John Howard Society recognizes long-time supporter

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Liisa Leskowski, executive director of the John Howard Society, holds a sign naming the women’s unit Joan’s Place, after Joan Black, right, spoke about the honour Monday afternoon.
(Brent Linton)
Liisa Leskowski, executive director of the John Howard Society, holds a sign naming the women’s unit Joan’s Place, after Joan Black, right, spoke about the honour Monday afternoon. (Brent Linton)

A chance meeting with a young man on a Greyhound bus who had been released from maximum security prison inspired Joan Black to help.
Black was recognized Monday for being a long-standing donor to the John Howard Society.
“After I met the young man on the bus, he so impressed me,’’ she recalled.
“I think the most searing thing he said was. ‘I see now I can’t live in the world. The only place I’m going to be able to live is in prison.’”
Black thought about that long and hard. She had heard about the John Howard Society and visited the Thunder Bay office.
“I felt that here was an organization that was doing a job that needed to be done . . . providing good services on a limited budget, and I felt that is the group I would like to support,” explained Black.
“I came up through the depression years myself, and lived with hand-me downs. You still live and get along OK,” she added.
In recognition of her long-time support, the women’s unit at the Thunder Bay facility has been named Joan’s Place.
“I just didn’t expect this, but I’m just delighted because I think to recognize that females in transition really need help as much as the men do.”
Ruth Weatherby, a resident in Joan’s Place, addressed the importance of the John Howard Society.
“It means a place to be safe; it means a home, and that’s a pretty big deal when you don’t have one.
“I wouldn’t have anywhere else to go if it weren’t for John Howard. As far as I know, there is not really much for women in this city,” said Weatherby.
After hearing Black’s story, Weatherby said, “I’m not alone and somebody out there really does care and give back. It’s nice to see.”
Liisa Leskowski, executive director of the John Howard Society in Thunder Bay, spoke about Black’s donations.
“It means that we are able to continue providing our transitional housing,’’ said Leskowski.
‘It means that individuals coming out of jail get a safe place to live and start their lives again.”
The John Howard Society houses women in a separate unit in nine rooms. There are 38 rooms for men.
Black has been a donor since 1994 and didn’t want her donation amount made public.