Kendall Jones moved to Cherokee County 35 years ago. He was born and raised in Tallahassee, Florida, and he graduated from Florida State University. Jones volunteers with the Cherokee County Chamber of Commerce, Cherokee’s Homeless Coalition, Cherokee FOCUS and the Canton Housing Authority. He recently was recognized as the 48th recipient of the Chamber of Commerce’s First Citizen of Cherokee County Award, an annual honor given to a resident who has lived in the county for a minimum of five years and has shown significant meritorious service to the community through family, civic and/or religious involvement.
Tell us about your recognition.
Where do I even begin to express my thanks? Receiving this award and the ensuing well-wishes and kind comments have been overwhelming, humbling, amazing and gratifying. My reaction to all of this is akin to the comment you sometimes hear from firefighters or law enforcement officers when they are commended for some heroic act — they remark, “I was just doing my job.” It is only through God’s mercy, grace and love that I am in my position with MUST, am involved in so many areas in the community, and that I have so many dear and wonderful friendships. So my “job,” my joy, my privilege is to share his mercy, grace and love with all I meet, from the heads of government and business to the people living in homelessness.
When did you begin volunteering?
I was a teacher at the time, and I volunteered in the summers of the late ’80s and early ’90s. I first volunteered at the location at the old Ford building in downtown Canton, and then in the food pantry on Marietta Street. I got to see the operations side of the organization from there, as well as have interaction with donors, volunteers and clients.
My first position with MUST was working with food as the part-time summer lunch coordinator for Cherokee County. I then spent several months as special-projects coordinator, overseeing the build out of the employment services area and helping with the administration of a financial assistance program for local flood victims. That experience helped me transition into the full-time role of volunteer/client intake coordinator, and then to program director as we moved into our new facility at Brown Industrial Parkway in 2013. Being in charge of the daily operations of the facility limited the amount of community involvement. So, in 2019, I moved into my current role of community liaison.
What is your main responsibility?
Simply put, to connect MUST to the community and the community to MUST. It sometimes involves developing resources, monetary and in-kind donations, to help MUST serve our neighbors in need. But, my role also involves enabling people to fulfill the calling they feel in their heart to serve those in need. People will say, “I want to help those in need, but I’m not sure how.” So, we provide an avenue for them to do so.
My responsibility also is to serve as a resource to the community and other nonprofits, to be a sounding board for possible initiatives to help MUST and the community. Lastly, I represent MUST in community issues that affect our clients, such as transportation, housing, medical care, etc., so that resources in those areas are available. The intent is to make sure all the tools are there and a continuum of care is in place for those who are willing to do the work it takes to move from crisis to stability.
What do you like most about your job?
To paraphrase the old real estate adage — people, people and people! There are so many wonderful people in this community, in the volunteers and donors at MUST and in all the different groups of which I am a part. This community has an incredible capacity to care about others, to lend a helping hand and to support organizations that are ministering to those for whom life has taken a detour or a fall.
I have the best job in the world — I get to serve alongside all those wonderful people, supported by an incredible organization. MUST provides the resources to serve God’s precious children as he would serve them, and love them so that they would know his presence and leave our presence in a better place in their life than when they entered it.
What are you looking forward to this year?
Personally, I look forward to every time I can be outside in nature, so I look forward to possible trips to the beach and to Alaska, and getting to the mountains of north Georgia. I look forward to every precious time I get to spend with my family — my wife, children and grandchildren. We also hope to get together with other family members — brothers, sisters, cousins.
Professionally, I am excited about the housing projects that are in the works, being planned or contemplated in the county and cities, as well as the Canton Housing Authority expansion plans. There is such a need for housing in which people can afford to live, for their sakes and for the businesses in our community, and for the businesses that will come to our community that need workers. I also am excited to see what God has in store for MUST as it continues to expand and to find ways to serve our neighbors in need. Lastly, I look forward to every day, a new chance to celebrate, to serve, to find joy and to give joy.
Describe your hobbies and family.
I enjoy running (more walking than running these days!), hiking and backpacking. I enjoy reading, doing crossword puzzles, listening to and making music, watching Florida State University sports (go Noles!) and spending quiet time with God. I am incredibly blessed by my wife of 41 years, Carol, our two sons (of whom I am so proud) and their wonderful wives, and our five precious grandchildren. Currently, we have no pets. In the past, we had dogs we adopted and a cat that adopted us. We now have a granddog and grandcats that we can love on and be amused by.