Marilyn Kerr

By Julie Kerns Garmendia
Resident Community News

Marilyn_KerrMarilyn Kerr, 76, of San Marco has been a Salvation Army volunteer for approximately 15 years and believes that if she can volunteer, then anyone can! She first became a volunteer through her membership in the organization’s women’s auxiliary after her retirement from teaching.

“I was always a very active person, a sixth grade math teacher for more than 36 years, but now I have a chronic medical condition called primary pulmonary hypertension that causes severe shortness of breath. It limits my ability to walk or do much physical activity, but I can still do seated volunteer activities,” Kerr said.
Kerr’s major Salvation Army volunteer work is centered on two activities: the annual Celebrity Chef Tasting Luncheon & Auction fundraiser, and preparing donated costume jewelry for sale in the organization’s five Family Stores (formerly called Thrift Shops). She enjoys helping with monthly birthday parties, which she said the recipients always appreciate, and she also does some of the holiday bell ringing for donations.

“We clean, sort and tag donated jewelry which is simple for me to do while seated. The jewelry all goes to the shops for sale and there are special jewelry sales several times during the year. I wanted to do something that would really make a difference and all of the money raised goes directly to fund the adult rehabilitation programs,” Kerr said. “As a former math teacher I’m all about the numbers and statistics. Before we started focusing on the jewelry, those shops were selling and making a lot less money than we are bringing in now!”
Kerr also is a volunteer for Seniors on a Mission, a faith-based organization. The group was founded to make volunteering easier for seniors by arranging regular volunteer activities and group transportation in vans from nine pick-up points across Jacksonville. Kerr especially likes the fact that the group does projects for many different organizations and that the seniors get to know each other and socialize as they volunteer together.

“There are about five or ten volunteer activities every month where we go do a specific community service project. There are all kinds of projects like preparing 9,500 race bags for the Donna Hicken National Marathon to Finish Breast Cancer or thousands of balloons for a Leukemia & Lymphoma Society event. A project could be completed in one visit or it could require up to three more visits,” she said. “Another project has been helping the Downtown Ecumenical Services Council (DESC.) They receive donated clothing for free distribution to the poor. We sit and mend the clothing when repairs are needed.”

Calanthea Hires, Salvation Army Northeast Florida Area Command Volunteer Recruiter said that senior citizens can make important contributions as mature, dedicated volunteers for community service.

“I see Ms. Kerr coming in to do her volunteer projects using her walker and with her oxygen tank. Those things do not slow her down a bit or keep her from helping others. She is an inspiration,” Hires said. “We always need volunteers and currently have a great need for volunteer individuals or groups to work in the food pantry, as office assistants for the food pantry and to serve meals. Meals are provided to 150 poor and homeless individuals daily from 6-7 p.m.  Starting in October through December thousands of volunteers are needed for a variety of tasks. Volunteer training is always provided. Information is available on the Salvation Army (Northeast Florida) website.”
Kerr’s late husband was attorney James Kerr, Jr. The couple has two sons. Dr. James Knox Kerr, III, an anesthesiologist is married to Madeline and they have two children, James Knox Kerr, IV, 17, and Cullen Kerr, 14. The younger son is Scott Mason Kerr, married to Erin, and their daughter is Alex, 21. Scott works for the Mac Paper Company. Both sons are in the U.S. Army Reserve and will soon be deployed to Kuwait.

Kerr said that loving her grandchildren is her number one pastime, other than the 90-100 hours she spends volunteering for her charities every month.
“I’ve gotten several other seniors involved too. I just tell them to come and try it, have some fun and we get to help others at the same time. It’s really true that anyone can do these projects, but they are perfect for senior citizens,” she said.

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