Kathy and Jim Lobinsky dedicate their retirement to volunteerism in St. Johns County – St. Augustine Record

By Margo C. Pope  |  Correspondent

10 Who Make a Difference

Editor’s note: This is the sixth story in The Record’s annual “10 Who Make a Difference” series during which we highlight volunteers who have made significant impacts on our community.

Kathy and Jim Lobinsky are making their retirement count for others in St. Johns County.

“The Lobinskys’ commitment to supporting our community and various nonprofits with time, treasure and talents is apparent and unmatched,” said Melissa Nelson, CEO and president, United Way of St. Johns County. “In addition to being leadership givers for over 15 years, in 2020, they had over 350 volunteer hours.”

The Lobinskys are among the recipients of “10 Who Make a Difference in St. Johns County” recognized annually by The St.  Augustine Record.

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As store managers for Publix, they connected with United Way through its partnership with Publix. They led their employees on tours of United Way agencies.

“Once you get out and see the United Way agencies [in action], it really opens your eyes to the needs of the community and how big it really is,” said Jim, 56.

“When Publix teamed up with Feeding Northeast Florida, as a store manager, I would see the food going out the back door, but I never realized where it went,” said Kathy, 55.

“When we started volunteering at Family Worship Center, they were a recipient, and we saw where that food was going,” she said. “They would get the products for their pantry. That was really when we saw all the people in need.”

United Way and Special Olympics scratch the surface on volunteer work

The Lobinskys retired in 2016; Jim after 32 years, Kathy after 28 years. When they retired, they vowed to have more time for themselves and their family, and to increase their volunteer commitment.

“Jim and Kathy Lobinsky are constant in their desire to forge a path to do more,” said Nelson. “In any given week, they spend 20 hours of their week making our community a better place to be and creating a ripple effect for all to benefit from. Their retirement days are full of making the difference.”   

In addition to United Way, they were already aligned with Special Olympics for many years because their son J.R. has autism. Jim is a coach and Kathy helps organize the events.

Other volunteer activities, past and present, include Learn to Read; Food Bank in Armstrong; SEA Community Food Bank; St. Johns Cares; Hugs Across the County; the Nicholas Wozniak Foundation; ACTS 29 that partners with St. Johns Housing Partnership; Dining with Dignity; Quota of St Augustine; clothing drives for Alpha Omega Miracle Home; peanut butter drive for St Francis House; baby Shower for Children’s Home Society; and college scholarship presentations to deaf graduates of Florida School for the Deaf and the Blind.

Building community support was another way that Kathy gave back as store manager at Vilano Beach. She and store employees participated in the annual holiday event, “Dressing the Palms,” sponsored by Vilano Beach Main Street. “It was a fun way to be involved with the Vilano Beach community,” she said.

When Kathy first retired, she said she “went out and did a little of this and a little of that” in volunteering. She said her husband reminded her that the reason they retired when they did was so they could see more of each other.

“I kind of realized what my main passion was, and it was making sure that the food insecure had food. They volunteer weekly at Family Worship Center in the food pantry, and regularly with Dining with Dignity, a feeding program for homeless in downtown St. Augustine.

Over the years, both recall hearing others they know talk about going to other countries to help people in need. “You don’t have to go somewhere else to see needs to be met,” said Jim. “They are right here.”

Family

Children J.R. Lobinsky and Jordan Lobinsky. Both sons are the family’s third generation to work for Publix. Jim’s father, James Joseph, was senior vice president of Publix, retiring after 49 ½ years.

Profession

Retired in 2016 as Publix store managers.

Community involvement

Kathy Lobinsky: Special Olympics volunteer, 18 years; St. Johns Cares board member; SEA community food pantry; Family Worship Center food pantry; Quota Int. of St. Augustine; United Way of St. Johns County: Community impact, Empty Stocking Fund, Real Sense tax program, and any other duties as assigned through United Way.  

Jim Lobinsky: United Way of St. Johns County; Family Worship Center, providing boxes of food to the food insecure in the community; coach, Special Olympics of St. Johns County in basketball, swimming and track and field; assists with the SEA Community food pantry; and Dining with Dignity, providing hot meals to food insecure in downtown St Augustine.

What motivates you to volunteer?

Kathy Lobinsky: I have had many mentors in my life who helped teach me the value of giving back. Working for Publix also has created a philanthropic view in my life and taught me the importance of being a responsible citizen in my community. As a Publix leader, I enjoyed being that mentor to my associates that I had early in my career, to help instill a servant’s heart in the next generation. Now that I am retired, I have more time to spend helping at several different charities.  

Jim Lobinsky: We both worked for Publix, which encourages its associates to be involved as responsible members of their communities and we were encouraged to participate in United Way allocations. This exposed us to the needs of our community and the many agencies striving to meet those needs in St Johns County. We are happy to have the time now to give back and hopefully make a difference in our community.

What advice do you have for others who want to volunteer? 

Kathy Lobinsky: When I was learning about the United Way, I took many tours of their agencies. This really opened my eyes to the needs in our community. This helped me to realize what my passions are and find an organization where you can make a difference.   

Jim Lobinsky: There are so many needs and so many agencies that need volunteers to help provide services. A great place to start is with the United Way, and their Community Impact program. Find what moves your heart.