In continuing with our Board of Director’s themed blogs, we’d like to introduce Sue Peoni. Sue is a dedicated volunteer for the Joseph Maley Foundation, notably for our disABILITY Awareness Program, and was awarded JMF’s 2018 Crystal Butterfly award for her dedication and support of the Foundation. Keep reading to learn why Sue gives so much of her time to JMF, and why she thinks others should too!

How long have you been a board member, and why did you join the JMF Board of Directors?

I believe 2019 is my third year on the JMF Board – time flies! I had known Vivian for MANY years, and had always kept up with the Foundation and its progress. When I finally retired for the third time, I had time to give and told her she could put me to work. Little did I know!

You’ve spent a considerable amount of time volunteering with our disABILITY Awareness Program. Why have you invested so much time in this program?

Because it is fun! And it beats the heck out of yard work! Seriously, I have always felt that the best time to reach people’s hearts is when they are young, before all kinds of assumptions and stereotypes set in. Watching these kids open their hearts and minds to others is a complete joy, and if they retain some of that openness into adulthood, then we have done the world a great service.

If you had to pick a different JMF program to volunteer with, which one would it be and why?

I’m probably too old for Joseph Maley Fitness – maybe I could help with yoga! I’ve done a little bit of work with HOPE, and I’d like to do more. Middle-schoolers are so interesting – still kids, but on the cusp of being adults – they are funny, yet facing all kinds of issues they may or may not be ready for. Just listening to them is fascinating (and a great reminder to ME of how important listening is!), and then seeing them respond when we treat them with respect and value is so gratifying.

What image comes to mind when you think of JMF?

Is there an image for kindness? It is the driving force of all of the programs, and JMF Staff members ooze kindness from their pores without ever being cloying. I know no one is perfect 24×7, but watching the staff interact with students, teachers and administrators is incredibly impressive.

How would you encourage others to get involved with JMF?

Come see what we do! If you have even a little time to give, you can make a big impact! With more regular volunteers, I think we could reach a lot more schools with disABILITY Awareness, and therefore get many more children started off with the right mindset. And if your job and family responsibilities prevent a big time commitment, just take a day or two to see what we do – then tell people! Every time I volunteer with dA I meet a parent who says “I have a child/relative/friend who could use your programs, but I’ve never heard about you!”.

This is our year of stories – what’s your favorite JMF story?

It actually happens pretty often with the younger kids in disABILITY Awareness – we will wrap up and they will be lined up to head back to their classrooms and someone will step out of line to run back and give one of us a hug! That’s a good sign that we are reaching them in a very good way, don’t you think?