Ron Kelso—Someone You Should Know

March 2016 View more

NMAG0316_SYSK_nm ron kelso 1_800pxRetired Naperville teacher Ron Kelso is answering a higher calling. The Yorkville resident has turned a family tragedy into triumph and is reaching out to help others who are less fortunate with his tireless efforts working for Habitat for Humanity. His was recently recognized by the nonprofit with the Illinois Habitat for Humanity Hero Lifetime Achievement Award.

How did you become involved with Habitat For Humanity?

My son and I had plans to work on a Habitat for Humanity (HFH) home together. Kevin was one of the youth leaders at church and he was going to mobilize the teens. I was deeply involved with the community outreach program at Community Christian Church in Naperville and I was going to mobilize the adults. My son died at 19 years old. In his memory, many wonderful people in the church worked with me to host a dinner and giant auction to raise the necessary funds to rehab a home in Aurora. The HFH family that moved into this home is an incredible family. I instantly became friends with the mom and her twin daughters. I love them and am blessed for knowing them. From this experience I was hooked. As my passion for HFH deepened, I continued to get more and more involved. Simply serving on the Executive Board is not enough. I volunteer four, five, or even six days a week by going to the office and getting involved where I can make the greatest impact for our families.

Tell us about your 2015 Illinois Habitat for Humanity Hero Lifetime Achievement Award.

I am a Christian that believes God has a plan for my life, even after my son’s death in 2005. I was severely depressed and struggled with my own life. I literally do not have memory of my son’s wake, funeral or the next two months. I entered counseling with Rod Olgivie of Naperville for a year. God uses others to answer our prayers. As I cried out to God, he used people for me to put my life back together so that I could fulfill his plan for the rest of my life. In November of 2004 I lost my mother and we were very close. Just five months later, in April, that’s when I lost my only son. In June I retired from teaching 6th grade math on the Bear’s team at Lincoln Junior High. I taught in Naperville at Mill Street School from 1972–1977, Steeple Run School from 1977–1980, and at Lincoln Jr. High from 1980–2005. It was a labor of love and is something that was such an important part of my life. I miss it but God had a new plan for me with Fox Valley Habitat for Humanity in nearby Montgomery. This award is recognition that God can accomplish anything in our lives and that He has done everything that was needed for me to have this level of accomplishment. I know that I did not do this on my own.

What inspires you to help others?

What inspires me are the incredible people we build homes for. It is the personal relationship that develops every time we build another home. These are incredible people that are working so hard to make the best life for their family as possible. They always enrich my life and I am blessed to know them. It breaks my heart that we have a model that has worked 700,000 times all over the world in all kinds of cultures and we can’t raise more funds to help more families. No matter how successful we are, there are always other deserving families that are ready for our hand-up (not a hand-out).

You have touched many lives with your work through Habitat for Humanity. What do you hope others will learn from your actions?

Most of us have been given much in different areas of our lives. This is not necessarily money. It can be your skills, talents, abilities, time, your business, or your wealth. We have all been entrusted with certain things, and faithfulness requires that we manage those things wisely and unselfishly. It needs to benefit others. There is a Biblical Reference in Luke 12:48, “From everyone who has been given much, much will be demanded; and from the one who has been entrusted with much, much more will be asked.” I strive to find ways to give a sustainable hand-up so others will be independent, not dependent on hand-outs. We have all heard the story of giving a person a fish to feed them only for a day versus teaching a person to fish so they will be able to feed themselves. That is what Habitat for Humanity does.

Photo by Robyn Sheldon