When Joan Hardie Munford, a member of Blacksburg Presbyterian Church, died in November, 2020, she left the church the gift of her house. The church’s governing body set aside 50% of the proceeds from the house for immediate mission grants and commissioned a taskforce to set priorities, receive proposals and make recommendations to the session for grants. A mix of organizations which address both systemic inequities and provide direct aid were chosen. The grants honored both local and international ministry and represented creative responses to challenges like health care, housing, and the difficulties of generational poverty. The 5 person committee believe the organizations, including Sojourn Center, are closely aligned with the BPC mission and honor Joan Munford’s legacy. The committee was interested in giving funds that could be leveraged to raise additional funds.
Joan was in the Blacksburg High School Class of 1951. Her interest in healthcare and the elderly expanded to include government policy, and in 1981, at the age of 47 and as a political outsider, she ran as the Democratic candidate for the Virginia House of Delegates in the 13th District. To the surprise of political pundits, she soundly beat a longtime Republican incumbent and began what would be a 12-year tenure in the Virginia Legislature. In that era she was proudly one of only eight women in the 100-member House of Delegates. As she achieved seniority, Joan focused her leadership on health and education issues. She championed legislation that strengthened nurse practitioners’ responsibilities, studied health insurance premiums, brought millions of dollars to fund capital projects and academic programs at Virginia Tech, and built legislation around advancing early childhood and preschool education. As one member of the Blacksburg Presbyterian Church grant committee commented, “Joan’s interest in healthcare and the elderly made the selection of Sojourn Center for Hospice Care as one of the grants most appropriate.”