'The Best of the Best'
This article originally appeared in the September 2010 Newsletter.
“I feed the deer that come to our backyard daily. My day begins with taking water and corn to them. I take a walk before breakfast in our tree-covered neighborhood, and that is my time to meditate and pray ….”
The above might have been taken from the journal of an early Christian mystic, but Dolly Youssef—who served on Bread for the World’s staff for more than two decades until her retirement at the end of 2009—is thoroughly modern.
Youssef’s tenure at Bread began in 1982, when Bread moved from New York City to Washington, DC. After a long search for space, the organization set up office in a basement warehouse at the edge of town. Most of the small staff made the move, but Art Simon’s executive assistant was unable to do so. Yousef, a Bread for the World member in Bloomington, IN, applied for the job.
“When we put her to a typing test, I heard that IBM Selectric going like a machine gun,” Simon remembers today. Youssef remembers, too. “The deputy director took Art aside and warned him about hiring me. ‘She’ll never stay. She’s overqualified; just trying to get a ticket to DC.’ By the time I arrived to start the job, the deputy director had moved on,” Youssef recalls with a smile.
Youssef and Simon worked together for about a decade. When Simon decided to step down as Bread’s president, Youssef helped to make the transition a smooth one. “I told David Beckmann the best thing I can do for you is to leave Dolly as your executive assistant,” said Simon.
Beckmann says of Youssef, “What a marvelous witness she is to the power of the risen Christ among us.” Simon agrees, calling her “the best of the best.”
When asked her favorite aspect of working for Bread, Youssef is quick to cite visiting policymakers paired up with another Bread staffer, celebrating Bread’s many victories on behalf of poor people, and working with Bread’s board, whom she calls “wonderful, genuine people who care deeply about ending hunger.”
Today, Youssef serves Bread by tracking former staff members so they can remain connected to the organization and each other. She also supports Bread financially, encourages others in her church to get involved, and writes her representative and senators on hunger issues.
She is finding more time to enjoy music, and she applies to home projects the organizational skills that benefited Bread for 27 years. She’s also happy to have the time to indulge her love for reading.
“Mary Oliver is my favorite poet,” she says, leaving us with a line from Oliver’s “I Will Try”: “I will step from the house and see what I see and hear and I will praise it.”