Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Giving Back Kelly Winer; Townsend Foundation Volunteer Helps People with Disabilities

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Giving Back Kelly Winer; Townsend Foundation Volunteer Helps People with Disabilities

Article excerpt

Byline: Charles White

When people volunteer, they can change lives - including their own. Each week in Reason, we will highlight a volunteer's story of giving back and how that selfless act was a true revelation. The volunteer project is a collaboration among the Times-Union, the University of North Florida, the United Way of Northeast Florida and HandsOn Jacksonville.

As a volunteer for a local organization that helps disabled people, Kelly Winer, a dietitian and nutrition consultant, had witnessed the reactions of families when she went into the community to deliver equipment and supplies.

But one particular family still stands out in Winer's mind. Rhonda Knott is a Jacksonville woman with cerebral palsy who often suffered seizures that left her unable to speak. That day, Winer and other volunteers were delivering Knott a gate trainer, a special type of walker that helps a person walk upright and be mobile.

Talking over the phone with Knott's parents, Winer remembers that she could tell how loving and grateful they already were. Knott's mother had sent a photo of Knott to the J.T. Townsend Foundation, a Jacksonville nonprofit founded by the late Townsend, a Jacksonville teen paralyzed in a high school football game. Winer was a frequent volunteer and was inspired by Townsend and his story to join the organization.

When Winer, 51, arrived at the Knotts' home in the Orange Park area, the parents immediately invited the team into their kitchen. The parents had prepared homemade brownies and greeted Winer and the other volunteers with huge hugs.

"We get so much back from them, that sometimes they give us more than we end up giving them," said Winer, who is also a board member of the Townsend foundation.

When Knott saw the new trainer, she knew exactly what it was. She expressed her excitement with her eyes, Winer remembered, which lit up and then Knott began to smile. …

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