Go-Givers: Stephanie Welchans

By Julie Kerns Garmendia
Resident Community News

Stephanie Welchans cheerfully recalls her mother Susan Sumner “volunteering” she and her two younger brothers from a very early age to help out at the local hospital when the women’s auxiliary would hold raffles or sell baked goods.
“The idea my mother tried to instill in us was to help others,” Welchans said. “…and I believe my brothers and I learned that from her. My parents now live part of the year in Vero Beach, where my father, Warren, at age 72, has begun to volunteer at the local hospital, Indian River Medical Center. I am so proud of him and I truly believe that when he visited and followed me around as I helped out at The Cummer Museum he saw how great volunteering can be, and how fulfilling. My mother, 71, is still volunteering, now with hospice in Massachusetts.”
Welchans, who holds a Graphic Design Bachelor of Fine Arts degree, considers herself to be a creative person. Although she expected to use that degree and her B.A. in English in an advertising, art and education career, she ended up in sales which she found challenging and fun.
That artistic streak led her to volunteer for The Cummer Museum of Art & Gardens where she is serving her second year as Docent Corps President, and her fourth year as a docent. She especially enjoys leading school, specialty and highlights tours of the collections.
“Because I can be more flexible with my time, it allows me to regularly donate several hours to volunteering. There are purely selfish reasons – it takes me away from the day to day grind, but I do believe that where we each choose to spend our time is what matters…not the stuff we have or the houses we live in, but the commitments we support are what matter most,” she said. Welchans also volunteers for the Riverside Arts Market (RAM) and for Riverside Avondale Preservation (RAP) Home Tours.
“Tom and I like to support the universities we attended and stay involved with local community non-profit organizations,” she said.
Welchans and her husband Tom own a business and marketing research consulting firm based in Avondale, where they have lived almost seven years. They chose to move to Jacksonville and specifically Avondale Riverside because they loved the neighborhoods, “had no fear of old houses” and had both lived in urban areas of Chicago and New Jersey. Their 1926 Mediterranean only needed some updating.
Daughter Sidney, 11, enjoys having so many friends living nearby. She likes cooking dinner with her parents, is a ballerina, loves horses and plans to become a veterinarian someday. Sidney will attend the sixth grade at James Weldon Johnson in the Fall. The fourth family member is a chocolate lab named Brutus after The Ohio State University mascot Brutus Buckeye. Brutus walks and jogs in the neighborhood with Stephanie every morning at 5:15 a.m. sharp.
“We are very active in our neighborhood and I enjoy doing our lawn and flowers. It’s my passion and I do the ‘whole shootin’ match’,” Stephanie said. “Tom works alot of the time, but when he is off we like to ride his Harley 2010, Sunset Red Wide Glide Motorcycle. We also are into Big Ten Basketball games and tournaments and NCAA football, being from Ohio and Michigan.”
Every September Stephanie travels to Brimfield, Massachusetts where she meets her mother and a group of friends who attend the Brimfield Antique Show together. This summer the Welchans traveled to a family reunion in Michigan.
Welchans said that when she first moved to Jacksonville she explored a variety of volunteer opportunities, including Downtown Vision’s Downtown Ambassador Program.
“We can each affect change in our community and there are so many city organizations that need help, including the schools, zoo, RAP, RAM and many others. We always need more volunteer docents at the Cummer – visit their website for information. We just can’t complain or criticize if we are not part of the effort to make Jacksonville a better place…every bit of work and every person matters, whether it’s a light task or the bigger, more demanding volunteer jobs, they are all equally important to that organization,” she said. “Explore what you love or are interested in, whether it’s just once a year like for the RAP Home Tours, for a few hours a month, or every week. At a time like this, when many more of us do not have fulltime jobs, volunteering is also the perfect way to check out a potential new career.”
As part of her volunteer work for RAP, Welchans was amazed that people came to volunteer who lived outside of the historic district. Then she was again surprised and delighted to meet people from as far as Gainesville who came to tour the historic homes.
“That is a true testament to the beauty and uniqueness of the area we live in,” she said.

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