The Project Joy is a local nonprofit that was founded by a group of retired educators, Rebecca Diaz, Linda Stanley, Jason Philpot and Louis Diaz, who were concerned with the emotional and mental well-being of the teachers and staff serving our youth.
“While there are multiple avenues of support for children, we found this area of need to be lacking for the adults within our educational system,” said Rebecca. “The Project Joy began in a simple manner of providing opportunities to inspire joy at Webb Middle School, where Linda, Jason and myself served and Louis had mentored the principal as he began his role in administration. At times, we provided breakfast, raffles, lunches and treats on stressful days. As we grew, we added Michelle Chase, Shawna Berger and Justin Rancourt. All three of these former teachers served with Louis Diaz at Alonso High School. K.R. Lombardia, Jerry Jackson, Eva Philpot and Cammie Yick have served in support positions in volunteering and fundraising. Our logo was designed by Caleigh Yick, a local middle school student who expressed a desire to do so in support of our teachers.”
From there, through all these individuals, The Project Joy was born.
The Project Joy has extended into more than 20 other schools, all within just two short years.
“Beginning in January 2024, we will be adding additional schools in Hillsborough and to two schools in Pasco County,” Diaz said. “We are an all-volunteer local nonprofit. Besides serving teachers at individual sites, we also hold contests where groups at schools won $500 each to create snack carts, go-kart racing and adventures of their choice. Last year, we were able to provide four local teachers with cash to help them to have the joy of supporting their own family members. We are currently visiting various schools to provide teachers, administrators and other educators who have reached out to us to let us know that these adults were in need of a little extra joy. These special educators will receive monetary support to help them during this season.”
As The Project Joy grows, it wishes to be able to provide more support.
“One way we are working toward this goal is by partnering with Dakota Robitaille, who is moving forward on his Eagle Scout badge,” Diaz said. “He is designing and remodeling Webb’s teachers’ lounge from a regular area to our first Room of Joy. This area will provide a calm, uplighting area for teachers to meet and break bread together. Our very lofty goal is to eventually grow to a level that perhaps we can partner with local contractors to provide Homes of Joy for our educators.”
If you would like to learn more about The Project Joy, you can visit its website at www.theprojectjoy.net.