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Bella Vista's Kennedy had career in volunteering

by Lynn Atkins | February 22, 2021 at 1:00 a.m.

BELLA VISTA -- Although she spent many years as a volunteer, when Janice Kennedy moved to Bella Vista to retire, she went back to work.

But her volunteer jobs in Lee Summit, Mo., kept her busy for many years.

She spent a lot of time at her children's schools. Eventually, she found herself the president of the Parent Teachers Association for the largest school in the state.

"I strongly believe in the Parent Teacher Association," she said. "I was able to fill in for mothers who had to work. It was very rewarding for me, but it was a busy time." When teachers found students with specific needs, like a warm coat, they contacted the PTA for help.

She also spent a lot of time volunteering at her church and was a senior warden when the pastor left unexpectedly.

"I was left in charge for a year," she said, "I didn't have the background to do it, but God gave me a grace gift and I was able to do it."

There were also scouting and debate clubs and other organizations that needed her help.

When her husband retired from General Motors, they started looking for a place to spend their retirement and they kept coming back to Bella Vista. They considered Branson and Lakes of the Ozark but couldn't find anything better than Bella Vista.

Although her family was surprised when they announced they were moving to Arkansas, eventually some of their children followed them and now live nearby. She's been married 47 years and has a blended family with a total of six children, 13 grandchildren and nine great-grandchildren.

Not long after she arrived in Bella Vista, Kennedy went to work for a local flower shop as a floral designer. She had taken classes in floral design years earlier.

"I miss it, but it's hard work," she said. Now she designs occasionally to help out with nonprofit banquets or friends' special events.

It was the floral design background that led her to the Bella Vista Garden Club and she served as its president in 2011 and 2012. Recently, because of health issues, she gave up her Garden Club membership but she's happy to see how well the group has been doing lately. It found a way to move some of its events online and still be successful, she said.

Two years ago, she and her husband gave up their large house for a smaller home in Highland Park where their outdoor maintenance is taken care of. Now, most of her gardening is done in pots on the patio, but as long as she can plant a tomato plant in a pot, she's happy to give up yard work.

For a while, Kennedy worked for the Bentonville School District. She started as a substitute in the cafeteria but, when another employee got sick, she was asked to work full time. It gave her a chance to get to know some of the junior high school students and for a while it became a ministry for her, especially talking to the kids who had been bullied.

During the last year, when covid 19 was keeping people home, Kennedy turned to sewing and completed four quilts. She still finds a way to see family and some friends but she misses her church community. Her volunteering is now online, where she encourages breast cancer patients and advocates for them. She reads, walks a lot and studies her bible.

"Bella Vista has always had a feeling of fellowship and taking care of one another," she said. In spite of the pandemic, the feeling is still there, she said.

Lynn Atkins may be reached by email at [email protected]

Lynn Atkins may be reached by email at [email protected]

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