As far back as she can remember, Joyce Jefferson says she has been a helper, a supporter and a listener, all qualities that she attributes to her mother and father, who raised a total of 12 children.
“They taught us to be compassionate,” Jefferson says of her parents, residents of South Carolina. “I love people. I love working with people. If you listen instead of talking, people tell their stories.”
In a career spanning four decades, Jefferson has listened carefully and contributed to hundreds of lives, serving as a foster parent, a staff worker at Sylvester House, a group home in Tacoma, among many other roles.
Jefferson shows no signs of slowing down. For the past three years, she has worked at Korean Women’s Association, or KWA, which is an Elevate Health community partner.
When she first started at KWA, Jefferson performed breast cancer outreach almost exclusively.
But in fairly short order, Jefferson became a Pathways Care Coordinator. Pathways Coordinators play a vital role in the health of individuals and the community as a whole. In her role, Jefferson uses her compassionate listening skills, paired with evidence-based models, to help residents all over Pierce County overcome barriers so that they can access the services they need to live healthier lives. These services are many and may include mental health care, food access, employment support, and housing and rental assistance.
Since early 2020, of course, much of Jefferson’s time has been spent helping her clients access testing and treatment for COVID-19.
“I build a trust,” Jefferson says, “and it goes beyond being a pathways coordinator. I’m an advocate for my clients. People are going through stuff. We’re all going through stuff. We’re all in this together.”
Tina White, a 60-something Fife resident who is also a caretaker for her mother, says Jefferson came to her rescue when she encountered some health issues several years ago.
“Joyce cares,” says White, who explains that Jefferson helped her identify and secure medical resources. “No matter who you are, she’s willing to help. She cares about people and likes to help people.”
Jefferson has earned a reputation for being willing to go above and beyond in her service to the community, also a hallmark for KWA, which provides multi-cultural, multi-lingual human services to all of Western Washington through 15 offices in 17 counties and more than 10,000 people each year.
Sally Kim, Clinical Care Network (CCN) Director for Elevate Health, says KWA has been a social services leader for nearly 50 years.
“They have been a great partner in the community,” says Kim, noting that KWA provides excellent services in multiple areas such as substance use disorders, domestic violence prevention, senior meal deliveries and much more. “They’ve done a really good job. They’ve been a really good partner to work with.”
KWA is one of six community organizations with which Elevate Health coordinates through a hub and spoke model to deliver more than 20 outcome-based health and social services. These include referrals and funding for medical programs, housing assistance, food banks, just to name a few services.
Carolynn Nofsinger, Elevate Health’s CCN Operations Manager, agrees that the Elevate Health and KWA partnership is a community asset, and adds that Jefferson is an excellent representative of the dedicated social service professionals serving the South Sound Region.
“Joyce,” Nofsinger says, “she’s a delight to work with. She never has a bad attitude. We’ve heard nothing but great things about her.”
Jefferson says she is committed to helping those who are less fortunate, regardless of background.
I reach out to anyone who needs the help. I do a lot of outreach with everybody. I think it’s important about the equity. That’s what we’re working for. Where’s the equity? – Joyce Jefferson, Pathways Care Coordinator