Joyce Rothermel, Humble Hero

Every so often, if we are lucky, someone truly amazing crosses our path.  For me, this person is Joyce Rothermel. To those that know her, she is a tiny woman with a big life force that has worked her entire life to help others. From the noble idea that everyone deserves to live life without hunger, a small project became a lifetime goal that has resulted in what is now the Greater Pittsburgh Community Food Bank(GPCFB). Her vision has helped create other organizations, as well as provided a voice for those that might otherwise go unheard. She is known not just in Pittsburgh, but around the country for her work in feeding and advocating for the impoverished.

But, it is more than the accomplishments she has under her belt that make her something special. I first met Joyce Rothermel at the Empty Bowls Dinner this year.  Being an advocate for hunger awareness, as well as always wanting to connect people to great stories as a correspondent for Pittsburgh On Video, I asked Joyce to talk with me on camera. I have no real explanation for what happened when we went aside to start her interview. 

We sat down and discussed a few things before starting the camera to get ourselves on the same page. And then, I looked into her eyes. If it is true that the eyes are the windows to the soul, then hers is the most pure and honest I have ever known.  Just being in her presence brought me to tears. I am sure she thought I was a bit odd, although she was most gracious and said nothing, even though I had to stop the camera and restart our interview. Words can’t really describe what it is like when you’re with Joyce. Her smile is infectious and somehow she combines sweetness with determination.  When you are with her, you just know you are with someone special. I still get weepy when I think of our meeting or read and watch things about her.  I’m envious of people who work with her.

After 30 years of being the founder and CEO of the GPCFB, Joyce Rothermel retired from her position on June 30th.  I have to say, I was a little sad to have met her at the end of her tenure.  In our brief meeting she inspired me to be just a little better than I was before; to give more of myself to others when possible; to keep goals and dreams in focus- both mine and those of others.  She motivates me to think bigger and be kinder.  And she probably has no idea of the effect she has on others.

I approached Christopher Whitlatch who curates the Pittsburgh On Video site for the Pittsburgh Foundation with the idea of putting together a video tribute piece as a correspondent with people who have worked or interacted with Joyce. The idea was then developed as a feature for their online bi-monthly non-profit news show, Unsung.  With his help, we put out the word and gathered several individuals who shared their thoughts about Joyce with me. The following is Unsung-Episode 5 with a clip of my interviews:

I’m grateful to have met Ms. Rothermel. Her impact in our brief meeting will last a lifetime. She has such infallible logic and a keen sense of what is needed. Her vision reaches a broad spectrum and her focus is one step ahead of others. Her pure love of humanity and dedication to meeting the needs of those less fortunate is inspiring.  We could all take a lesson from her book of life.

To Joyce, I would say thank you for being the person you are. Your tireless work and dedicated efforts have meant and will continue to mean the world to so many.  You are not just a true hero to us, you are like a patron saint to the hungry.

Simply Put- One person really can make a difference in the lives of others.

Full interviews will be available on Pittsburgh On Video‘s Unsung-Uncut soon.  Anyone that has a story about or thought for Joyce Rothermel is invited to leave a comment to this post.




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