Kaci Jones didn’t stumble into becoming a pharmacist. It felt like the right thing to do, snugly fitting in line with the vision she had for her life.


“I chose this profession so that I could help people,” said Jones, a Stephenville native who was announced last week as the winner of the Empire-Tribune’s Everyday Hero contest, by vote of our readers.


Jones, a 1995 Stephenville High School graduate, has been employed as a pharmacist at Walgreens here for 16 years.


“My family has been in Stephenville for multiple generations, so I truly care about my community and my customers,” said Jones, who is one of three pharmacists at the local Walgreens. “I develop a close relationship with my customers. We are a very good crew that takes care of our customers.”


After earning a degree in animal biology from Tarleton State University, she completed her training while attending Texas Tech’s School of Pharmacy — for two years in Amarillo and two years at the Dallas campus.


Jones’s husband, Wes, is also a pharmacist, and is employed at H-E-B in Stephenville. They have two sons and live on land about 20 miles outside of Stephenville that has long been in Kaci’s family.


Connor, 14, is a recent Henderson Junior High School graduate preparing to start high school as an SHS freshman this fall. Garrett, 9, attend school in Bluff Dale and will be in the third grade this fall.


Jones said that Garrett has autism that has improved from its original medical diagnosis as severe, to the point that he now communicates well with others, and is able to do well in all of his school work.


Jones, formerly involved as a volunteer delivering food for Erath County’s Backpack Buddlies, has served the past five years on the board of directors of Texas Toddlers Autism Network.


That’s a local nonprofit group that she help create along with parents of some other autistic children. Its Early Childhood Intervention Program trains parents of autistic children under age 3. Jones said that program — Pathways Early Autism Intervention — has helped Garrett make amazing progress.


“They go into homes and train the parents,” Jones said. “It really changes their (children’s) whole outlook because their brains are still growing. It’s very new.”


The key to the training being effective is the early intervention aspect, Jones said.


“It changed my little kiddo’s life, for sure,” Jones said. “When he was diagnosed, he was diagnosed, he was 2-1/2. He’s made lots of progress. Now he’s doing great. He talks and communicates. He started out with zero communication. I’m very proud of that kiddo. He can write and read and do math.”


Jones noted that Pathways now spans the entire state, training ECI workers to instruct parents in their homes.