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East County Thursday, Jun. 13, 2019 8 months ago

Great Knights (of Columbus) in Lakewood Ranch

Indigo couple, representing Our Lady of the Angels Catholic Church, earn Knights of Columbus' Family of the Year award for Florida.
by: Jay Heater Managing Editor

On June 1 at the Hyatt Regency Orlando, Indigo's Jim and Rosemarie Coon walked away from the Knights of Columbus State Convention carrying the 2019 Family of the Year award.

Humbled and honored by their selection in representing the Knights of Columbus at Our Lady of the Angels Catholic Church in Lakewood Ranch, the Coons can look at the award fondly as it now sits on a shelf at home.

For the Coons, though, the true reward is not sitting on a shelf. They carry it with them everywhere they go.

"If you are looking for true peace, look outside yourself," said Jim Coon, who is the volunteer Culture of Life director for the Diocese of Venice. "Volunteerism allows you to get outside yourself."

Jim Coon then told a story.

Jim and Rosemarie spend each Tuesday morning holding signs — "Free pregnancy services and ultra sounds at the Community Pregnancy Clinic" — in front of the Planned Parenthood building in Sarasota. 

"A woman walked past and I asked, 'Are you OK?'" Jim Coon said. "She kept walking. But there was a man walking behind her. He followed her into the building, and eventually came out a short while later. He came back to me, and talked to me for about an hour. He wanted the woman to have his child.

"We had a good conversation. You hear so much that men force women to have abortions. Here it was, this David and Goliath chat. Our building, the Community Pregnancy Clinic, Inc., is this old, dilapidated, little building. Then (down the street) you have this huge building. But I got this man connected with a men's group to provide healing."

After giving the man the information, Jim Coon watched as he walked away. He had no idea if the man followed through and found the healing he had sought.

"I didn't say volunteerism leads you to true happiness," Jim Coon said. "But when I walked away that day, I was at peace. You can't help others and say, 'What's in it for me.'"

Nevertheless, Jim and Rosemarie Coon said their volunteerism has led to many gifts.

Rosemarie Coon talked about their regular Monday trips to Inspired Living in Lakewood Ranch to share their Catholic faith or just to provide company and support to the residents.

"An Inspired Living gentleman we knew had passed away," she said. "His family said to me, 'We would like you to read the petitions during the funeral mass. He loved talking with you.'

"We had a nice rapport and being asked to read the petitions was special to me. He felt so connected to us."

The Coons have a lot of connections in the community.

In earning the Family of the Year award over three other finalists who advanced among the 55,000 Knights members in Florida,  Jim Coon schedules, plans and directs council activities in Special Olympics, March for Life, Christian Refugee Relief, Mass for Special Needs, and Pregnancy Center Support.

The couple — Jim is 66 and Rosemarie is 63 — is heavily involved in the activities at Our Lady of the Angels, including both their work in many of the church ministries, retreats and support given to the pastor's priority projects.

Both are Eucharistic ministers and they were heavily involved in fundraising efforts by the Diocese of Venice to support a new mobile medical clinic which provide prenatal care to women in Sarasota, Fort Myers and Naples.

Then there are the trips to simply those in need, such as the seniors at Inspired Living.

Jim Coons said they have learned a new saying that is used at Inspired Living when someone dies. 

"They got promoted," he said. "They went to heaven."

The couple, who have three children in 37-year-old Ryan Coons, 34-year-old Danae Allison and 29-year-old Whitney Testa, actually have so many projects that it can be hard to remember them.

At the Orlando Hyatt during the awards ceremony, a master of ceremonies was reading the winners' many volunteer projects.

Rosemarie looked at her husband. "This isn't use," she said. "I had forgotten what we had done."

But it was them, as they soon found out.

"We are lucky and definitely humbled," Jim Coons said. "We get more than we give. Our message was that Knights of Columbus is a family. This award belongs to all of us."

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