Each year Pebble Hill Interfaith Church honors individuals and organizations for their efforts at peacemaking through their Annual Peace Award, with an emphasis on those individuals and organizations who make a difference in the lives of others in the Bucks County area. JoAnne Wolke received the Peace Award for the work she offers through her many volunteer efforts.
JoAnne works as a clothing designer at Thread Collective in New York. Through this job JoAnne is able to arrange for boxes of clothing to be donated to area homeless shelters in Bucks County and surrounding areas.
She has taken on the expense of renting trucks and shipping truckloads of clothing for men, women, and children of all ages.
Recipients of clothing donations have included non-profit organizations such as Arrows for American Indians, Bucks County Family Service, the Bucks County Opportunity Council, Red Cross homeless shelters, Bucks County Veterans Centers, the Salvation Army, Purple Heart, St. Francis Inn Ministries in Kensington in Philadelphia, and the Bucks County Interfaith Coalition Refugee Resettlement for Syrian refugees.
JoAnne’s clothing donations have had a reach as far as indigenous boarding schools in South Dakota, Oneida Reservation in Wisconsin, St. Joseph’s Indian School, Marty Indian School, Pine Ridge Schools, and the Cheyenne River Eagle Butte in South Dakota.
JoAnne states, “This is a way for me to give back to my native community as well, being a member of Standing Rock, Hunkpapa” JoAnne’s clothing donations have also extended outside the U.S. to a sister community of Pebble Hill Church in Nicaragua, the “Garcia Family.”
She says, “This volunteer spirit may not be for everyone, but it is an essential part of our community. Getting involved at Pebble Hill Church encouraged and inspired me to live a better life, have a more positive impact on where I put my time. For me, the donations have mostly been about peace of mind, whether it be a mother who can’t afford back to school clothes, or a veteran who served us well, it is an honor to give back to this community, my community, our community.”
Being raised in Bucks County has given JoAnne a wonderful perspective living suburban life, while her ancestors lived quite a different life. JoAnne’s mother was born on Standing Rock Sioux Indian Reservation in South Dakota, in a one-room shack with her seven brothers and sisters and her parents.
Her mother was a nurse and her father was a cop on the reservation, so caring and protecting was in their nature.
Joanne has some distinguished ancestors.
Her grandfather carved Abraham Lincoln’s beard at Mount Rushmore, her great-great uncle, Charles Primeau, was the interpreter for Sitting Bull, and his father Leon was one of 13 boats-men on the Louis and Clark expedition down the Mississippi.
Her cousin, Susan Power, co-founded the Indian Center in Chicago. Joanne adds, “This Native American influence of knowing who my family was inspired me to be who I am today.”
JoAnne reflects, “My father was a huge influence in my life, a doctorate of law from Chicago Law School, a Cornell Graduate in Political Science, and father of three, he was amazing. He taught me from a young age to dream, and go for my dreams. I wanted to be a model, so 30 weeks of modeling school and interviews in New York, including Elle magazine, was a wonderful experience.”
JoAnne learned to become a seamstress, went to fashion design school at Drexel University, and started a fashion career.
She had an illustrious career in fashion, working for Anne Klein at JNY, Ralph Lauren, Macy’s, Burlington, Calvin Klein, Fila, Gap, and Sears/Kmart doing apparel production, and now does clothing design at Thread Collective in New York.
Now enrolled in the School of Sacred Ministries (SSM) at Pebble Hill Church, JoAnne states, “I feel so grateful to be learning about world religions. Studying interfaith ministry had opened my perspective to all the wonderful beliefs that we share, the belief in humanity, human kindness, and humility.
In her service hours with SSM, JoAnne volunteers at Attleboro Rehab and Nursing Home, as well as Legacy Gardens in Bristol, praying with residents and listening to their stories.
JoAnne is also the VP of Arrows, a non-profit group that helps Native American people with resources, financial help, education, donations, housing assistance, transportation assistance and emergency funds.
Another volunteer position JoAnne enjoys is helping with the annual American Red Cross Blood drive at Pebble Hill Church, where she works with other volunteers each year during the time of year when supply is running low.
On August 5th,23 people came out to give blood to support those in need.
Helping each other in this world, whether it is through donating clothes, or helping food pantries, or families local or in another land, JoAnne brings people together and brings peace of mind for those who need it.
PHOTO CAP: JoAnne Wolke (center) with Larry Hall (left) and David Cook.