Donor Spotlight: Joy Bolt

ISC owes much of its rich history and promising future to those behind the scenes – the individuals who choose to become a part of the ISC family through monetary donations, volunteer hours, or even kind words of encouragement. Today, we would like to thank our local supporter Joy Bolt and her husband John, who are making a difference at ISC. –Lisa Whaley, Director of Development


Joy Bolt is a shining example of the idea that sometimes the smallest gifts have the biggest impact.

A strong supporter of storytelling, Joy has, in fact, been living this adage since she first stepped into Jonesborough three years ago.

“What I get back now is so much greater than any time or money I ever spend,” Joy says.

But back in 2021, when the Bolts first saw the little house in Jonesborough that captured their hearts, Joy had no idea exactly how deep her commitment to storytelling was about to become. She had attended a fledgling National Storytelling Festival back in the 1970s, and she was well familiar, as a hospice nurse, with the benefits of storytelling in healthcare settings.

Still, she admits, she really hadn’t fully witnessed the magic until the Bolts’ first October as residents of Jonesborough.

“We came down the first morning of the Festival, went in the tent, and thought, ‘Wow, this is big. This is really, really, really, really big. This is Barnum and Bailey big!’” Joy recalls.

“The chatter stopped. The kids stopped giggling. And the storyteller began telling.

“I am sitting there listening to him and thinking, ‘There are probably 300 people in this tent and it’s the same with every storyteller in every tent,” Joy says. “It’s not the person who’s telling the stories that is the magic, although I definitely have my favorites. It’s the act of storytelling. It’s the willingness of that individual to open their heart and pour something out. And if you’re open to receiving it, that’s the magic. That’s where the magic is.”

The Bolts were already advocates for storytelling. The Festival cemented their commitment to ISC.

“My husband and I are both supporting members of the Jonesborough Storytellers Guild. 2024 is their 30thanniversary,” Joy says. “We love that, too. We volunteer at the Storytelling Resource Place. It’s just filled with magic. And we support the Heritage Alliance and the McKinney Center.”

But Joy has come to believe that in its way, ISC is the string that ties all these things together.

Her support for the organization has shown up in all shapes and sizes. Joy and her husband began by volunteering. Last year, they became Platinum-level Friends of the Festival. And the couple have already established a legacy directive naming the International Storytelling Center.

Joy is also known for her small gifts and uplifting messages, provided generously to all who work to bring storytelling to Tennessee’s oldest town and beyond.

For the Bolts, the art of storytelling is a precious gift, and its one they plan to continue to support and promote in any way they can.

“This is way more than somebody telling you a story, although that is also great. This is important stuff,” Joy says. “It’s the miracle of human to human communication.

“And when I say human to human, it’s not just eye contact. It’s heart contact.”