In 15 years Lake Wylie Children’s Charity has raised over $600,000 to help local families and kids struggling with illnesses. So when asked what prior experience Jennifer Joye has running a charity we were surprised to hear, “Absolutely none. No experience,” Jennifer says with a laugh. “I was kind of just thrown into it.” However, Jennifer has been part of the organization since day one.
Originally from Gastonia, Jennifer has lived around Lake Wylie her entire life. In 2002 she was waitressing at T-Bones on the Lake. Jennifer and her co-workers learned a mutual friend, who had recently lost her husband to brain cancer, was now facing a new challenge. The friend’s son had just been diagnosed with cancer as well. Jennifer and her co-workers wanted to help.
“We didn’t have money but we had time,” explains Jennifer. “So that’s how the idea for the concert began. It was a great turnout that year. We raised $19,000 dollars for the family. Then the next year rolled around and folks asked us if we were going to do the concert again. We said, sure!”
A yearly benefit concert has evolved into a year-round charitable organization with four annual events drawing thousands of attendees. The concerts are still held in September whenever possible. “September is childhood cancer awareness month,” explains Jennifer. A golf tournament in the spring and two annual poker runs, including the popular Parrot Poker Run on the lake, complete the charity’s social calendar.
In 2012 the organization shifted from a foundation to formally create Lake Wylie Children’s Charity.
“We founded Lake Wylie Children’s Charity to control how the money and donations were spent. In a single year we may be raising $60,000 for one family. We needed to be respectful of the donations we received. The charity is now a 501c [tax-exempt nonprofit organization]. We pay medical bills directly on behalf of each child or provide the family with very specific living needs like clothing or household expenses.”
Jennifer’s roll has evolved as well. She now serves as Executive Director of Lake Wylie Children’s Charity and is responsible for many of the day to day activities along with President Haven Presley and other board members.
Jennifer’s commitment to Lake Wylie Children’s Charity is impressive. Leading up to an event she spends 20+ hours per week in preparation – everything from organizing volunteers to creating flyers. And the charity is not her only responsibility. Jennifer works full-time as an employee benefits supervisor at Watson Insurance.
As you may expect from someone who has dedicated so much time and energy volunteering, Jennifer is humble. Asked if she has received public awards or recognition for her work with the charity Jennifer immediately responds, “No, I haven’t. I don’t expect anything. I don’t do it for that.”
However, her face lights up when talking about the kids. We asked if there was one, particular child or family she remembers after all these years. “Yes. Luke Moore,” she says.
“Luke’s story is special to me. Luke was 3yrs old when he was diagnosed with Leukemia. It was the same year the foundation became Lake Wylie Children’s Charity. We received Luke’s name as a suggestion from Levine Children’s Hospital. That same year we were also working closely with New River Community Church as we waited for our 501c paperwork. New River Church allowed us to collect donations under their 501c. Luke’s mom happened to be a member of the New River Community Church.”
“Luke’s mom needed a change in her living situation. The charity was able to buy her a house in Clover for her and her two boys. She successfully turned it into a day care facility. The family was able to improve financially and now Luke is cancer free. She was able to use the donations to completely change her life and Luke’s life.”
Jennifer Joye’s enthusiasm is inspiring. For someone with no previous charitable organization experience, Jennifer has certainly come a long way since 2002, making a positive impact on so many grateful families. In Jennifer’s eyes, that’s all that matters.
Lake Wylie Children’s Charity welcomes folks to learn more about the organization, find ways to get involved or attend one of their annual events. Visit http://www.lkwchildrenscharity.org/.