Volunteer Spotlight: Judy McKernon on Responsibility and FUN!

To say Noble Horizons is in Auxiliary President Judy McKernon’s blood would be stating the obvious. Judy’s family connection to Noble dates back to its inception.  Judy’s father Tom Wagner, a local attorney, was chosen to administer the John H and Ethel G Noble Charitable Trust, the purpose of which was to provide a place for older people to live out their lives in pleasant, homelike surroundings.  Noble Horizons was created to fulfill this purpose, and Tom, with his wife Fran, played central roles in its development.

Then in 1975 Judy’s mother Fran organized with fifteen or so other women from the community to begin an auxiliary.  In 1976 the Auxiliary’s bank balance was $58, enough money to purchase subscriptions to a large print copy of  The New York Times and the Reader’s Digest, and thus began the Auxiliary’s long history of contributions to Noble.

Judy inherited her family’s love for Noble Horizons but she didn’t become involved until later in her life.  She worked locally in the insurance industry while also getting a degree in clinical psychology. She spent ten years as a school psychologist in Vermont but later returned to the insurance industry in Connecticut at the end or her working career, and relocated to Lakeville where she could be closer to her mom. Judy was asked to join the Auxiliary Board as its Secretary in 2005 and has gone on to assume several roles, including serving as co-chair of the Festival of Trees as well as her current position as Board President.  

The Auxiliary is a working board, make no mistake; it takes time, dedication, and hard work. Each member has a distinct role, and all members pitch in on the fundraising events such as the bi-annual Book and Tag Sales, the Holiday Fair, and the Festival of Trees. The funds raised are used to enhance the quality of life at Noble Horizons every day.  For example, the Auxiliary pays for fresh flowers on the dining room tables, books for the library, and clubhouse social events. Their budget for these and many other special projects runs close to $30,000 every year,  and, in addition, the Auxiliary pitches in with additional contributions  - two professional exercise machines last year and a transportation vehicle the year before.   Over the years, it has raised and spent over a million dollars for the Noble community.

The Auxiliary sponsors 4 large fundraising opportunities:

  • The Country Store - housed within Noble Horizons and run by both residents and Auxiliary members
  • The Book and Tag Sale - occurs twice a year with donations made for the sale by residents, staff, and town residents.
  • Holiday Fair - held in November, holiday items and food made by Noble residents and Auxiliary members are sold and local vendor raffles are offered
  • The Festival of Trees -  is the  Auxiliary’s biggest fundraiser.  It features close to 100 trees/wreaths decorated and donated by local residents and businesses.    Hundreds of community members, school children, and daycares visit, and many bid on the items during the two-week display period. The Festival culminates in a Gala at which final silent auction bids are made and live auction items are offered.  It has inaugurated the local holiday season for over two decades and receives support from many individuals and businesses throughout the community.

This year however COVID has changed things for the Auxiliary.  State regulations prohibit community events on campus, so all in-person events have been canceled.  While the Auxiliary is disappointed that they can’t hold their events, they are able to continue to be generous to Noble. Recent gifts include raised garden beds this past summer, staff appreciation meals, and the ever-popular lobster lunch with wine!

Judy feels a strong sense of responsibility to Noble and to honor her mother’s connection to the Auxiliary. While finding volunteers can be difficult, and some work can be challenging for older Board members  (Judy is 81 years young!), the Board has grown in size to 18 members,  a very positive indicator for the future.

When asked what her favorite part about volunteering is, Judy mentions her love of Noble, the connections and friendships she’s made, and the FUN of being involved. The monthly Board meeting, pre-Covid, was regularly followed by an impromptu dinner at the Woodland for those who want to join.

What keeps Judy volunteering?  “I feel a big responsibility especially because it was something my mom started. I worry about how to bring younger volunteers on board and coming up with new ways to fundraise.  And of, course I LOVE it. Friendships are built and it’s just FUN!”

Will Judy ever retire from the Auxiliary?  Not in the near future. She is very committed to what she does and wants the Auxiliary to continue to thrive for years to come. Judy enjoys bringing people to Noble and its beautiful campus which is home to so many.   Judy is also involved in a fund at the Berkshire Taconic Community Foundation also established by John and  Ethel Noble which helps pay people’s medical bills who otherwise can’t afford them.

Where does Judy see herself in the future? Living at Noble Horizons, of course.  Both Judy’s mother and her two sisters have resided at Noble  - in the case of her mother and sister Carol, starting in independent living, and taking advantage of the skilled nursing and memory care options when needed. Her other sister is currently living independently in a cottage at Noble.

You are warmly welcomed to join Judy and others in the Auxiliary.   There isn’t a “typical day in the life of a Noble Auxiliary volunteer” but there is always something to be done.  Summer months are lighter than the Fall when the Auxiliary’s peak busy season is in full swing. You can contact Judy McKernon, Auxiliary President at 860-435-4809 or judymckernon@gmail.com. You can learn more about the Auxiliary by clicking HERE.

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