Joyce Carter inherited her mother’s love of music. At age 7, Joyce began taking piano lessons. Those lessons continued through college, where Joyce majored in music education, and into her adult life. She has also raised her voice in song as a member of choirs at Portland’s Franklin High School, Willamette University, First United Methodist Church, and in the community.
She taught in public school then began offering private piano lessons. When some of her students would struggle with difficulties at home or at school, Joyce would listen with compassion. Somehow, her students were never charged for those “sessions.”
Joyce said, “Working one-on-one with a child or adult over a period of years built a relationship – not only of a student and teacher – but also of a trusted friend and sometimes a counselor or confidante.” She added, “My goal was to know each student as a unique person and to help them discover their gifts, to love and appreciate music, and to learn more about themselves through music.”
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Joyce says those experiences with children and their families were great preparation for her work as a CASA (court-appointed special advocates) volunteer. “The world of every child is colored by experiences and interactions, both positive and negative,” said Joyce. “As I interview the many people who interact with a child, I learn to understand this child from different viewpoints, which enables me to better advocate for the child’s needs in court.”
Joyce has also volunteered for the YWCA WORTH (Women Offenders’ Rehabilitation through Training and Help) program. “Learning to enter the women’s section of the Clark County Jail, go through the clanging, locked gates, and spend an hour or two with inmates was an entirely new challenge for me,” she said. “It did not take long to learn that they formed a caring female community who helped the new inmates and got along more peacefully than some other women’s groups I have encountered.”
In the late 60s and early 70s, when Joyce saw the need for mental health services for children and adults, she was instrumental in founding the Vancouver Counseling Center through First United Methodist Church. In the 1970s, she was named the first woman lay leader in her church. In the 1980s, she became involved in the American Field Service foreign student exchange program, serving as president from 1986-87. She also volunteers for Share House, which provides food, shelter, housing, and education.
When asked to cite her most significant accomplishment, Joyce points to being “an equal partner in a loving marriage for 51 years.” She adds, “We have raised three children who are now well adjusted and happy, and are responsible, contributing members of their communities. Equally important, they are passing on to our six grandchildren the love and support needed to mature with integrity, a sense of caring, and the ability to become positive forces in the world.”
One of her nominators described Joyce as “one of the unsung heroines in our community. She is a woman who has been ‘on the front lines’ for nearly 50 years doing her selfless magic in deeds big and small.” Another described Joyce as “one of those amazing community angels who does all her flying under the radar.” Another said, simply, “Joyce is the most wonderful person that I have ever known.”
Joyce says she is “humbled” to be named a 2010 Woman of Achievement. Looking to the future, she adds, “In the years of life left to me, may I continue to direct my gift of life to flow out to those who need a helping hand.”