Journal News: A Culture of Caring




  A culture of caring

  Kelly Liyakasa | May 20, 2011 |

Joy Ovadek’s name is befitting of her life and  labor.

With a career that spans 30 years at international health and beauty aids company Combe Inc. in White Plains, it’s the volunteer time she’s logged – and the lives she’s touched – that have helped color her corporate trajectory.

“It sounds cliché, but I honestly always felt like I needed to give back because we have so much and I just wanted to pay it forward,” said Combe’s director of administration.

In 2009, Ovadek was named Volunteer of the Year by Richmond Community Services, a Mount Kisco-based nonprofit organization servicing people with developmental disabilities. She has just been named to the board of directors of the Richmond Community Services Foundation.

Ovadek’s personal culture reflects that of her company’s.

“Every year, we’d go to a Y-camp in Greenwich to have a family event Mr. (Ivan) Combe would set up,” Ovadek said. “They then sold the property, so Mr. Combe actually bought property up in Putnam Valley so the camp could relocate and now it’s Camp Combe. Every year, we go up there and do some improvements as a company.”

Ovadek also leads the Making Strides Against Breast Cancer initiative at her 150-person, Westchester Avenue office and has gotten colleagues involved in jeans days and bake sales.

Her foray into Richmond’s work with developmentally disabled people came when she heard of a volunteer opportunity to teach nurses aides from Sri Lanka and India to use computers.

“I taught them how to use the Internet, email and we’d go online to newspapers from their home communities to give them a sense of comfort and familiarity,” she said. “These were women that were so scared to use a computer because they thought they’d cause damage. I told them, ‘That will only happen if you throw it out the window.’”
Ovadek got even further involved in the organization when she took a developmentally disabled student studying for his GED under her wing.

“He has so many difficulties in life, yet he has so many goals and desires, it’s incredible.”
One of Ovadek’s first tasks at hand following her board appointment is serving as a co-chairperson of the organization’s annual FunFest for Richmond residents at 919 North Broadway in Yonkers.

Each year, there is a wine-tasting and silent auction, as well as a golf outing in the fall.
“We try to pull as many people in as we can from the community in different aspects of events,” she said. “I’m hoping to find my niche and utilize my contacts to open doors that weren’t opened before.”