Leading an organization that’s making a BIG difference in the community and changing thousands of lives one LITTLE at a time, WANE 15 and Fort Wayne Toyota Dealers are honored to recognize Josette Rider as a Remarkable Women finalist.
“Josette makes a lasting impact anywhere she goes,” Shelley Schwab, the BBBSNEI Development Director, said. “When people see Josette, they see children, they see mentorship, they see love.”
Josette has led Big Brothers Big Sisters of Northeast Indiana for 20 years. Under her guidance, it’s grown to be bigger than agencies in many larger cities and is the largest middle market agency.
Life is a one-time thing. I think we are designed to help other people get a hold of that life.Josette Rider, CEO Big Brothers Big Sisters Northeast Indiana
“I attribute all of it to Josette. She has a way about her,” Troy Smith, who served as a board member and chair from 2006 to 2013, said. “Probably tens of thousands of lives she’s impacted positively.”
Big Brothers Big Sisters matches children who need some guidance and a friend with a “Big” – an adult mentor. For Josette, that’s not just a mission statement – it’s her passion.
“You see the need. You see the young men and the lack of opportunity they face and you say I might not look like them or be like them but I can open that door. God gave me those skills to excite other people about the opportunity of another person and I want to use those skills every day,” Josette said.
Watch: Shelley Schwab reads the nomination letter she wrote for Josette.
Growing up in a big family, and one of great faith, she’s always had a servant’s heart. Josette was only 13 years when she wrote a poem that would become a blueprint for her life.
“God filled my head with children, my heart with love to share. My arms He made for warm embrace, that is why the pair. These things He gave, not for myself, but for his children’s care.”Poem by Josette Rider, age 13
As a teen, she thought she might become a school teacher, or even a nun. But, her career path combined the two: shaping the next generation, while living out her faith.
“I would not be a Catholic if not for her. I would not have faith if not for her. I would not be here without her. Who knows where I would be,” Kayla Watkins said.
Kayla was Josette’s first Little Sister. It started as a “Lunch Buddy” program when Kayla was 7. Josette would come to eat lunch at school with Kayal once a week. After about a year, they went to a community-based match.
Now 27, Kayla works at the agency alongside her Big Sister, her mentor, and her family.
“She believes in everyone. She just gives you the tools and the opportunity to prove to yourself that you have that. I see her do it all the time,” Kayla said.
Josette gave Joey McDonald that same opportunity.
“I’ve never met anyone in any organization more dedicated to the mission of actually changing children’s lives,” Joey said.
Joey was 8 when he decided he wanted a Big Brother. So, he walked right into the office and asked for one. He took the application home to his mom, but he didn’t just get a Big Brother. He also got Josette in his corner.
“I don’t think as an 8-year-old you realize who the CEO is. She makes you feel like you can do anything. She definitely impacted me. She made me believe I can do anything,” Joey said.
Three years ago, Josette also gave Joey his first professional job. He worked as the agency’s Community Development Director recruiting new Bigs until last summer when he took another job in community service.
“For me it’s amazing to know her as a kid and as an adult and to see how she’s continued to make an impact in my life,” he said.
Her mentorship is not just with the Little Brothers and Sisters.
“She mentors me. She mentors people in the agency who are employees. She’s just a giver. She’s got an endless supply of giving and love for kids and never gives up,” Smith said.
But, Josette turns that credit, back to God.
“I can see and feel Christ in the opportunity for children who are neglected, who are struggling, who need a relationship and that’s where I feel the positive energy of people’s love, of God’s love, the most,” she said.
Even when life delivers its lowest lows, Josette is thinking of others.
“Once my house caught fire and I lost everything. I had all these people calling me asking how to help and I laid up thinking that night I have all these people who love me and I have 345 kids on the waiting list who are looking for just one,” she said.
“It’s amazing to me that someone has so much to care about other people. I wish I could be more like her. I wish we could all be more like her.
Josette Rider. A dreamer. An encourager. A doer. And a Remarkable Woman.
“I like to think about what would the world be like if we all did our part. I don’t want to just think about it. I want to do it,” she said.
Josette is one of four finalists in the Nexstar Remarkable Women contest. Be sure to watch WANE 15 on Thursday, March 5 at 4:30 pm for a special show featuring all four local finalists.
Then, March 6 on First News the winner will be revealed. She’ll win a trip to attend a reception in New York City, and be a special guest on the “Mel Robbins Show.” On March 18, Robbins will announce the national “Nexstar Woman of the Year.”