On May 23, 2017, an irreplaceable member of the GLIDE family and essential figure in our organization’s history passed away. Joyce June Hayes first came to GLIDE in 1971 as a church member, and quickly became instrumental in developing GLIDE’s early children’s programs, which later became the Janice Mirikitani Family, Youth and Childcare Center in 1991. While at GLIDE, Joyce served in many roles from resident writer to Youth Program Director. Joyce’s love was boundless and in her life was foster mother to 87 children from the community.
GLIDE Co-Founder Janice Mirikitani described those early years with Joyce and the kids.
“We started with 15 latchkey kids running the streets of the Tenderloin, giving them tutoring, books and shoes and school supplies,” remembers Janice. “The program grew through the months until we had to take down walls to make a bigger space for all the kids, volunteers and parents in the program, but Joyce was the heartbeat of it all. She worked two other jobs and volunteered here every day, including every Sunday, with mostly homeless kids or small children whose parents were on drugs and left them to her.”
“Joyce pointed a new way for saving children, and that was through her love,” says Rev. Cecil Williams, GLIDE Co-Founder and Minister of Liberation.
In the 1980s, Joyce became the director of the Children and Families Program. Sometime later, the building at 434 Ellis Street that is now the Janice Mirkitani Family, Youth and Childcare Center was offered to GLIDE at a favorable price. Janice and Joyce worked to raise the money to remodel the building in order to make it the safe and welcoming space it is today.
“I always said to Joyce, we bought this building for you,” Janice recalls.
In 2001, Joyce received the prestigious Congressional Angels in Adoption Award from Nancy Pelosi for her commitment to making a difference in the lives of children and families through her work at GLIDE as well as by being a foster parent for so many years.
“I do it because the need is there,” Joyce used to say. “I love the spirituality at GLIDE. Here, spirituality means action, seven days a week. When I first came to GLIDE, it changed the concept of what I wanted to do with my life.”
“I met Joyce when I was a teenager,” remembers La Monica Hopkins, FYCC’s Education Director. “At that time my grandmother, Etta Page, worked at GLIDE in the Celebration office as a receptionist. I would come to GLIDE a little infrequently, mostly for church. I became better acquainted with Joyce as a mentor when, as an adult, I applied to be one of their Licensed Childcare Teachers in 1999 when FYCC was being renovated. I remember Joyce telling me, ‘I won’t be in your interview because I already know you,’ which I really appreciated honestly because it was important to me to get the job not because I knew Joyce or was related to my grandmother but because the interviewer felt that I was the right fit for the position.
“Joyce was the on-site model of the vision for FYCC,” says La Monica. “It’s important to have someone who is always living a vision of a place like FYCC. From her I learned compassion organically. Not by just what she said, but by what she did. Beyond what I already knew or where I grew up. She encouraged me to always be accepting of others, consider their faults but never to judge them for them. To think beyond my assumptions and ask more questions empathically. Through her eyes and way of being I could literally feel what compassion was supposed to feel like even when I didn’t agree with the way something was being done.”
“Joyce, who we called Joy back in the day, was the most loving, kind and compassionate woman I have known,” says Janice. “She loved to laugh and make others laugh. Her unconditional love for all people, but especially children and teenagers, is the model of how holistic healing can save the lives of the most vulnerable among us. Her beautiful smile and laughter is contained in GLIDE’S walls, and I can still hear the echoes of her laughter in our rooms. I am reminded, each time I look into the faces of young people, of the power of love, the comfort of kisses, and the warm embrace of a mother—Mother Joyce Hayes, who took every child in need into her arms.”
GLIDE is blessed and privileged to have had the support, talent and love of Joyce Hayes through the decades. So, too, is San Francisco. On June 13, on behalf of the City, District 6 Supervisor Jane Kim introduced and presented a posthumous Certificate of Honor for Joyce, accepted by her daughter Jayne Rovianek, in recognition of Joyce June Hayes’s many accomplishments and her fostering 87 children over four decades. Her legacy of love is vast, and she remains a model of how each of us can save one life at a time through our own commitment, passion and perseverance.
There will be a Celebration of Life on June 4th at 1:00 PM in the Sanctuary. A reception will follow the services in Freedom Hall.