Joyce Shlesinger 2020
I am touched to be recognized as a Daughter of Distinction. I view this honor as a tribute to my mother. If not for her love, guidance and teachings I wouldn't have known the importance of community - the community of family, of faith and of volunteerism.
When I reflect on my childhood, I remember family gatherings. Understanding community truly began at home for me. My mother loved to cook and prepared delicious meals made with love for our small family of 4, she would inevitably double the recipes as we frequently had guests! These values were woven into my life and have been the thread of many choices I made moving forward, eventually I had my own family and carried those traditions on to my children.
My mother gave me the strength to believe that I could do anything AND survive anything. After my divorce from the father of my four children, I had to start over. I was offered a fantastic position with the Atlanta Symphony in development and moved to Atlanta where I knew no one. I reached out to my spiritual community, which seemed very natural to me. From that first call, I have developed deep friendships that have sustained me.
As an adult, aside from parenting of course, my most meaningful role has been as a volunteer. I've worked with a number of different causes: AIDS, the mentally ill, homeless and holocaust survivors. Once again, my mother set the standard" her brother suffered from mental illness and she had a very strong commitment to him through weekly visits and often brought him home to spend time with us. The Holocaust also impacted all of us as a family, archiving survivor stories and education has been a focus for many years. Lastly, I found myself entrenched raising money and working with patients in the AIDS epidemic after my second husband and I lost a son to AIDS.
I feel my mother with me every day, not just what she taught me, but her beautiful smile and calm nature, she was pure. I feel blessed to have had such a role model. I am so thankful for the opportunities I've experienced in my life and believe that it's important in life to help and inspire others. The best gift I can give is to continue sharing the helpful values and lessons I've received along the way.
I particularly admire the mission of the Bettie Brand Fund helping women transform their lives with dignity.
Thank you again for the lovely honor.