“Behind closed doors, I was miserable,” said Rachael Jones. “Being a newlywed and transferring from Fort Leavenworth, trying to integrate into the military family life, and I didn’t know anybody.”
Jones grew up in Kansas and graduated from Barton County Community College before earning her bachelor’s degree in Exercise Science from the University of Kansas. She had worked with staffing agencies and a fitness center when she met Nate, a soldier stationed at Fort Leavenworth. The couple married and moved to Hawaii and then to Lawton-Fort Sill.
In 2011, Jones felt the need to get out and be part of the community. Drawing on her love for animals, she began walking dogs at the local animal shelter and enjoyed spending her time with them. A few months later, she found something even more rewarding.
Jones’ grandmother had been a recipient of the Meals on Wheels program back in Kansas and had relayed how much the volunteers’ visits meant to her. After her grandmother’s death, Jones reached out to Delta Nutrition to see if she could help the community’s seniors.
“They might not like me to say this, but over the last four years I have adopted several grandmas and grandpas out there that I visit every single Friday,” she said. “I could never give up on these 21 visits, and there’s not a chance that I can do more for them than they’ve done for me.”
Jones noted that many seniors long for social interaction every day. When the pandemic began, everything changed. “Now they have plastic tubs on the sides of their homes,” she said. “We put the meals in the tub, knock on the door and walk away. Some of them talk to me through their screen door, but I really miss the social interaction and so do they.”
Wanting to bring smiles back to the faces of her adopted grandparents, on Facebook, Jones posed the question, “While this shutdown is going on, what can we do to make their (the seniors) day a bit brighter?” She was elated as she held up dozens of cards, letters and pictures from the kids in the community.
Over the past few years, Jones has been involved in Winter Wishes, a program to grant wishes to Elgin Middle School students and inspire kindness; she was asked to judge a talent show to help defray medical expenses for a local teacher and worked with the schools during the teacher walkout. “I organized folders for the teachers each week and was part of a team that worked together to provide food to the students during the walkout,” she said.
Jones has been with Elgin Realty since 2014 and credits El- gin’s safety rating and schools as major factors that draw people to the community. While spring and summer are usually the busiest times in real estate, with everything in limbo due to the COVID-19 pandemic, she believes the local housing market will recover soon. “I think we’ll see our busiest season pushed back a couple months,” she said. “Instead of April, May and June, we should see a busy August, September and October.”
In addition to her career and volunteerism, Jones has served as the president of the Elgin Chamber of Commerce since 2019. She and others began hosting Business Brews to bring members of the community into the local businesses. “Local banks, Ace Hardware, Geiger Eye Care, and others have opened their doors inviting locals to put a face with the name and see what the businesses have to offer,” she said.
While her two-year term as president of the Elgin Chamber of Commerce ends in December, she is looking to nominate someone who will have the same passion and drive to help the community thrive.
Jones’ husband retired from the military in 2016 and works in the private sector. Jones herself looks forward to helping potential homebuyers find their ideal home in the area. She continues to volunteer with Delta Nutrition and looks forward to calling Bingo at the Elgin Community Center “once everything opens back up and we feel comfortable enough to meet.” In order to protect the seniors from contracting the coronavirus the community center has been closed for the past few months.
Jones hopes others will find ways to help in their communities as well. “There are so many opportunities to get involved,” she said. “I believe people want to volunteer. They just don’t know where to start.”