Interview Date: May, 2008
Nancy: Can you tell us a little about your passion for the work?
Joanne: Wow! I guess it would go back to my youth. I have always loved people and wanted to be a police officer. I went to school into the criminal justice stream and modeling. Thought if I was going to be a police officer I needed to look good. Then I had met my husband at the time. We were very young, only 18. I had grown up in an abusive home and was the oldest of six kids so I was the protector of my siblings and my mother. And in my married life I was very active in our church in a capacity with children and as my kids got a little older, started working with youth and then women. In twenty years I had that range of experience and ended up at CAFA. It was a God thing, it really was. All my experiences in life have gotten me to this point…I love what I do. And they pay me to do it. I tell my kids, “Find something that you love to do—that creates your quality of life.”
Nancy: What is the hardest part of the work for you?
Joanne: The hardest thing for me is the helplessness. To see the pain of the families and the men. The pain to say, “Wow, I really blew it.” Some guys cannot…and then it is all about them.
Nancy: Has your personal safety ever been compromised?
Joanne: Once in four years. In all the agencies around here, they have bullet proof glass and the guys are amazed that we do not have that. Other than that one occasion, I have never felt fear for myself personally. I have had a couple of men where I have had to call the police—the mobility unit.
Nancy: We think that you are a very important part of the welcoming team at CAFA.
Joanne: Realistically and honestly it is part of who I am. I have always been a people kind of person. I have this familiarity with people that I do not know. I try to make people comfortable, like an old friend. Anyone coming here, this is a difficult time in their lives and I try to make them as comfortable as possible. I try to get to know more about the guys. How are your kids? When they are in hospital, I call and see how they are doing. Some guys are going through really difficult times…some people say that you are enabling them. But I have suffered deep, dark depression. It increases my quality of life. It is personal.
Nancy: What keeps you doing the work?
Joanne: Besides the awesome people I’m blessed to work with? It’s getting to be a witness to change: changed minds, changed hearts and changed lives. It’s the celebrations and the sorrows, the wins and the setbacks. It’s experiencing the tenacity of the human spirit. That’s what hope, forgiveness and love are all about.
Nancy: Anything else you think would be helpful to know about you?
Joanne: For me, family is everything.
Nancy: Thanks so much for sharing lunch with us.