Getting to know the Borowy family

By Julie Kerns Garmendia
Resident Community News

Q. When Jon May, Pine Castle Executive Director speaks of the Borowys (Thom, Pat, son Hayden, 14, daughter Megan and her husband Mark Walker) he says you are a family of volunteers. Can you elaborate on that?

A. Thom began volunteering for Pine Castle about 25 years ago, was a longtime board member and never stopped. I (Pat) started helping Thom with the charity golf tournament about 10 years ago and Megan joined us then too. Hayden and Megan’s husband Mark have always joined in whatever we were doing whenever they could. We so believe in what Pine Castle does for the developmentally disabled in our community. These are people who would never have the chance to be productive, to contribute to and live within society without Pine Castle and the community’s help. Many can successfully learn to care for themselves, live independently or in group homes and hold a job.
Q. What services does Pine Castle offer?

A. Pine Castle was established in 1952 and now works to serve and enrich the lives of adults with intellectual or developmental disabilities, including autism, spina bifida, cerebral palsy, Down syndrome and traumatic brain injuries. Comprehensive workshops teach vocational and life skills. There is a senior program and recreation including physical, social and creative self-expression activities. The adult education program, a longtime collaboration with FSCJ, teaches participants to develop or improve academic skills. They help approximately 400 people daily in the Jacksonville area to achieve their full potential, attain their highest level of self-sufficiency, and enjoy improved quality of life and meaningful inclusion in the community. Pine Castle developed a state-approved comprehensive training program for its own staff that it offers to community care providers through a series of four monthly low-cost classes.

Q. There is a major fundraiser every July for Pine Castle that Thom co-founded, correct?

A. Yes, the Annual Independence Golf Classic is held every July on the first Monday following the July 4th holiday, with all proceeds going to support the Pine Castle Community Employment Program. This program provides job development, on-site skills training and follow-up support to people with disabilities who wish to work within Jacksonville and the five-county surrounding area. Typical jobs are bagging groceries at Publix, working in floral, ice cream and yogurt shops. Next July 2014 will be the 17th year of the tournament.

Q. Pat, what about the many volunteer activities you mentioned that your family works on for Pine Castle during the year?

A. We all absolutely love doing activities for Pine Castle such as getting sponsorships and raffle prizes for the golf tournament. We look forward to working on celebrations and holiday parties that bring so much joy, the participants often have tears in their eyes. It means so much to have friends who care for and help guide them; they are always grateful for everything. There is an annual luncheon where two or three of the Pine Castle working adults are honored for their achievements, along with their employers. Tommy likes to find businesses who might hire Pine Castle adults for part-time jobs. It does so much for my heart to see them come full circle and be able to do all they can and fully enjoy life as part of their community.

Q. How might readers explore volunteer opportunities at Pine Castle?

A. There are monthly open house gatherings where the public is invited to visit and learn about Pine Castle at their main campus: 4911 Spring Park Road (off University Blvd. West). There are many ways to help the organization by volunteering or through other support. Pine Castle staff and volunteers are so dedicated and caring, it’s just like a big family atmosphere. For more information visit the website or call (904) 736-2650.

Q. Can you tell us more about the Borowy family?

A. Thom is a retired clinical psychologist who also volunteers for UNF’s College of Arts & Sciences Department. I’m a retired Bolles kindergarten teacher and a volunteer for the school. Megan and her husband Mark Walker volunteer with us at Pine Castle…and our son Hayden, a Bolles freshman, also helps out when he can. He especially enjoys holiday shopping for the Pine Castle adults. The family also volunteers each spring for The Cummer Museum’s Very Special Arts (VSA) Program which brings students with disabilities to the museum to explore the gardens, view original works of art and experience art through all of their senses, including hands-on art activities. We travel together as a family and most recently visited Canada. We enjoy snow skiing out West, going to the beach and boating on the river here at home. Thom is an avid golfer in his spare time. We sponsor two deserving scholarship students at UNF and that is something we truly enjoy.

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