TERRE HAUTE —
As a middle school student living at 21st Street and Ohio Boulevard in the early 1950s, Joy Sacopulos “volunteered” to push one of her younger siblings around the block in a baby buggy.
It was one of her first volunteer jobs, but far from her favorite and definitely not her last.
“It was so embarrassing,” Sacopulos recalled. “When you’re the second oldest of seven, you have a lot of opportunities to volunteer.”
Since then, Sacopulos has practically made a career leading and volunteering for countless community groups and projects. She helped launch TREES Inc., one of the most active and successful not-for-profit groups in the area. She also got the Friends of the Historic Allen Chapel organization and the Terre Haute Crow Patrol off the ground, to just scratch the surface.
On Thursday night, VNA/Hospice of the Wabash Valley named Sacopulos this year’s winner of the Chapman S. Root Award – its most prestigious honor.
“Her biography is seven pages long,” said Charles Uhl, himself an active community volunteer and former executive with Public Service Indiana. Uhl was one of those who spoke Thursday night at the Hospice Holiday Celebration dinner at Hulman Center, at which Sacopulos received the award.
“I’ve worked in 10 different cities in 40 years [with PSI] and never met anyone who could hold a candle to this lady,” Uhl said.
Sacopulos’ eldest son, Peter, also spoke at the dinner, which is the single largest fundraising event for VNA/Hospice of the Wabash Valley.
Established in 1990, the Chapman S. Root award recognizes individuals whose leadership and generosity have enhanced the quality of life in the Wabash Valley. It was just a matter of time before the organization’s board added Joy Sacopulos to the list of winners, said Trudy Rupska, CEO of VNA/Hospice.
“She is truly a woman who needs to be recognized for all she’s done,” Rupska said.
For nearly the past 50 years, Sacopulos has quietly but determinedly championed numerous causes for the improvement of life in the Wabash Valley. She was a founder of Planned Parenthood of the Wabash Valley and Sacred Landmarks of Downtown Terre Haute. She has also lent her talents to Indiana Landmarks, the Indiana National Road Association, the Boy Scouts of America, Wabash Valley Goodwill Industries, the Third Street Corridor Enhancement Coalition, the Florence Crittenden Home, United Way of the Wabash Valley, the Vigo County Historical Society and the League of Terre Haute.
Of all the volunteer efforts in which she has been involved, Sacopulos said TREES Inc. is probably the work that has been closest to her heart. She founded the organization in 1989 with local landscaper and business owner, Hank Metzger. The two people who have most inspired her over the years are Dorothy Jerse, a local writer and historian, and Uhl, she said.
Sacopulos has received almost countless honors over the years, including an honorary doctor of humane letters from Rose-Hulman, the Kiwanis Club Handclasp Award and a Sagamore of the Wabash, to name only three.
Asked to comment on winning the Chapman S. Root Award, Sacopulos was as unassuming as always: “I’m pleased somebody thinks I’ve done something to help,” she said.
Awards are nice to receive, Sacopulos said, but often her volunteer efforts come with their own rewards. For example, after helping save the former “Coffee Cottage” on Wabash Avenue, a historic gasoline station built during the Depression, Sacopulos said she received two telephone calls. One from the son of a man who worked his way through college at the unique service station, now at Art Nehf Field at Rose-Hulman. The other call was from a man whose family rented a room to the designer of the historic building as it was being constructed. Both callers shared priceless memories associated with the picturesque cottage, Sacopulos said.
“That’s the kind of reward that makes you think: Ahh, this is wonderful,” she said.
Reporter Arthur Foulkes can be reached at 812-231-4232 or arthur.foulkes@