Grit Talks are a quarterly speaker and networking event featuring interesting local leaders answering seven questions over fifteen minutes, followed by an in-depth Q&A. For their first episode, PDFF’s newly appointed Board Chair, Thère du Pont, speaks on how overcoming his failures ultimately set him up for success. Get an intimate look at what drives Thère to pursue his philanthropic ventures. Visit: http://www.grittalks.com/videos to watch the episode.
The Pete du Pont Freedom Foundation is pleased to announce that Stephanie Johnnie has joined the team as Program Manager. The following interview provides additional information about Johnnie and her role with the Foundation.
Pete du Pont Freedom Foundation: Welcome aboard. Tell us a bit about your background.
Stephanie Johnnie: Thank you. I am originally from the Bronx, NY and moved to Bear, DE with my mother when I was nine; however I grew up splitting my time between both states. I had a unique opportunity to spend my holidays and summers in the city, while spending the school year in the suburbs. We moved to Middletown when I was 15 and I lived there until I graduated from Middletown High School. I attended the University of Delaware and earned my Bachelor of Arts degree in Criminal Justice, with a minor in Sociology. I also attended Wilmington University where I earned my Master of Science degree in Administration of Human Services.
PDFF: What have you been doing professionally before joining the Foundation.
SJ: I have always had a passion for the human services sector, specifically for causes that focus on innovation, the betterment of people and social responsibility. While in high school, I was a summer intern in the Community Affairs Unit for the Bronx District Attorney’s Office. In college I was an intern for a juvenile probation officer in Newark. Shortly after graduating from UD, I started working for the Missions Delivery Director for the American Cancer Society, while also volunteering as a Court Appointed Special Advocate for New Castle Family Court. These opportunities solidified my desire to develop a career within the nonprofit sector, to help build a better world around me. I was hired as the Second Chance Program Coordinator for Big Brothers Big Sisters of DE, where I would spend seven years, non-consecutively, working in various capacities from case management to fund development, and eventually to strategic planning at the executive level. Between those roles at BBBSDE, I moved back to NYC for a short time where I held a contracted position with the Council on Accreditation. My most recent experience before joining the Foundation was with Capano Management where I spent two years developing and leading their family foundation and philanthropic efforts.
PDFF: Why Delaware?
SJ: I love NYC, it’s where most of my family resides and it’s where I was born, but when I think about my future and where I want to plant my roots, Delaware comes to mind. It’s become my home and when I decided to start a family and buy a house, I only wanted to do so here. I love where Delaware is on the map and I love that there is so much opportunity for growth in this state. With this decision came the even greater desire to want to invest in my community and work towards making Delaware a better place to live and raise my son.
PDFF: Your thoughts of investing in the community and making Delaware better for living and raising a family sound like the perfect fit with the Foundation. Tell us more about what attracted you to the Foundation specifically.
SJ: It was imperative that I work for an organization whose mission, vision, and values align with my own. With experience in working at every level of a nonprofit organization, I was able to better understand the nonprofit community and the needs that are still to be met in order to truly make our state better. Working here provides the exciting opportunity to surround myself with other like-minded changemakers. The Foundation shares my desire to uplift our state and to make it a better place to live by supporting meaningful causes and encouraging entrepreneurialism – something that I think is key in driving innovative change that will lead to a stronger economy.
PDFF: How do you see that alignment on mission, vision, and values working to fruition?
SJ: We live in a world where our future leaders are taught not to settle, but to seek meaningful employment that will lead to self-fulfillment. This is what I believe will make Delaware the ideal place to live and work. I am eager to help the Foundation grow by continuing to develop its programs and formulating a system that we could potentially share with other cities and states. I am also eager to help the Foundation expand its current network and reach within Delaware through increased marketing, fund development and expanded affinity groups.
PDFF: What are some of your hobbies and interests?
SJ: Before becoming a mother, and before quarantine, I loved to travel, especially overseas. Now that I have a one-year-old and my family spends so much time in our new house, I’ve been fixated on decorating and making renovations to make our house a home, and eventually entertain family and friends. I’ve also gotten into vegetable gardening and growing some of our own food, as well as woodworking and helping design custom elements for our house.
PDFF: Thank you. Anything you would like to add?
SJ: Thank you. I would just add that I think it is important to encourage creative thinking, which leads to new products, new businesses, new employment opportunities, and most importantly, a better standard of living. Ultimately, I believe the Foundation has the ability to advance these outcomes and continue to carry the legacy of Governor Pete du Pont beyond our state. I look forward to contributing to that effort.