For the better part of 25 years, Kathy Jackson has hustled around central Ohio, trying to link people in need to resources.
Jackson, a 55-year-old retired speech pathologist, has volunteered for organizations such as the Agora Christian Services, Alvis Inc. Community Reentry Program, the city of Columbus’ Moms2B Program, Holy Family Soup Kitchen and Food Pantry, South Side Early Learning, St. Stephen’s Community House and the YMCA and YWCA of Central Ohio, among many others.
For the past decade, Jackson has averaged about 30 hours a week volunteering, including the distribution of about 190,000 bras and feminine hygiene products out of the trunk of her car last year.
“I couldn’t tell you how many clothing and food donations I’ve done,” Jackson said. “I just talk to people and find out what they need and what to do.
“Then I find people who have things they don’t know what to do with.”
Jackson, who often volunteers alongside her husband of 32 years, Steven Jackson, said the Dublin couple’s dedication to philanthropy was instilled by their parents.
As a child in Pittsburgh, her father often photographed youth sports and gave the photos to parents, and her mother was a volunteer emergency-squad nurse.
“We’ve all been in a spot in our lives that might not have been the best,” Jackson said. “We all remember that one person who believed in you. I want to be that person.
“I just feel like I’m that conduit. I just listen to people and try to make magic happen.”
When her daughters—Megan, 28; Kayla, 26; Anna, 26; and Molly, 23—were in school, Jackson not only volunteered at area service organizations but often packed extra lunches to give to hungry students.
She worried when her Molly had a stroke 10 years ago, but then watched her recover and become a physician’s office specialist.
Jackson herself has recovered from a cancerous mass that left her with no feeling in one side of her neck.
Still, she remains optimistic and convinced everyone can help their community. “Who needs to feel the right side of their neck?” she joked. “I drew a sunshine on my car sunroof and whether it’s a sunny or rainy day, I have sunshine.”
Colin McGinnis, South Side Early Learning CEO, nominated Jackson as an Everyday Hero, saying she always gives a “hand up” to those who are struggling.
McGinnis said his staff provides early education to preschool-age children on Columbus’ South Side, and Jackson often provides donated items for students.
Additionally, he said, Jackson teamed with Lululemon Athletica last December to provide a special Christmas to his staff. It resulted in teachers receiving items such as recliners for their homes and Apple watches. One custodian was gifted with tickets to a Green Bay Packers game.
“They surprised our teachers with an unforgettable Christmas,” McGinnis said. “She’s provided bras, panties, many products for our families and community.”
The only things Jackson accepts in return, McGinnis said, are smiles and hugs.
“Kathy helps our families at South Side Early Learning and at the Reeb Avenue Center by finding out what the needs are and locating those much-needed resources, then connecting the two,” he said.
“During the COVID-19 pandemic, her commitment to the community has not ceased.
“In fact, she has been working even harder to collect resources because the need has become so much greater. Kathy isn’t a first responder in the typical sense, but Kathy is always one of the first to respond to those in need, if she can.”