The Good Samaritan: Protector, Preacher, Teacher

Jackie Sue Griffin with her son Devon Tyler Konyha.

By Jackie Sue Griffin, MBA, MS

Following the recent passing of my father, I have spent several weeks reflecting on how much he influenced me and shaped me as a person and Servant Leader. It is because of his influence that I have dedicated my life to community service and championing change in Pinellas County. My story is not unique, but the source of the inspiration, Ray Nelson Griffin, was one of a kind.

I have always been a Daddy’s girl. I was one of three children and we all loved and idolized our father. Family meant everything to Dad. He made millions in his lifetime and invested it into the “best stock,” on the market, his family. His children, Lisa Yvonne Griffin, Jackie Sue Griffin and Jonathan Ray Griffin – were his prized possessions.

A childhood picture of Jackie Sue as a baby with her mom, Jessie Yvonne Griffin, her father Ray Nelson Griffin and her older sister Lisa Yvonne.

Daddy taught me daily what it means to be a steward and Good Samaritan in the community. And he provided me with the best leadership training on the planet. He was a natural Servant Leader and was constantly demonstrating random acts of kindness, embracing our world with unconditional love and forgiveness. It was also in his blood to give generously in his service to others.

Through the years, Daddy opened his home as a place of refuge to several of my brother’s friends. He provided jobs, rides and even gas money to those in need. As such, my father raised me to be empathetic, generous faithful and a good listener. These gifts, his leadership example and the work ethic my father instilled in me led me to accept a job at Operation PAR, a credible non-profit organization providing behavioral healthcare services including prevention, research, and treatment for individuals and families struggling with the disease of addiction, and then to LiveFree! Substance Abuse Prevention Coalition of Pinellas County where I served as Executive Director. In my work, I strive to achieve that excellent standard he set every day during his 73 years of living.

My Daddy was known for his love for preaching the gospel, family and friends, storytelling, country music, Alabama Crimson Tide SEC football and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. He was a brick mason and an amazing artist. He could visualize and build new creations without blueprints or architectural drawings. His masonry work spans the hills of Alabama and throughout Florida’s coastal and rural communities as homes, businesses, churches, and restaurants.

I, too, am able to visualize change and devise a plan to reach it. As an individual with 17 years of recovery, I understand firsthand the need to change people, places and things to ensure a better lifestyle for myself and my son, Devon Tyler Konyha. I also understand that each individual’s recovery process is unique and that when it comes to prevention, intervention or treatment that “one size does not fit all.” That is why I work so hard to develop alternatives for treatment, therapy, and support.

On a daily basis, I am motivated by both my father and amazing everyday champions and their miraculous stories of perseverance and success against all odds. Additional motivators include optimistic-minded people, dedicated community leaders, vibrant community involvement and community fellowship. Much like my father, I surround myself with good people and good football.

Daddy didn’t mind getting his hands dirty and doing whatever it took to get the job done. He was relentless with his work ethic and challenged others in his company to keep the same pace. I strive to do the same. I will continue “getting my hands dirty” while teaching others to find inner strength and garner the understanding that when it comes to behavioral health care and wellness services, there are many options to explore.

I believe it is never too late to build a new tomorrow until we no longer have that tomorrow. I will always strive to make him proud, both as a parent and through my work in the community. It is because of him, the lessons he taught me and the example he set that I will work so hard to make sure my community is a better place and focus on the positive.

Remembering Ray Nelson Griffin

March 6, 1940 – March 7, 2013

About Jackie Sue Griffin, MBA, MS:

Jackie Griffin is Business Owner and Executive Director of Jackie Sue Griffin & Associates, LLC.  She holds 27 years of experience in community development, strategic planning, grant and business development, advocacy, sustainability and coalition leadership. She has procured more than $71 million for nonprofits and the health and human service industry in Florida, New Orleans, Mississippi, and Virginia. She has served as adjunct faculty for Springfield College teaching graduate and undergraduate students for 16 years.