In this edition of Virginia at Work, we introduce you to a leader who inspires.
Joy Sylvester-Johnson, the CEO of the Roanoke Rescue Mission, will retire this holiday season. Her departure will end an era for the rescue mission that had always been in the hands of her family.
“They came July 2nd, 1948 and I have records that say, that first year, at the end of the year, they had served 5,000 meals,” says Sylvester-Johnson.
The Roanoke Rescue Mission has come a long way since her parents opened its doors in 1948.
In 2015 at the Roanoke Rescue Mission:
- Served 275,812 meals
- Provided 104,008 nights of safe shelter
- Provided 12,575 recovery class hours
As an executive consultant, Lynda McNutt Foster, the CEO of Cortex Leadership Consulting, has worked with several leaders throughout our area.
“Joy has been vital over the last 30 years in getting the organization to where it is now. Her unique set of behavioral types. The types of ways she approaches projects, her ability to ideate and a really advanced, high level is what was necessary up to now. The next leader doesn’t have to be Joy. The next leader just has to be able to take what she has built, and build upon it,” says Foster.
She adds, when it comes to Joy Sylvester-Johnson, she is the embodiment of serving leadership – a leader, who has an unyielding passion for her work.
“We lived at the mission. We ate what everybody else ate. We were in chapel every night with everybody else. I had a crib behind the piano. I knew every guy on the street. It was a family.” says Sylvester-Johnson.
For the first time in the history of the Roanoke Rescue Mission, once Joy Sylvester-Johnson retires, a CEO who is not a family member will lead the mission as it enters a new chapter.
Joy sat down and spoke at length about her experience growing up at the Roanoke Rescue Mission and the decades of work that got the mission to where it is today. She shares the story about the first night her parents began their work at the mission and how police busted in the doors thinking it was a brothel. She has quite the story to share, and we have her entire interview broken down into part one and part two.