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Living Work-Life Balance Through Community Service

January 13, 2020

Kijon Renfroe

Most of us use PTO to find balance through vacations. Kijon Renfroe, Project Associate in the Office of the COO, uses his to go on trips throughout the country to help repair the homes of those affected by natural disasters.

Kijon began volunteering for disaster recovery in college at Stevenson University. He has participated in such trips every year since 2016 to destinations such as New Orleans, Baton Rouge and Houston.

“One of my favorite parts of these trips is meeting the family members and homeowners," Kijon said. “The amount of appreciation and emotion they show just to see walls up in their house always brings me back to reality."

Kijon Renfroe

Kijon is one of the Martin Luther King Jr. Award for Community Service recipients who will be honored at Johns Hopkins Martin Luther King Jr. Commemoration on January 17th.

In all of his work, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. remained devoted to the principle that all people, regardless of race, religion, or background, are equal members of the human family. Dedicated volunteers like Kijon keep this creed alive by serving our communities and acting with compassion and respect for those in need. He hopes to inspire others through his experiences.

“There are so many people who won't go on trips to rebuild houses for the small reason of not knowing how to use a hammer or use a drill," said Kijon. “Because of these trips, I'm not only helping those in need -- I'm gaining valuable skills that I can use later in my life. I now know how to put up drywall, paint, install flooring, install insulation, roofing, windows and so much more. Four years ago, before I started disaster recovery work, the most I could do was hammer in a nail."

Kijon Renfroe

Kijon will embark on his 10th trip this March, returning to Houston. Through each week-long trip, Kijon and his fellow volunteers go from strangers to friends. Each trip includes a bonfire where volunteers share stories from their lives and talk about what led them into community service. These stories inspire Kijon to continue to find avenues to volunteer, both in areas affected by disasters and closer to home.

“If you have the will and the passion to help someone, you'll be surprised at what you can do," said Kijon. “Everything that you do is helping someone somewhere."

In Baltimore, Kijon volunteers with Our Daily Bread meal service, the Maryland Food Bank (helping as needed in their warehouses, kitchens, offices and farms), Santa's Helpers Anonymous (creating and delivering food and gift packages for Baltimore-area families in need during the winter holidays), the 6th Branch (an organization of veterans who improve Baltimore neighborhoods by maintaining parks, painting schools, and addressing community needs), and Junior Achievement (teaching students in grades 3-6 money management and other practical skills).