By LINDA CHION KENNEY
Jill Jofko was stunned to hear her name called when the 2022 Volunteer of the Year Award recipient was named at the Greater Riverview Chamber of Commerce dinner Feb. 3 at The Regent.
“I was absolutely shocked,” Jofko said. “It didn’t even occur to me that it would be me.”
That it was an award earned nobly comes as no surprise to those who know of Jofko’s work in community life, which she began in earnest shortly after her retirement in 2018 as an IT specialist at HSBC, one of the world’s largest banking and financial organizations.
Jofko started volunteering with Rock Steady Boxing of FishHawk, a national program for people with all levels of Parkinson’s disease, for whom “exercise is super important,” Jofko said.
Rock Steady Boxing “really became a passion for me,” Jofko said. “It’s just wonderful for people who are trying to fight a disease and take care of themselves. I had never done anything like that before, and it was just so heart-warming that I could help somebody with even the littlest things in class, and they’d be so thankful in return.”
It means a lot, Jofko said, “that you could do so little and it could mean so much.”
That was her first volunteer effort upon retirement, but there would be many more.
Jofko worked with Riverview chamber officials in a myriad of capacities last year, including as an ambassador and as an extra set of hands when the chamber was short-staffed at times. She brought her computer skills to bear and assisted with slideshow presentations, newsletter preparation and more.
“Working and raising your kids, you’d don’t always have time to volunteer,” Jofko said. And then when you do retire, have time and volunteer, “you meet all kinds of new people and get a better feel for what your community is all about.”
Jofko volunteers periodically with Seeds of Hope, a food distribution charity driven to provide meaningful community service for students and hope to underprivileged families in the FishHawk community and beyond.
“There are a lot of good people out there giving to others in whatever way they can, and it really elevates the community,” Jofko said. “It gives you more of an understanding of who makes up our community and that there are people out there working and trying to make a living, but they can’t even afford groceries.”
Volunteering is about “camaraderie and getting to know people and then providing something good to the community,” Jofko said.
In that regard, her work with the Riverview Woman’s Club (which also accepts men) is key. Jofko serves as the club’s president through June.
“What drew me to the woman’s club initially was its social aspects,” Jofko said, “just getting out there and meeting people. I was passionate about providing educational support, whether it’s scholarships for students or being involved at luncheons where you hear from people who support the community, have a story to tell and a mission to advance.”
That would include speakers from the property appraiser’s and the supervisor of election’s offices, the Emergency Care Help Organization, Faces of Courage cancer camps, Advent Hospital under construction in Riverview, and from Concerns of Police Survivors (COPS), a support group for survivors of first responders killed in the line of duty.
A recent speaker from the Florida Department of Law Enforcement brought a service police dog trained to detect electronics, including the smallest of thumbnail drives.
“Every luncheon speaker,” Jofko said, “leads to a deeper knowledge of the community.”
By definition, being a volunteer is to serve, “but also you stand as an example to others,” Jofko said, and she hopes that her award will encourage others, especially those set to retire and explore new horizons, [with] a broader view of the field of doing good.
She said she is grateful to be named 2022 Volunteer of the Year even if she still finds it a bit surprising.
“I don’t do things for recognition, but it sure feels good that people have noticed,” Jofko said, “and maybe that’s why I wasn’t expecting it. You always feel like there are people out there doing a lot more than you are.”