|Joseph N’kunta (front right) with fellow NOAH staff members Jan Rogers (from rear left), Greg Bar, Steve Crossen and Lonnie Daniels. Joseph’s wife, Lillian (front left), joined him at the lunch.|
For a large part of the past 15 years, Mashpee’s Joseph N’kunta has been the face of the NOAH Shelter where he could often be seen greeting guests at the entrance of the facility. But that changed in May when the 75-year-old stepped down from his post as direct care staff.
Though he is no longer there, his presence remains. “I think 10 years from now people will still ask, ‘Is Joe still here?’” Jan Rogers, direct care staff at the shelter, said during a retirement party held at Golden Fountain in Hyannis last month. “You’ve left an impression on the clients, the community, the volunteers who’ve come in to help and the staff.”
Over the course of an hour, Joseph listened to his colleagues praise him for the work he did at NOAH and the way he treated clients with care and compassion. He said he did so because he understood that NOAH staff are there for one purpose – to serve the shelter guests as they take the necessary steps towards self-sufficiency. “Our intentions as a staff were for the people who walked through those doors,” he said. “Once the door opens, it is important that we keep it open even though we will move on.”
A Message of Hope
His message to those at the NOAH Shelter was always positive. “It was the hope of good things to come,” he said. “And to never lose your faith that things will get better.”
Shelter director Greg Bar called Joseph, “a stabilizing, kind of immovable force.”
“You know, it was amazing how you were able to not just connect with the clients, but you were able to connect with the staff in a way that they had nothing but high respect for you. They still do,” said NOAH Day Center Director Lonnie Daniels.
Though direct care staffer Steve Crossen had only worked with Joseph for six months, he still managed to make an impression on him. “You taught me a tremendous amount of things about the homeless population and about compassion,” Crossen said. “And compassion is what I want to be about.”
Joseph’s wife, Lillian, told his coworkers that her husband’s compassion for others was genuine. “It’s not a front. It’s real,” she said. “He’s got a good heart, always. I just love him to pieces and I’m proud to be his wife. I appreciate him as an overall person: the way he treats the clients, the way he treats individuals. It shows he’s got a good heart.”