Working For A Life, Not a Living

Volunteers Chuck Kelly and Fe Lynch working at McDonald Farm

Chuck Kelly and Fe Lynch should have met at a business conference, through work associates or perhaps in an airport terminal. One a large scale IT infrastructure professional and the other in corporate real estate commuting to downtown Chicago every day, the intersection of their lives, at least on paper, was likely to be somewhere in this fast-paced corporate setting. But where they actually met was outside of an 1850s barn, shovels in hand, at McDonald Farm. What brought them there was actually their recent retirements, the end of the working era of their lives. But they both share a common approach to retirement. They didn’t want to stop working entirely. They just wanted to stop working for a living, and starting working to feel alive.


Chuck and Fe are what we like to call our McDonald Farm Handypeople, the pair that shows up almost every Tuesday morning ready to do whatever odd jobs need to be done around the farm. “This is not glamorous stuff,” says Chuck of their usual tasks. “It’s weeding, planting, mending fences, fixing rotting boards on the barns, really whatever Brook wants us to do. But we get to be outside, and I’ve found that people who volunteer for outdoor-oriented things just have a good energy about them. Fe and I have formed a neat friendship and get to be around a lot of people with a good outlook and joy of living and I feed off of that.”


Fe and his wife Cathy have a hobby farm of their own in Wisconsin, where he has honed many of the skills that have come in awfully handy for us at McDonald Farm! He, too, expresses that his role has been to fulfill fairly mundane tasks. “Brook and the staff just can’t say thank you enough, and my internal dialogue is that I’ve really got them fooled,” he jokes. “But Chuck and I really have a lot of fun with it. It’s really fulfilling to be able to share back the knowledge and skills I’ve developed and enjoy. I may feel what we’re doing is trivial, but it’s not lost on me that someone has to do it so why not let us who enjoy it do it and let the staff focus on their areas of expertise. We’re an extension of the mission and I’m delighted to be a part of that.”


A few of this industrious pair’s favorite memories around the farm have been constructing the fence around the Children’s Sensory Garden, weeding and other tasks where they got to pitch in with the Green Earth Harvest farm crew, trying to figure out how to put together tents for the McDonald Farm Plant Sale with no directions, interesting wildlife sightings and sitting around a campfire at the farm with their wives. “I really enjoy working with Fe and Chuck,” says our President/CEO Brook McDonald. “They come in every Tuesdaywith a smile on their face and and I love their work ethic and their sense of humor.”


“I spent 35 years of my life working for businesses to make a living, and in retirement I’m not going to work unless I enjoy it and it aligns with my values,” declares Chuck. “I care about the earth we live on, about what we’re doing to it and ways we can minimize our impact, and that just aligns perfectly with the work of The Conservation Foundation. I don’t want to spend my years on this earth taking, taking, taking. Being able to say I’m giving back and am repaying some of the good things I’ve gotten over the course of my life is a great feeling.”


In Fe’s family, “do the kindest thing” is their mantra, and volunteering for The Conservation Foundation is one of the ways he lives that mantra. “In my mind, there is no other organization out there that has this level of expertise to make a difference on protecting our local areas of nature. I just don’t know anywhere else where I’ve seen that executed and I think that in itself is worth supporting.”


Our heartfelt thanks to Chuck, Fe, and the thousands of volunteers who help us carry out our mission every day!


Written by Jill Johnson, Communications Manager


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