By Jill Osborn
Tom and Sharon Kenny are not strangers to picking up and moving. As a result, the outgoing couple are not strangers to making new friends and getting involved in the community.
The two first began their relocating adventures of moving as a young married couple. Although both are originally from Michigan, Tom found himself getting a job in Boca Raton, Florida. “We were young, but the job market was good for a pharmacist,” Tom notes. Tom opened up his own pharmacy and the young couple began making a living in a community where older, wealthy couples retired.
It is not surprising that Tom picked one of the most beautiful places to live in his young marriage. His mother, who was deaf, had keen eyesight. Therefore, she was always telling Tom and his siblings, “… look how beautiful that is ….” About his mother, Tom says, “She would notice how beautiful things are that hearing people don’t notice. Like she would say, ‘Look how beautiful that tree is. And you know, people may not have noticed the tree. I think she gave us that gift to notice how beautiful our Earth is.” After spending fifteen years in the Sunshine State full of beautiful blue water, the couple moved their three kids to Hilton Head. “Sharon’s parents were there. We stayed there for six years, but it is very touristy. We wanted a more family-oriented area.” The couple chose to move to the Cary area in Raleigh. Their children attended magnet schools which offer extensive classes in middle school such as architecture, various science classes, etc. Thus, when their youngest child was about to go to high school, they chose to move once more. “Since he went to magnet schools, he wouldn’t be going to high school with a lot of his friends. They were in a different district,” said Tom. “He loves to ski and since we grew up in Michigan, we wanted to be near snow.” So they moved to Boone.
It was in Boone where Tom and Sharon started volunteering with the Samaritan’s Purse and Operations Christmas Child with the shoebox ministry. “We started doing disaster relief because we had a bad ice storm.” Tom and Sharon also began going to other areas outside of North Carolina. They volunteered when Hurricane Sandy hit New Jersey. They were required to be in the New Jersey/New York area for a minimum of three weeks. Sharon and Tom, however, stayed for three months. “We got involved in the rebuild program where you haul things out of homes. If there is flooding or whatever it is, we tear down walls which is called mud outs,” says Tom. He says the experience is not a situation you can describe. “When people experience disaster, they are in a state of shock. They don’t know what to do. It’s hard to explain if you haven’t seen people in that state. A lot of times they place value on pictures, furniture and things that are memories for them. It is hard to part with those things. So we help by coming along and saying, ‘Hey, we are here to help you. Let’s do this together.’” Tom says some people are not able to rebuild their homes. But he and other volunteers are able to rebuild them through donations made from others around the United States.
“Those people who don’t have insurance are identified and we rebuild their house. It is all through donor contributions. It’s pretty amazing how people respond when there are disasters like that. We have a very giving nation.”
Another way that Tom and Sharon have given back to their community is by conducting a marriage counseling class. Dr. Gary Chapman from Calvary Baptist Church who wrote the New York Times best-seller “The Five Love Languages,” asked them to lead the class. “He has a new book out called, ‘The Marriage You’ve Always Wanted.’ He came out with a small group type study. It was a five-week course and we lead it.”
As for having such a giving heart, Tom says his mom always had a prayer list of people she would pray for everyday. “When she died, I thought, ‘Well, who is going to pray for those people?’ So I took that over and began a prayer list.” Tom adds, “I think God’s given us that ability to give. Truthfully, my favorite place to volunteer is the Family House. We cook four times a month for outpatients or family members of outpatients at Baptist or Forsyth Hospital,” says Tom. “People are so appreciative. I enjoy cooking but I really enjoy talking them, too. They are so appreciative. Volunteering for them is so rewarding.”
What a gift our neighbor is to our community — the one he has finally chosen to call home.
“Your Neighbor” is a feature by Jill Osborn. If you have a neighbor everybody should know, reach Jill at email@example.com. Also follow her blog on parenting at MuchAdoAboutMothering.com/
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