This year we celebrate 35 years of service to the National Home for two very special employees, Jo Cox and Rhonda Kennedy. Both of them have worked here off and on since the mid-70’s; Rhonda in the fall of 74 and Jo in the spring of 76.
They have found in their time here at the National Home not only a career and a community of support but also lasting friendship in one another; often traveling together on vacation. They are both much-loved members of the National Home family, though reasons they ended up here were quite different.
For Rhonda, it began with finding the perfect job opening in the Program Department the summer after graduating from high school. It offered her flexibility when she had children, providing daycare services and a flexible schedule. But, what started off as convenient grew into so much more for her. She has enjoyed watching the families heal and grow over the years, becoming an integral part of their daily lives during their time here at the National Home. She is one of the first smiling faces to greet new families when they arrive, and, as most administrative assistants are, is the glue that holds much of the whole thing together. If anyone ever needs to know what’s going on at the National Home, you usually hear “Ask Rhonda, she’ll know.”
Though there were times in past years that Rhonda has not worked here in an administrative capacity, she has taught piano lessons to the children living at the National Home for over 38 years. The only requirements she asks of them is for students to be at least eight years old and have an interest in learning music. Rhonda’s teaching doesn’t just stop at the piano, though. If a student is in band or choir and wants to bring their music in for help, she will work with them on that material as well.
For Jo, it was more of a calling. Her earliest memories thinking “THIS is what I want to do when I grow up” came from visiting her grandfather at a veterans’ home in New York. She was 14, and there was an orphanage on site. She watched the kids and the workers, and thought to herself, “This is it. This is what I will do with my life”. She went to school for nursing; wanting to focus primarily on children, but she was finding more and more that her interest was on the childcare side of things rather than the medical side. Her mother had visited the National Home for Girl Scouts events and told her that it might be worth checking out.
Jo started out as a employee in the residential program. She lived in one of the homes on campus and cared for children whose parents or guardian could not care for them at the time. Though the residential program no longer exists, Jo's versatility has allowed her to take on many different roles here at the National Home such as the Santa Shop, the Bike Shop, and the Donated Goods Bank. She also teaches “Diet Free,” Smoking Cessation, and CPR and First Aid classes.
Both Rhonda and Jo have seen a lot of changes to the National Home over the years, but one thing they were quick to point out, all of the changes were for the betterment of the veteran families that they serve.
“I love having the opportunity to share in these families’ lives, building and making memories that last a lifetime. There is nothing better than loving what you do for a living.” Remarked Rhonda.
“Yeah.” Agreed, Jo.
“Loving and caring for these veterans and their families. Making sure that their needs are met is so rewarding.”