eagerly and with a smile.  

Though nominated by DESC, this dynamic duo uses their skills and military background to support other organizations like AARP and Volunteers in Medicine, performing administrative tasks, assisting with clients and providing free tax preparation services. 

DESC nominated Ken and Linda for their constant dedication not only to DESC, but to the other organizations that help them serve the community after years of serving their country.

Here’s what Ken and Linda had to say about their philanthropic journey as Northeast Florida changemakers:

Describe the person or event that inspired you to give back to the community.

When we retired, we had a lot of time on our hands and we were financially okay. So we decided to venture into volunteering. It was a good way for us to stay busy while being able to help people at the same time.

What would you say is the most rewarding aspect about volunteering?

It keeps the brain working and we’re able to help those who are less fortunate. These people need all the help they can get and we are glad we can help them get it.

Describe the moment you realized your volunteer efforts were making a real difference.

I don’t think there is an exact moment; it’s more of a continuous realization. We really realize when people thank us and we can tell they are really sincere.

If you could inspire people to do one thing to make Northeast Florida a better community, what would that be and why?

To volunteer, and to keep trying different organizations until you find a place that you’re passionate about, a place you enjoy. If you can’t volunteer and are able to support an organization financially, then we hope people would do that. We think it’s important to support local causes especially because you can see the difference being made in your own community.

What advice would you give someone on the fence about whether or not they should volunteer in their community.

It’s very rewarding. We really love meeting the people that come in, and being able to give them all the information and resources we’ve gathered from different organizations. We would also suggest just giving it a try because it’s not going to hurt. Don’t be discouraged if the first volunteer experience isn’t what you thought because you will find a place that is perfect for you. It’s good to match your skills and hobbies to an organization because then you’ll love it that much more. 

How you can help

Because of the global pandemic, people like you are needed now more than ever to uplift the most vulnerable in our community. Nonprofits are experiencing a critical shortage of volunteers due to social distancing. And we must also be equipped with the resources to support thousands of people suffering from the economic damage caused by COVID-19, many who were struggling to make ends meet before the pandemic. Together, we can help those in need overcome the crisis we’re experiencing today — and the ones they experience every day. Because change doesn’t happen alone.

You can join hand raisers like Ken and Linda in the #United4Jax movement by supporting local nonprofits through a variety of volunteer efforts or make a gift today to support the year-around efforts to help families and individuals in crisis.