Vibrant Voice – Jennifer Joyce

Jennifer Joyce, Gamma Lambda - UNC Chapel Hill

Jennifer M. Joyce
Gamma Lambda Chapter – Initiated in 1995
UNC Chapel Hill – BA Journalism and Mass Communication
Executive Director, The Barry L. Joyce Local Cancer Support Fund

“It’s not easy by any means. Of course nothing that truly matters really is, but it’s completely, 100% worth it and I wouldn’t trade it for the world.”

As a tribute to her late father, Jennifer and her family started The Barry L. Joyce Local Cancer Support Fund in 2001 to support cancer patients in their Rockingham County (NC) community that struggle financially.  Mr. Joyce felt that by relieving some of their financial stress, these patients could channel their energy to their fight against cancer.

In 2012, Jennifer put a plan together to work for the fund full-time and grow it to help as many people as possible.  Under her leadership, the Fund had a building donated for its use and raised over $300,000 more, in less than one year, for its renovation.  Since the building opened in November 2013, the Fund has serviced nearly 1,500 persons with programs alone. In addition to financial assistance, the fund offers emotional and educational support through yoga classes, support groups, creative escapes, lunch and learns, massage therapy and more. They also have a library and computer resource room available for patients and their families to use at their leisure.

Just as her father wished, The Barry L. Joyce Local Cancer Support Fund assists local cancer patients struggling financially with things like utility bills, pharmaceutical bills, auto gas cards and more. Just this week, they purchased and installed an air conditioning window unit for a patient in the end stages of lung cancer that had no relief in the dreadful 90+ degree heat. They also provided assistance with a power bill and food for another woman, without income, fighting breast cancer. Jennifer believes people should not have to choose whether to feed their family or fill their prescription, or heat their home or make it to their chemotherapy/radiation appointment. Cancer itself brings on enough stress.

As the sole staff person, Jennifer handles the fundraising, program development, finances, volunteer coordination, community outreach/public relations and patient outreach. She says, “I am fortunate enough to be surrounded every day by folks that remind me just how important the small things can be. Those that don’t take today for granted because they know what a gift tomorrow actually is. If we can make what these folks are dealing with easier in any way, and for as little or as much time as they have, it’s the least we can do. It’s not easy by any means. Of course nothing that truly matters really is, but it’s completely, 100% worth it and I wouldn’t trade it for the world.”

I am most proud of….the accomplishments made when many questioned my sanity and thought they were impossible.
• A few years ago I was supposed to go to Haiti, but my trip was derailed because of the earthquake. I acquired a transfer trailer to fill with goods to send via a Florida nonprofit that I had teamed up with previously. Many thought I was crazy and would never fill it because it was placed in such a small town. We filled two!
• A couple of years ago I wanted to start a program to serve a free hot meal to those in need in the community. My goal was to serve 100 people once a month. Again, folks thought it was impossible because “how would I get all those people there.” We now serve 150 meals twice a month.
• Taking our Cancer Fund to the next level still left many with doubts. I’ve learned to take those doubts and use them as the fuel to make things happen, because if you believe in something enough, anything is possible. This would be my biggest accomplishment. Because of it and because of Dad’s vision, we are positively impacting a local cancer patient every single day. Hundreds are being helped in his name and because of the community’s support, we have never turned down anyone in need.

The best advice I ever received was… you won’t know until you try. If you believe in something and give it your all, you can make it happen.

Phi Mu taught me….what having a family away from home truly felt like. How great it was to have people that you could rely on, have your back, and care about you just like your family did and that you would do anything for them without hesitation.

My fondest Phi Mu memory…working with fellow sisters to take our annual golf tournament fundraiser for the Children’s Miracle Network to the next level and raising more than any other chapter in the country. Also, living in the sorority house and knowing at any given moment I could walk down the hall or into the next room and always have someone there to listen, talk, or even laugh about nothing at all! And of course the tube room for the newest 90210 episodes!

Even my best friends don’t know that I… This is a tough one because I’m pretty much an open book. Most that know me know that I laugh when I shouldn’t, generally don’t shy away from an experience of any kind, and I’m always up for a last minute, spontaneous grab a drink kind of night.

Three light-hearted things I can’t live without… Laughter, music, and the ocean.

I wish I had more time to…travel. Travel.

Future aspirations and goals…I would love to grow The Barry L. Joyce Local Cancer Support Fund and take it into additional rural communities that currently lack support for their cancer patients. My vision is to make our Fund and the idea available to all those that could benefit in any way.