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Giving Back: Retiree reaches out to 'finish strong'

Posted: February 28, 2014 - 5:34pm  |  Updated: March 1, 2014 - 12:15pm
Provided by Katie Scales  A volunteer with United Way's Real$ense initiative, Jim Pellot helps file tax returns every spring for free.
Provided by Katie Scales A volunteer with United Way's Real$ense initiative, Jim Pellot helps file tax returns every spring for free.

Jim Pellot noticed that the tow truck driver unloading a car in the parking lot was the same person who had helped him with an overheated car the night before. Rather than leave it as a coincidental moment, he walked up and said hello.

Reaching out to others has become second nature to Pellot, especially when it comes to helping others help themselves out of financial difficulties. A volunteer with United Way’s Real$ense initiative, he helps file tax returns every spring for free, spending hours with clients as the tax season draws to a close. If his clients want to learn more about managing their finances, he directs them to Real$ense’s financial education classes.

Pellot has spent decades helping others not just here in Jacksonville, but worldwide, putting his business sense to good use for the sake of others.

It’s all part of the plan.

“[The focus] went from success toward significance,” said Pellot, now 72. He achieved his goal of business success running a large mortgage company in the Midwest. When he retired at the age of 52, he turned his attention toward nonprofit work.

It was a conscious choice, made years ago when Pellot was in graduate school in Illinois having just met his soon-to-be wife. Their search for a church together brought them to hear the sermons of a Lutheran pastor, Rev. Roger Nelson.

“He had a dramatic impact on my life,” Pellot said. “I saw that someone could be a successful businessman and yet maintain his faith.”

Although Pellot contemplated attending seminary, he realized that there was a stronger need for ministry in the business community.

Eventually, he answered an invitation to bring his skills to Jacksonville. He became chief operating officer of the Jacksonville Housing Authority for a time, changing the focus of the agency toward helping clients become more self-sufficient and knowledgeable.

“It was the best job I’ve ever had,” Pellot said.

Other efforts have been with Habijax, the local Habitat for Humanity organization, and international mission work through the Presbyterian Church — again helping these agencies do the most good for their clients and helping clients find a way to a secure future.

“Low-income people often end up in trouble,” he said.

Lack of services, lack of knowledge and being unable to plan for the future is something he wants to help them avoid.

His own plan is to “finish strong” by helping more and more people achieve the financial stability that enables them to more effectively manage their lives.


If you would like to volunteer for the United Way’s Real$ense program like Jim Pellot, you can register and file an application form at, or call (904) 390-3282.

Here are some other opportunities:

■ Wounded Warrior Project Talk needs volunteers to man its telephone help line that helps wounded warriors make a successful transition back to their homes. Training will be provided for accepted applicants. Call leader Morgan Agin at (877) 832-6997.

■ You can help Duval teachers by volunteering at the Teacher Supply Depot on Thursday, April 3. For information, call HandsOn Jacksonville at (904) 332-6767 or email

Check out many more opportunities at and

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