By Conrad Dudderar
Joanne Riley is reflecting fondly on her five years helping lead a Yukon charitable ministry through a period of unprecedented growth.
Riley is stepping down as director of Compassionate Hands after accepting a leadership position with another nonprofit in Canadian County.
“I’ve truly, truly been blessed by my time here,” said Riley, who has worked for non-profits since the ‘80s. “I hope that I have brought something special to this organization and helped in its growth.
“Certainly, it’s been a blessing to help people in the community who need assistance because they’re having a temporary crisis – and seeing them be able to move forward.”
As a faith-based ministry, Compassionate Hands since 1994 has helped struggling residents living in the 73099 zip code with utility and rental assistance, while providing personal care items.
The agency has a van program to take seniors and disabled residents to medical appointments, work, grocery shopping, and other personal errands.
“Joanne has meant so much to Compassionate Hands, growing our organization by leaps and bounds,” said Yukon’s Alycia Barry, a longtime Compassionate Hands’ board member. “She came here with a lot of non-profit experience, bringing extensive knowledge about how to obtain grants and move us forward. That helped us a great deal.
“Joanne has really meant a lot to our clients as well,” Barry added. “She has done much more than provide services, also offering spiritual and emotional support. We really hate to lose her, but we’re also excited for her and the new challenge she’s going to have.”
Riley will most miss the relationships she’s developed with Compassionate Hands’ van riders.
“So many of them have become close to me,” she said. “They’ve been such a delight.
“I’ll miss many of the great people I’ve gotten to know as a member of the Yukon Chamber of Commerce, at the coffees and the luncheons.”
Compassionate Hands’ outgoing director also will miss her part-time office staff and van drivers.
“We’ve all kind-of become a ‘family’ here,” she pointed out.
Riley joined Yukon’s Compassionate Hands 5-1/2 years ago as an office assistant before becoming interim director. She was hired as full-time director in January 2018.
“We’ve seen a growth in need for temporary assistance with rent and utilities due to people’s economic situations,” she explained. “It has grown way beyond the resources any one organization can provide.
“We’ve also seen a growth in our van program, with new riders every week who need to go both locally and into Oklahoma City.”
During Riley’s tenure, Compassionate Hands was nominated and received a ONE (Oklahoma Nonprofit Excellence) Award in the “community” category from the Oklahoma Center for Nonprofits and the Yukon Chamber of Commerce’s inaugural Nonprofit of the Year Award.
Riley’s efforts also have helped Compassionate Hands earn some major grants, from the Sarkeys Foundation, Carl and Marie Anderson Foundation, Oklahoma Center for Nonprofits, Cox Communications, along with many smaller grant awards.
In her time as director, Compassionate Hands became a United Way of Canadian County partner agency.
LOTS OF SUPPORT
Riley thanked the many Yukon-area churches, businesses, foundations, organizations, and individuals for their steadfast support.
“We depend on them to be able to serve this community so well,” she noted.
Before coming to Compassionate Hands, Riley spent 18 years at the Oklahoma City National Memorial rising to the position of museum operations director.
She previously worked for United Cerebral Palsy, Goodwill and the Red Cross.
“I’ve always worked in non-profit,” Riley said. “It’s been my calling. It usually involves things I’ve experienced in my past.
“Every job I’ve had has been rewarding, in its own, different way.”
A new challenge awaits Compassionate Hands’ departing director, who has accepted an executive director position with a Canadian County non-profit.
“I want to bring my experiences and skills over to help them,” Riley said.
“I’ll always cherish my time with Compassionate Hands. It’s truly been a blessing.”
Donna Yarbrough, a Compassionate Hands’ van driver, will serve as interim director after Riley’s departure.
“Donna has experience in the corporate world, so we’ll be in good hands,” Barry said.