By Nancy Winckler-Zuniga
Orginially published in The Florida Times-Union
From the first time Bob Atwood remembers volunteering – organizing a new toy drive for hospitalized children at Christmas – to the many activities that keep him busy now, he wanted to be a man engaged with helping his community and encourage others to do the same.
“It’s good to get a male point of view,” Atwood said.
Throughout his life, it has been the women – his mother and wife – who set the greatest example of giving back, and Atwood hopes to help bridge that gender gap.
Growing up in Washington, D.C., and the surrounding Maryland neighborhoods, Atwood’s father was often on the road because of his work with the military and Conservation Corps. It fell to his mother to keep things together at home.
As Atwood developed his own career path, he moved to Alaska where he met his wife. Yvonne Atwood’s energies were spent on a variety of issues including developing a daycare program for Alzheimer patients in Anchorage. But then Yvonne’s health began to deteriorate, and they decided to move to New Mexico.
“It was nice to see her work,” Atwood said. “She was so patient with the clients. That’s why it was so devastating when her illness began to take over.”
The Atwoods’ desire to give back didn’t stop with illness or changing states. Once in New Mexico, in spite of Yvonne’s illness, the couple began the work of addressing homelessness. Working with their local church, Atwood served as the treasurer while his wife worked on writing grants.
Yvonne Atwood died of colon cancer at age 49, but the legacy of the Atwoods’ work in New Mexico still lives on in the Mesilla Valley Community of Hope.
Moving to Jacksonville to take care of his elderly father, Atwood now volunteers with United Way of Northeast Florida’s RealSense financial-stability initiative. He serves primarily as a financial counselor but helps with tax preparation and outreach when needed. As a financial counselor, he helps others make sense of what can be daunting.
“I’m good with finances,” Atwood said. “My background helps me to be able to explain things so that their eyes don’t glaze over, to think outside the box. Most people don’t know numbers, and a lot of people don’t know how to start with their goals and dreams.”
Whether teaching a class at the local library or helping others transition back into society after serving time in prison, Atwood loves to help people through United Way’s RealSense.
To learn more about United Way RealSense or to sign up to volunteer, visit unitedwaynefl.org/realsense.