Carmen Kelly 2021 Golden Acorn recipient

Jul 26, 2021

Deercreek resident Carmen Kelly has a passion for helping others in need—transporting those at-risk to receive vaccinations, assisting the elderly after surgery, translating for Spanish-speaking families and meeting needs in the neighborhood.

But helping those less fortunate through her work at the Mandarin Food Bank–and involving Deercreek women in the joy of working with the charity to fight local hunger–has become a driving force in her life. 

“The motto of the Mandarin Food Bank is ‘we serve our clients with kindness and dignity,’” Carmen said. “We serve anyone and everyone that comes to us for assistance, providing them with food for their families as long as they have a need.”
In recognition of her leadership in the Deercreek women’s charitable initiative, Carmen will receive the 2021 Golden Acorn Award given annually to a person active in projects that benefit the Deercreek community as well as the greater Jacksonville community. The award is scheduled to be presented Aug. 24 during a luncheon at the Deercreek Clubhouse.
Carmen has worked at the food bank for more than 25 years and volunteers there every Wednesday. Her persistence and passion led to the Deercreek Women’s Alliance’s approval of the food bank as a supported charity. 

“Our clients consist of people from all walks of life,” she said. “From grandparents that are raising their grandkids, to professionals in between jobs. Many elderly, many single moms, more and more we see people living in their cars, traveling in hopes of finding a job or a better life elsewhere.”

Over the years Carmen has served in a variety of positions in the food bank–director of volunteers, fundraising coordinator, and others. “But my favorite is collecting, bagging and distributing the food to our clients. My biggest joy is when our shelves are filled to the top, especially after a food drive sponsored by Deercreek or a school, business, or church in our community.”

“Because of Carmen, the Alliance Ladies and the Deercreek neighborhood have donated thousands of pounds of food over the years for local families in need,” said volunteer Betty Metz. “She has made us aware of the real need for food in our community and provides a way for us all to help anytime.”
Deercreek residents generously respond to two or three food drives a year and to other special needs that surface at the food bank. This summer, a call was issued for peanut butter and jelly for children going hungry without school lunches; and toiletries for families to use. Hundreds of items were amassed.
“During Covid, her food drives and collections were even more critical,” Betty added. It also gave so many Deercreek residents, an awareness of a real local problem, and how we could help. It gave us something positive to focus on, and a way to help others in need.” 
During the pandemic the food bank stayed open with a skeleton crew. Carmen volunteered throughout the entire time to meet urgent needs of the community.
Carmen was born in Guatemala, Central America, where her father was a colonel in the army and her mother ran the family’s coffee plantation. At the age of 13, due to political unrest in the country and fear for her safety, her parents sent her to the United States as an exchange student. For the next four years, she was assigned to live with multiple families across the country—four states, six families and six high schools as she learned a new language and a new way of life. 

When conditions in her homeland did not improve, her mother and sister joined her, and they moved to Tallahassee. There she met her husband, Jimmy Kelly, while working at Blue Cross Blue Shield. 

“It was in Tallahassee that my love to reach out to the less fortunate started by delivering homemade Thanksgiving meals to the homeless,” she noted. 

The couple and their two daughters, Jessica and Erica, moved to Deercreek in 1997. “We instantly felt at home and welcomed. Deercreek neighbors are friendly, fun, interesting and extremely kind and I can’t think of a prettier, more conveniently located community in Jacksonville,” she said.

Carmen has also recruited Deercreek volunteers to help regularly at the Mandarin Food Bank. 

“I feel incredibly blessed to be able to lend a helping hand and even more so to live in a community, such as Deercreek, where kindness and generosity abounds,” she said.

“To be recognized for doing what I love to do is very humbling and an incredible honor.”

Details of the luncheon will be available shortly via the signboard and email

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