RUSKIN – Sept. 29 wasn’t a run-of-the-mill afternoon at the South County Regional Service Center on Ruskin’s 30th Street.
Men, women and children, many in various types of uniforms, toted food from their vehicles into the building for a party given in honor of one of South County’s busiest volunteers, Kenneth “Mac” McComb.
Joan Noble of the SouthShore Community Justice Center, Eileen Burke and Mary Valesano from the school system, and Vanessa Ortiz of Florida Home Partnership, had joined forces to throw a bash for McComb as he retires from the jobs he has done during his 15 years of “retirement” while living in Sun City Center.
Later this month McComb is moving to Maryland to be near his daughter Pam and son-in-law Joe who were present at the party.
The trio enlisted help from the various organizations for which Mac has volunteered, including the YES program in Wimauma (Youth Environmental Service), the sheriff’s office, several schools at which he has tutored, mentored and otherwise offered his services, and members of the many boards on which he has served.
In the 15 years since he retired and moved from Maryland to Sun City Center, he has held many positions at both the hands-on and advisory levels that have helped hundreds of South County’s residents.
People he has known and helped, including children he has tutored, showed up in force.
“I’ll never forget him. He greeted me on my first day,” said Roy Moral, who is now principal at Cypress Creek Elementary School. That was in 2007 when Moral was assigned to Wimauma Elementary, where McComb spent a great deal of time.
McComb’s friend Dorothy Cuttle and her daughter, Carolyn Robinson were among the guests who said they were glad McComb would be with family but were sorry to see him go.
“He’s a wonderful person,” Cuttle said.
A large projection screen in the front of the room flashed photographs of McComb’s volunteer activities over the years; with groups of children; laughing with friends; and at the speaker’s podium at events bringing attention to those less fortunate who needed assistance of some kind.
His daughter Pam talked about family things in his past that his South County friends didn’t know about, like how he had proposed to their mother seven times.
“He met our mother in church on Easter Sunday, June 29, 1949. When they were courting, he kept asking her if he could see her apartment. She said no over and over. Then one day she said, all right, you can see it. Dad took a look around, and then said, fine, now he had seen it, and left. I think he just wanted to see if she was a good housekeeper,” his daughter said.
Many heartwarming stories later, often accompanied by tears, Pam turned the microphone over to her father.
He said he had greatly enjoyed his time in South County.
“I live in Ruskin and Wimauma and sleep in Sun City Center,” he said, referring to his volunteerism.
“I’ve been all over the world and from what I’ve experienced, the people here have a real heart for the down-and-out,” he said. “People here contribute more in this area than I’ve seen anywhere else in the world. There’s a real spirit of community here. I think it’s life as it should be lived.”
And McComb has truly seen the world.
“I talked my mother into lying about my age so I could go into the Marine Corps. Then when the war was over I got out and got my degree in sociology on the GI Bill,” he said.
Since then he has worked with children and youth, mostly delinquent youth, before moving to Florida.
While with the Department of Welfare stationed in Washington, D.C., he was a senior counselor for delinquent and dependent youth. He also served as a personnel officer and assistant to the director for the Department of Corrections.
Here in South County, the father of two, now 83, has served as president of the Wimauma Area Improvement Authority, chairman of Youth Environmental Services Inc., and been a member of the sheriff’s office Wimauma Community Council.
He’s also on the advisory board of and is a certified community mediator for the SouthShore Community Justice Center; is a member of the Community Foundation of Greater Sun City Center and the Balm-Wimauma Area Housing Partnership; and is an active substitute teacher at Wimauma, Cypress Creek, Ruskin and Gibsonton elementary schools.
“Volunteers get more out of volunteering than those receiving the help,” McComb told the crowd gathered in his honor. “I have enjoyed every minute of helping people turn their lives around.”