Out and About

Uplifting and inspiring stories from around the community.

GO GIVERS: Kayla Johnson

GO GIVERS: Kayla Johnson

Kayla Johnson,
22, is a Jacksonville native who lives right on the edge of San Marco where it
joins San Jose and has always felt part of both neighborhoods. She will soon
graduate with her degree in early childhood education and the goal of
continuing on to earn her master’s degree. Johnson’s volunteer work at DLC
(Developmental Learning Center) Nurse & Learn began as a fulfillment of her
degree requirement, but became much more. She believes it confirmed and
strengthened her desire to specialize in the field of special education.

I was a very little girl, I would pretend that I was teaching my dolls for
hours on end, according to my mother. I think I have always known that I would
teach children, but did not realize I would be so strongly drawn to those with
special needs. I just enjoy interacting with these special kids,” she said.

praised the DLC for its inclusion classes, which bring normally developing
children together with children who have disabilities or special needs. Playing
and learning together at such a young age is wonderful for both groups,
according to Johnson.

are not enough programs available that offer inclusion classes, nor are there
enough openings in those classes for all the children who could benefit. The
children play and learn alongside each other and accept their many differences
in such a natural way. It is a beautiful thing to see them all so happy to be
together and to know they will grow into more compassionate and understanding
adults as a result of their experience in such a diverse, inclusive school,”
Johnson said.

is only the latest community involvement for Johnson, who began to volunteer
during her teens. For three summers, ten hours a week, during high school,
Johnson helped children complete creative arts and crafts projects at Nemours
Children’s Clinic while they waited for their appointments.

not only has a heart for children with disabilities and chronic conditions, she
also is very aware of the many children who face separation that may be long-term
or permanent from one or both parents. She is a longtime supporter of
Angel Tree Christmas, a program of Prison Fellowship. The organization is a
non-profit, Christian charity that sponsors Angel Tree Christmas as a way to
help imprisoned parents maintain their bond with their children. The program
seeks to connect imprisoned parents with their families through the delivery of
Christmas gifts. More than 1.7 million children spend Christmas separated from
their mom or dad, according to the organization.

Fellowship also offers many other programs for inmates and their families,
according to Johnson. The children of inmates suffer during the separation and
can best be described as the invisible, often forgotten victims of their
parent’s mistakes. Prison Fellowship is the only national ministry to focus
attention on the children of inmates. Their research has shown that 1 in 3
prisoners is a parent and approximately 75% of women prisoners are mothers.

Fellowship is such a great organization because not only do they make sure a
parent in prison can give his or her child a gift at Christmas, but they work
to help the inmates and families in so many different ways. They also assist
inmates in the difficult task of assimilating back into their families and the
community when they are released,” Johnson said.

surprisingly, Johnson’s mother Myra Johnson is also a teacher. She instructs
Spanish at Douglas Anderson School of the Arts and has been a volunteer in the
community. Mrs. Johnson coordinated the Dreams Come True group at Douglas
Anderson. Johnson’s brother Kyle, 19, and an FSCJ student, was an active
volunteer while in high school who was honored with a scholarship for his

sure that my mother’s volunteer and career activities helped instill in me the
interest in helping others, and also the love of learning and teaching
children. My passion is inspiring kids to want to learn more, whatever their
challenges may be,” she said. “I know that even when I finish school and begin
my career, I will still find time to volunteer in some capacity. I also love
animals and would like to help out at an animal shelter.”

her classes and internship, Johnson has little free time as she nears
graduation, and has had to give up most other activities for now. She is a
member of Lakewood United Methodist Church where she attends with her mother,
brother, and her father, Gene Johnson. Gene is the director of media for The
Dalton Agency. The fifth and furry member of the Johnson family is Teyton,
Kayla’s rescue mutt.

I finish my master’s degree and get settled into my career, I look forward to
taking up yoga classes, something I’ve always wanted to try. As far as looking
ahead farther into the future, some friends and I were just sitting talking
about how we would all like to own a business someday. I don’t know what it
might be yet, but that is definitely a dream in the back of my mind—something
to look forward to after I retire from teaching,” she said.

GO GIVERS: Jane Rogers

GO GIVERS: Jane Rogers

Jane Rogers, 50, retired from her military
career in human resources in 2007 and wasn’t at all sure about the next step in
her life – until she went onto the internet to research volunteer opportunities
in Jacksonville. HandsOn Jacksonville popped up and Rogers recalls her delight
at the one-stop smorgasbord of volunteer positions that appeared alphabetically
by agency.

“There were so many agencies in need of
volunteers I couldn’t believe it. I made full use of that website, going
carefully over all the entries whenever I had free time. You can find out what
the nonprofit does, who they serve and what volunteer jobs are available. It
also explains what each job involves and any other requirements, so before you
even contact them you have a pretty good idea if you’d like to try that
volunteer position. I learned a lot about what charities, service organizations
and nonprofits we have in Jacksonville,” she said.

knowing that she wanted to be productive and maintain a regular volunteer
schedule, so Rogers explored the opportunities until she clicked on DLC
(Developmental Learning Center) Nurse & Learn, Inc. DLC is a special
education school and daycare dedicated to caring for and teaching special needs
children, ages birth to 22, in a loving, Christian atmosphere. A ministry of
the Northeast Florida district of The United Methodist Church, the center is
located inside of Murray Hill United Methodist Church.

I remember of finding DLC was how I felt when I saw the beautiful photographs
of the precious children they help. I just melted. I contacted DLC, set up an
interview and took the tour,” she said. “After I passed the required background
check, I began helping with the infants and toddlers, basically just holding,
feeding and loving them. I always try to be there at the busiest times,
especially meals. The children come in all shapes and sizes with various

days each week, 40 hours a month, Rogers can be found with the kids at DLC. She
said that she loves each one and takes pride in helping them and cheering on
their progress. As they grow, develop and are able to leave for school and the
next steps in their education, Rogers feels torn.

know I’m making a difference in their lives. After I care for them for a couple
of months, when I walk in they will call ‘Miss Jane’, ‘Miss Jane’ and drop
whatever they’re doing and run to me to see who gets picked up first. I get
goose bumps just thinking about how they recognize and reach for me. If I take
a week or two off I can’t wait to get back to see them,” she said. “I’m so
proud of their achievements from small to large. It’s impossible not to become
attached. That bond is what keeps me going back. It is very hard to see them
leave the center, so I just give them all the love and attention I can while I
have them. It’s the most rewarding thing I do.”

and her husband David, a retired military meteorologist now working on
government contracts for aviation clients, moved to Jacksonville for career
reasons. The couple has lived, worked and traveled extensively in the U.S. and
overseas and enjoys planning major trips every year. Besides long walks and
good books, they have found that volunteer work can be as rewarding as a paid
position and the combination has enriched their personal lives, travel and
hobbies even more.

is an avid motorcyclist who began riding when he was just 14-years-old —probably
why Jane has a world of patience for his five motorcycles and 14 dirt bikes. He
is an active member of the BMW Motorcycle Club of Northeast Florida, repairs
his own bikes and enjoys local and regional road trips, or cross-country trips
to destinations like Mexico.

just try not to think about how risky it actually is. He always is dressed in
the full safety gear and helmet and is such a careful and experienced
motorcyclist. Of course traveling on a motorcycle makes the rider simply more
vulnerable in any accident, but he absolutely loves it,” she said.

plans to continue her volunteer work as long as she can and urges others to
take the time to find the perfect agency to help.

don’t think most nonprofits have enough help, and it adds so much to life. I
really enjoy working with the children and believe I am contributing. Anyone
can make a difference to someone in need, no matter what your age, background
or skills may be,” she said. “I realize that not everyone can handle working
with special needs children, but there are so many different ways to help in
the community.”