ZSR Announces Recipients of 2014 Sabbatical Awards


Every year, the Z. Smith Reynolds Foundation honors leaders of nonprofit organizations across North Carolina for their dedicated service and commitment to the sector. The sabbatical provides each recipient with $25,000 to take an extended break from work to focus on their personal needs, growth and self-revitalization in order to return to their organizations with a rejuvenated spirit and renewed sense of focus. Individuals are encouraged to spend up to six months engaging in activities that interest them and that are unrelated to their field of work. Up to five sabbatical recipients are chosen annually by a Sabbatical selection committee comprised of ZSR Trustees, staff, past sabbatical recipients and former advisory panel members.

"Each year, I am inspired by the personal stories and professional achievements of North Carolina's nonprofit leaders," says Ilana Dubester, Z. Smith Reynolds Trustee and recent past chair of the Sabbatical committee. "They are passionate about their missions, dedicated to their communities and incredibly tenacious."

The 2014 Sabbatical recipients are:

  • Ann Gerhardt, Executive Director of Compass Center for Women and Families (Chapel Hill, NC)
  • Lee Carol Giduz, Executive Director of Caldwell Arts Council (Lenoir, NC)
  • Joyce Johnson, Director of the Jubilee Institute at Beloved Community Center (Greensboro, NC)
  • Judith Long, Executive Director of The Free Clinics (Hendersonville, NC)
  • Joseph Martinez, Executive Director of FIRST at Blue Ridge (Ridgecrest, NC)

The Foundation established this program, one of the first of its kind, in 1990. Having made thousands of grants and engaged in countless conversations with nonprofit leaders over the years, trustees of the Foundation recognized that some of our state’s most creative and inspirational leaders were experiencing burnout from the ongoing challenges of managing and sustaining their organizations with few resources in the face of great demands.

"Leaders in the nonprofit sector are extremely committed to the work they do," says Joy Vermillion Heinsohn, Director for Programs at the Z. Smith Reynolds Foundation. "Because of this selfless dedication, they can reach a point where they have completely expended their personal energy. This program allows them time to re-energize in order to return to work with fresh ideas and newfound momentum. This break is not only beneficial to them, but also to their staff, boards and the communities they serve."

Profiles of the 2014 recipients are below:

Ann Gerhardt is executive director of Compass Center for Women and Families in Chapel Hill, NC. The Center offers domestic violence crisis and prevention services, career and financial education, legal resource assistance, and adolescent empowerment programs. Over the course of eight years in this position, Ann has been responsible for a successful merger of two organizations. She also oversees various aspects of communications, program development, administration, finances and human resources. Ann was appointed by the Governor to the NC Council for Women and served from 2011 to 2014. Colleagues describe her as "committed, dedicated and hardworking."

Lee Carol Giduz is executive director of the Caldwell Arts Council. The mission of the Council is to establish and maintain an awareness and appreciation of cultural arts in Caldwell County. For nearly 20 years in this position, Lee Carol's responsibilities have included managing staff, overseeing fundraising, programs and committees, and representing the Council on a number of state and local boards. Lee Carol is described as "dogged in her friendship, devoted as a mother and deliberate in her profession." She is the recipient of the 1999-2001 William C. Friday Fellowship for Human Relations and received the Key to the City of Lenoir in 2012.

Joyce Johnson is director of the Jubilee Institute at the Beloved Community Center in Greensboro. The Center is committed to fostering and modeling a spirit of community based on Dr. Martin Luther King's vision of a "Beloved Community." Described as a "veteran community organizer and social justice advocate," Joyce has worked with the organization for 22 years; 13 in this position. In her role, she is responsible for serving in a co-directing capacity and helping to provide strategic direction to the organization. Awards Joyce has received include NC A&T State University's Human Rights Award; AARP of NC's Community Service Award; and the NC Justice Center's Defenders of Justice Award.

Judith Long is executive director of The Free Clinics in Hendersonville. The mission of the organization is to enhance the healthcare system in Henderson County and neighboring communities to ensure the accessibility of quality healthcare for uninsured, low-income clients. In her eight years in this role, Judith has overseen all dimensions of the Clinic including fundraising, program planning and evaluation, all matters related to human resources, budgeting and financial management, and volunteer recruitment and retention. Colleagues say that Judith is "known to possess a motivational spirit, and be a fair and considerate leader, always looking to make operational decisions that would promote a focus on excellence."

Joseph Martinez is executive director of FIRST at Blue Ridge, an organization that provides short and long term comprehensive residential substance abuse and behavioral healthcare treatment in a therapeutic community setting. It is the largest residential treatment center in western NC and generates 70% of its own revenue. Joseph is the Board Chair of the Burke County Department of Social Services, the Finance Chair of the Burke County Juvenile Crime Prevention Council, and a member of the Burke Substance Abuse Network. He is also a member of the Asheville Buncombe Drug Commission and the Mountain Council Recovery Entry Coalition. He was appointed by Governor Purdue to the Street Safe Task Force in 2010. Colleagues say Joseph has "shown himself to be a dedicated individual who has demonstrated his commitment to a program which under his leadership has become a state and national model."

Next year marks the 25th anniversary of the Sabbatical program. Individuals in paid, full-time leadership positions, who have served their North Carolina nonprofit organizations for at least three years (two of which in a leadership role), are eligible to apply for a sabbatical. Preference is given to individuals with at least five years of experience with their organization. Recipients are selected annually based on a number of selection criteria, including the applicant's professional accomplishments, evidence of the need for a sabbatical, potential for future contributions in his/her chosen field of work, and the difficulty of his/her work environment.

Learn more about ZSR's Sabbatical Program.