The Johnson Intern Program is about servant leadership, and the program’s many friends gave a rousing farewell on April 26 to the servant leaders’ leader, Susan Gladin.
About 70 admirers of Susan – several from elsewhere in the country – turned out for a celebration dinner for her on April 28 at Vimala’s Curryblossom Café in Chapel Hill’s Courtyard on Franklin Street.
It was a sweetbitter evening for Susan and her many friends. Tributes and music rang out for her extraordinary service to the Johnson Intern Program, but there were tears and some sad notes too at her departure. Susan stepped down last year to give more attention to her family and farm after 9 years as Executive Director of the Johnson Intern Program.
The tribute to her was impressive. Parishioner Watty Bowes, chairman of the Johnson Intern Board for 10 years, led the praises with a moving and humorous recollection of Susan’s tenure as executive director. Other speakers included Sarah Campbell, the current executive director; Marsha Pate, intern supervisor at Club Nova; Anna Shine, current intern; and the entire intern class of 2010-2011, who came from as far as Tennessee and Minnesota.
Music was provided by Alli Little and Andrew Hoelscher, of the 2013 intern class, and the extremely talented current intern group. Among the celebrants from Chapel of the Cross were the Rev. Stephen Elkins-Williams and Laurie and Syd Alexander.
Susan as much as anyone is responsible for the extraordinary success of the Johnson Intern Program. When she stepped in as executive director in 2005, the program was struggling. Finances were poor, only a handful of interns were committed, and the program had been paused for a year to rebuild.
Under Susan’s leadership, the program quickly stabilized and grew. She secured major grants from outside organizations, including Trinity Wall Street, that allowed Johnson Interns to expand. The number of interns grew to the current level of eight, and she recruited local partner organizations for intern community service placements.
Perhaps Susan’s greatest contribution has been development of the Servant Leadership curriculum, for which the Johnson Intern Program has become nationally known. Servant Leadership is a philosophy and set of practices that seeks to enrich the lives of individuals, build better organizations and create a more just and caring world. The interns spend part of each week studying servant leadership, and other youth service programs around the country have adopted the curriculum Susan developed as a model.
Susan opened the course to non-interns, and many adults from the community join the interns each fall to study Servant Leadership.
The Johnson Intern Program was started in 2000 at Chapel of the Cross under a bequest from the estate of former parishioner Callie Margaret Johnson. The program was nurtured under Chapel of the Cross and subsequently became a separate 501c3 non-profit organization. Chapel of the Cross continues to provide office space to the Johnson Program, as well as an annual grant, currently $15,000 a year, and other in-kind support.
Each year, eight young people come to Chapel Hill for an 11-month period of vocational discernment and community service. They live together in “intentional community” in a shared home and work during the week for community organizations in Orange and Durham counties serving the poor, the mentally ill, the uninsured, women in recovery, seniors and others in need of support. The emphasis of the program is social justice in action.
The Johnson Intern Program now has more than 70 alumni scattered around the country continuing to practice the tenets of servant leadership and community service that they learned in Chapel Hill. The program is a key mission of Chapel of the Cross, with seven parishioners serving as current Board members.
The Johnson Intern Program welcomes parishioners who would like to become involved as mentors, Servant Leadership participants and, of course, donors. For more information, contact Executive Director Sarah Campbell at 919-442-2568 or Johnson.email@example.com or the website, http://www.johnsoninternship.org.
– Ted Vaden