Person of the Week
Jack Frost: Help is on the Way
Retired banker Jack Frost is deeply invested in making the local community a better place, particularly for those with developmental challenges. (Photo by Rita Christopher/The Courier | Buy This Photo)
When Jack Frost retired five years ago, he changed his business card. In his professional career, it read Banker. In retirement, he changed it to read Helper. When people ask him what that means, his answer is succinct: “I help.”
Jack has long been an advocate for those with developmental challenges, the result of his own experience as the parent of an offspring with intellectual disabilities.
“It’s made me a more caring, more understanding person,” he says.
His goal is to help families through the thicket of confusing government regulations that surround services for youngsters with a wide range of disabilities.
He quotes a well-known philosopher of the 20th century on his decision to get involved. “You know what Yogi Berra said: When you come to a fork in the road, take it.”
Now he is concerned about the effects of COVID-19, particularly on education, where studies show children with a range of intellectual and emotional disabilities are suffering far more as a result of electronic schooling.
“Are we going to continue to 22 to make up for this,” he asks, noting that government services including special education now end when students are 21 years old.
Jack has served on both Connecticut’s regional and statewide Council on Developmental Services, a group established to bring information to the public and provide feedback on the work of the Department of Developmental Services.
He says that he finds particular satisfaction in his advocacy for the Connecticut ABLE Act (the acronym stands for Achieving a Better Life Experience) in 2015. The most significant provisions of the act concern exemptions for taxes and government programs on trust funds placed in ABLE accounts for people with disabilities.
The provisions of the act, Jack points out, make it possible, among other things, for disabled people to accumulate in the ABLE trust accounts funds for equipment such as a handicapped-equipped van.
One of the other organizations for which Jack has worked is Special Olympics, coaching in both sailing and skiing. According to Jack, there is more involved than just the athletics.
“Kids meet other kids; parents meet parents; a lot of networking goes on,” he says.
For sailing, there are usually two Special Olympic coaches and two special Olympic athletes on each boat during races, but when the Essex Yacht Club held a competition, instead of two coaches, there was one coach and one member of the yacht club, widening the circle of people involved. The Essex event continued on for seven years, but COVID-19 forced cancellation in 2020.
“People had very little connection with the whole thing before and it was a wonderful success,” Jack says.
He is a longtime member of the Essex Yacht Club and was commodore in 1991.
Jack had a very positive approach in the coaching he did for the ski team.
“There’s nothing about intellectual disabilities that says you can’t put on skis and go down a hill fast,” he says.
In addition, Jack volunteers and is now a board member for Friends in Service Here, better known by its acronym FISH. The group usually provides rides at no cost to medical appointments for people in Essex, Deep River, and Chester who have no other transportation, but has suspended its services at present due to the pandemic.
When Jack retired, he joined Essex Rotary.
“I never had time to do that before. I didn’t know what to expect but I knew they did good things,” he says. “It was important just to be aware of what the local needs were.”
One local need that Jack and other Essex Rotary help with is Meals on Wheels. He and other Rotary members deliver one Friday a month. He originally got involved because he thought his son, now in his 30s and living at Brian House, a local facility for people with emotional and intellectual challenges, would like to help at the Estuary Council of Seniors in assembling the just-cooked food for delivery.
“He did it for about three weeks and the said ‘This is not for me, dad,’” Jack recalls.
Jack, however, stayed on doing another job and involved other Rotary members as meal deliverers. It is, he points out, not just a situation to drop off meals. It is about dealing with the loneliness that is so often a part of growing old.
“People look forward to this; some of them are very much alone,” he says. “We want to strike up a conversation, see if they need some help.”
Supporting both Meals on Wheels and the Shoreline Soup Kitchens & Pantries is a significant part of annual charitable giving for Jack and his wife Chip.
Jack says that he is comfortable with having a name best known as the symbol of winter. He says, in fact, it has advantages. When he was in the banking business and had to make sales calls, no one every forgot his name.
“Even if they were not interested and not going to do business, they didn’t forget Jack Frost,” he says.
Sometimes people started out to make a joke about Jack Frost and thinking better of it mid-sentence.
“I could see from their faces that they realized I have heard it all before,” he says.
Jack grew up in New London and graduated from Wesleyan in Middletown. He has traveled the United States and Europe, but he has never wanted to live anywhere else.
“Every time I go anywhere, I think of New England,” he says. “I can’t imagine anyplace better.”
For more information on the Essex Rotary Club, visit www.rotaryclubofessex.com; on the Shoreline Soup Kitchens, visit www.shorelinesoupkitchens.org; and on Meals on Wheels, visit www.ecsenior.org/services/nutrition.