As a Foot Health Advocate, Carolyn Jenkins is part of a group of uniquely dedicated social reformers and out-of-box thinkers. While achieving career heights up the corporate ladder, Carolyn Jenkins, Creator & CEO of CjQenterprises, LLC and Executive Director of Jenkins Donelon Foundation, is living her life’s motto, ‘good healthcare for all’ in the truest sense of the word.
As an out of box thinker, Carolyn foot health and healthy lifestyles for the underserved. In March 2016, the Foot Health Advocate formed the Jenkins Donelson Foundation (JDF) to promote good foot health through education, services, and resources in the USA and globally.
In 2019 The JDF mission expanded to “promote foot health and healthy lifestyles.” In addition to giving away shoes, socks, clothing, and foot care supplies, The JDF began giving away everyday essentials, including beds/bedding, toys, and household goods, to families in need. Even with the expanded mission, Carolyn is still passionate about foot health because, many times, foot pain is preventable. Everyone deserves to own a decent pair of shoes and socks. As importantly, no one should suffer from foot pain because they can’t afford medical care. The JDF team actively works to prevent and eliminate foot pain to ‘heal and shoe the world.’
Carolyn graduated from Bowie State University, earning a Bachelor of Science in Elementary Education. She earned her Social Sector Certification from the University of California Berkley Haas School of Business. She is also an author and an avid booklover.
The Inspiring Journey: From Author to Social Worker
“I have wanted to be an author since I was a child. After working my way through college and working professionally for a few years, I founded a Christian bookstore and a general bookstore. Surrounding myself with books, and authors occasionally, kept my dream alive. The industry changed when Amazon launched, so I went back into the workforce and became a government contractor.
One day I heard myself say, ‘I always wanted to write children’s books,” and I wondered, “why haven’t you?” I sat down and wrote The Family Adventures of Princess Ladybug and Princess Ladybird: Laundry Day. I self-published it through Amazon and immediately decided I didn’t want to be a one-hit-wonder, so I wrote volume two in the series, Papa’s Farm. As I was fulfilling my childhood dream, I broke my pinky toe for the second time. This accident led me to write the book that changed the course of my life. I wrote a poem that highlighted the important role our feet play in our lives. I forgot about the poem until I was introduced to an artist who offered to add beautiful illustrations to my poem, My Feet: An Ode. As I was publishing my book, I searched the National Calendar website to see if a special day existed to encourage people to appreciate their feet and take good care of them. Not finding one, I registered National I LOVE My Feet Day! to be celebrated on August 17. This special day is now recognized annually in the US and abroad”, shared Carolyn Jenkins.
“To supplement I LOVE My Feet Day!, I created ilovemyfeetdays.com so that people could get foot health information in layman’s terms, 24/7. I quickly realized what I was doing was not reaching the people who needed it most, the underserved. At that time, I had already witnessed and understood the inequity in health care, but the inequalities crystallized for me when I began promoting good foot health. The most vulnerable had the greatest need.
Within one year, I established the Jenkins Donelson Foundation, which promotes foot health and healthy lifestyles for the underserved. In 2016 volunteers began giving recycled shoes and new socks to the homeless and low-income. Today, due to multiple retail partnerships, we give away free shoes, socks, clothes, beds/bedding, school supplies, baby/children’s goods, seasonal goods, bikes, kitchenware, bathroom goods, personal products, detergents, outdoor supplies, including swimming pools and lawnmowers, along with a wide assortment of household goods. To date, we have served those in need in eight states, the District of Columbia, and three countries”, she further added.
Carolyn Jenkins has always loved books. For her, selecting a favorite book is like choosing a favorite child; it’s impossible. Each one shines on different levels at different times. Right now, her favorite shining stars are Just As I Am by Cicely Tyson, Everyday is a Gift by Senator Tammy Duckworth, My Soul Looks Back by Jessica B. Harris, and Along the Way by Martin Sheen and Emilio Estevez. Carolyn Jenkins enjoys learning about the ‘journey’ others have made to reach their goals and destinations.
Making A Difference in Lives
Established in 2016, the Jenkins Donelson Foundation (JDF) is focused on promoting good foot health to the underserved. The JDF operates solely through volunteer support and donations. In 2019 The JDF won multiple retail partnerships allowing volunteers to pick up overstock, seasonal goods, and returned goods. This plethora of valuable retail inventory led the Board of Directors to expand the mission to promoting foot health and healthy lifestyles for the underserved. Presently, the JDF is serving the homeless, the underserved, and those in need.
The JDF still operates through volunteer efforts and donations. Most JDF volunteers have full-time jobs. In FY21, despite the pandemic lockdown, JDF volunteers gave away more than $150K to those in need.
The JDF keeps its goods in storage units, and this is the location where people come to pick up their everyday essentials.. The JDF hopes to operate from a free-standing building or rent warehouse space in the future to make it easier to serve those in need. The nonprofit would also like to hire part-time assistance, which would reduce the heavy workload on volunteers and help to expand its outreach.
Feathers in the Cap
The JDF received national and international recognition during the pandemic. JDF volunteers remained committed to serving those in need, and donations were distributed to homes, directly to the homeless, engaged through new partnerships and pick-ups at the storage units. JDF volunteers realized quickly that the lockdown would cause mental and additional financial stress, so the goods it had to offer were in greater demand. Through its sister organization, ilovemyfeetdays.com, The JDF also provided foot health information people could incorporate immediately to improve their health during the lockdown. Below is a list of awards The JDF and its volunteers have won:
- 2021 Top-Rated Nonprofit from Great Nonprofits
- 2021 Corporate Live Wire Innovation & Excellence Awards Foot Health Specialists of the Year
- 2021 Gold, Silver, and Bronze Presidential Volunteer Service Awards for JDF volunteers
- 2021 Five Year Recognition Award from Senator Mark Warner, VA
- 2021 Volunteer Recognition Award from Senator Tim Kaine, VA
- 2021 Points of Light Volunteer Recognition #7100 for a JDF volunteer
- 2020 ManTech International Community Partner
- 2020 ManTech International Pedersen Community Service Award recognizing a JDF volunteer
- 2020 General Dynamics IT (GDIT) Volunteer of the Year Award recognizing a JDF volunteer
- 2020 Fitness & Nutrition Foot Health Social Enterprise of the Year
- 2020 Top-Rated Nonprofit from Great nonprofits
A Piece of Advice for Female Entrepreneurs
Doing your best is great but striving for balance is critical. Trying to “have it all” can cause us to lose the most important things in life, love and family. One of the biggest takeaways during the pandemic was the reminder that we need to love one another everyday.
My trademark quote is, “Take good care of your tootsies; they have to last you a lifetime!”