We had the good fortune of connecting with Megan Norton and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Megan, how has your background shaped the person you are today?
My childhood was spent in a small rural town in Northeastern North Carolina. The kind of small town known for its post office and volunteer fire department, where generations of families have lived, and everyone knows their neighbors. My dad’s family was rooted firmly in agriculture; raising hogs, chickens, and cows and farming family lands with corn, soybeans, and peanuts. My mom’s family worked in timber and railroad operations with train tracks running straight through the back of their family property, the same property that my parents and grandparents still live on. I was born to two of the hardest working people that I have ever known, who made sure that their family was taken care of, regardless of the impact it took on their own health. These roots created a firm foundation for me growing up, but it was not until I left home to study Biology at Arizona State University that I was able to begin to see the ways that my upbringing shaped me. I had always enjoyed school and done well in my classes, but I was faced with an entirely new level of challenge in both my personal life and education during this time. I was 18, newly married and financially independent, in a new state, living for the first time outside of my parent’s home, working 30+ hours a week, and encountering coursework that suddenly did not come so easily to me as a first-generation college student (hello, Organic Chemistry!). Some days were just plain HARD. That being said, failure simply was not an option. That family pride (or is it stubbornness?) would not let me quit, no matter how hard things got. I knew just how much hard work had gone into getting me to that point and there was no way that I could let it go to waste. I am very proud to say that my husband (also a first-generation college student) and I both graduated with honors in 2013 and went on to receive our master’s degrees in 2015. Flash forward several years, a big move, 3 kids, two dogs, and a LOT of life later and my roots are still clearly visible in both my personal and professional lives. After college, I landed a job with The Joy Bus, a Phoenix nonprofit serving homebound cancer patients, and I count myself as one of the luckiest people alive. It is a gift to be able to work with the incredible community of Joy Bus staff and volunteers while putting into practice the core values of my upbringing: looking out for those in need and genuinely caring about the welfare of others. I am thankful for Arizona and the opportunity that The Joy Bus community gave me to apply these principles that I developed growing up and to ultimately realize their full worth. The spirit of The Joy Bus, its founder, Jennifer, and every single beautiful soul that makes our work possible, remind me daily of how much good still exists in this world, and how meaningful it is to be a part of those efforts, especially with my children. It is so important to me that I am able to be present and take an active role in the everyday moments of my children’s lives while also teaching them these same compassionate values and continuing that family legacy of hard work. I take enormous pride in my family roots and upbringing and hope to continue this legacy with my little ones.
Let’s talk shop? Tell us more about your career, what can you share with our community?
My first child was just about to turn a year old, I was nearing the end of my graduate program in Nonprofit Leadership and Management, and I was feeling that familiar urge to be involved in the needs of my community. I happened to be searching the ASU Lodestar Job Board one day when I found a part-time opportunity in Community Outreach with The Joy Bus. I had an interview with Jennifer at a local coffee shop, with my young daughter in tow, and I have been fortunate to be a part of this incredible team since then. Over time, I have moved from an Administrative Assistant focusing primarily on Community Outreach to Program Director of The Joy Bus Meal Delivery Program. I adore my career and count myself as one of the truly lucky ones that I get to do this kind of rewarding work, but there have absolutely been challenges along the way. The heart of the Joy Bus mission is cancer patients and unfortunately there is a lot of heartbreak that comes with that. It is never easy to receive that call or message that a client has passed and when you develop strong relationships with long-term patients, it can truly feel like the loss of a family member. It hurts to lose a client and that hasn’t changed even after five years with The Joy Bus. The only consolation in those situations is feeling grateful that we were able to be there for the person, to provide light and love when all seemed dark. I think what I am most proud of in my career with The Joy Bus is being able to develop and streamline our internal systems and processes to collect better data, grow our grants program, and ultimately better serve our patients and community. All of this, while raising three toddlers and all of the messy fun that comes with them. If there has been a lesson in all of this, I think it is this: with the support of those in your circle and an insane amount of persistence and drive, you can have it all. It will not always be fun, you may want to give up, and you may feel like a crazy person on the daily, but you CAN accomplish both your personal and professional goals. Just don’t be afraid to ask for help!
If you had a friend visiting you, what are some of the local spots you’d want to take them around to?
First stop… The Joy Bus Diner! Where else can you get delicious, made-to-order breakfast and lunch while making sure that homebound cancer patients in your community are provided with nutritious meals and wellness checks? And we would definitely have to make the rounds for some of the best coffee ANYWHERE. We could start the rounds at Peixoto Coffee where they brew freshly roasted beans grown on their family farm in Brazil, hit up Cartel for one of the best Cortados I’ve ever had, and then head out of town to Roastery of Cave Creek (official coffee sponsor of The Joy Bus Diner, y’all!) where Dave and his team are putting their mad scientist skills to work with insanely delicious coffee. Then Saturday, let’s head to Phoenix Public Market to check out the farmer’s market and grab a Devil’s Mess burrito to go with our Cartel Cortado. The Phoenix Metropolitan Area has so many insanely delicious and creative restaurants that you kind of can’t go wrong. We would probably head to The Parlor for their Fritto Misto and a Calabrian pizza with that soft, creamy burrata on top. Or maybe to Barrio Cafe for some fresh guacamole (pomegranate seeds, anyone?) and Cochinita Pibil? To round out the week, let’s hit some trails! South Mountain is an old favorite but maybe we should check out Lookout Mountain Trail for those views. There is no where in the world like Arizona.
Shoutout is all about shouting out others who you feel deserve additional recognition and exposure. Who would you like to shoutout?
To my parents, Joy & Tommy, for showing me what love and hard work meant and for making me feel like anything I wanted in life was possible as long as I was willing to go for it. To my boss and friend, Jennifer, for giving me a shot 5 years ago and never making me feel that I had to choose between being a mom and working a job that I love. To my beautiful family. Alex, for sticking beside me through every single moment over these 14 years, both good and bad, and always being my biggest fan. And to my three greatest accomplishments, Allie, Sam, and Lucy, for the sunshine you make and for always being my inspiration to keep moving.