The winding career path that Candace Johndrow has followed– from Family Service of Rhode Island grant writer to Vice President of the Hope Division– has paved the way for her successful and varied career in human services. But also, more importantly, it led to what she describes as “the loves of my life”—her two formerly foster, now adopted daughters, Asia and Fer.
“They have always been my daughters,” Candace gushed. “Even before they were my daughters.”
Candace began at FSRI writing grants in 2010, after moving from Pennsylvania to Rhode Island to be nearer to family.
“It was the best way to start because I learned about all the departments and the broad scope of services we offer and the diversity of our clients,” she said. “It was so impressive.”
After a year of grant writing, Candace moved into a development director role, heading up a grant proposal program that she herself had applied FSRI for and was accepted. The resulting program was the “Together Forever” project, which focused on so-called “hard to place” kids.
She then managed a small team supporting foster parents through a DCYF program, and that led her to feel compelled to become a licensed foster parent herself.
“My experience at FSRI has been life-changing in so many positive ways,” she said.
Her passion for victim’s services and helping those in our community in their times of crisis helped inform her vision for the Hope Department, as well as the goals of her predecessor, retiring Vice President Diane Shemtov.
“It’s a huge vision, but I feel really good about it,” she said. “I’m looking at things like economic mobility, partnerships with colleges and universities to build people up. It fits my vision of the program very well. You see a lot of things and the difficult circumstances our clients face every day is a beautiful entryway in trying to help people immediately after victimization. I want to get those folks surrounded with as much support as possible so that trauma doesn’t disrupt a family’s ability to thrive.”
She stays motivated to do the work by her daughters and their experiences.
“Their resilience is the most amazing, humbling, beautiful thing I’ve ever seen,” she said. “Their stories are probably similar to other young people that we serve. I’m so grateful that I have them.
She also describes herself as FSRI’s “biggest fan,” and respects the leadership and mentorship she’s encountered during her tenure.
“The culture at FSRI throughout my career has been nothing but supportive,” she said. “Margaret (Holland McDuff) has been a model for agency commitment and commitment to staff. I’m proud of what we do, and the way we do it.”
In her spare time, Candace enjoys spending time with her daughters, her dogs Journey and Nori, doing yoga, and – joking that “taking naps” is her big favorite.