United Way of Stephens County’s new director has followed an international route to her job and to Duncan.

Loisdawn Jones grew up in Canada and has lived in Australia, France, Korea and Mexico.

She has filled a variety of roles as a metal trades helper, a competitive horseback rider, language interpreter, teacher, crew leader, dean of instruction and marketer. And that’s all before she landed at the Simmons Center.

The wearer of “many hats,” has been an events supervisor, assistant technical director, lifeguard and instructional swim coordinator plus a fitness instructor and coordinator.

Include her work both on stage and behind the curtain for Duncan Little Theatre, and there’s not much she hasn’t done.

She’s enjoyed it all, she said, but it is her latest role that has brought her a sense of finding her niche.

“I’m very committed and a hard worker,” she said this week as she recounted why she chose to take on this endeavor.

“I’m really enthusiastic about this. I believe in the importance of the United Way agencies and what they do in the community.

“I want to do what I can to help them, to make sure the funding is there to help people locally.”

Making that local connection is what drew her to Duncan.

Growing up in Lacombe, Alberta, Canada, she and her family traveled across the country following her father’s job as a big-inch pipeline welder, employed on oil and gas pipelines of 30 inches or larger.

At her high school, Jones discovered a love of the arts early, performing in the high school plays when she wasn’t competing in horseback riding or dance.

When she was a sophomore in high school, the family moved to Australia, where her mother, a certified teacher, home-schooled the children.

The following year, the family returned to Canada, and Jones attended the French Immersion Faculty at the University of Alberta upon her graduation from Lacombe Composite High School.

She had acquired a “love of language and culture” and in five years, had her bachelor of arts with a major in French, Spanish and Japanese.

Intending to be an interpreter, she had “some unfortunate health issues,” and headed back to school where she concentrated on adult education specializing in English as a second language.

She got a teaching job but her application for trade school was accepted and she found herself working as a metal trades helper on a variety of pipeline projects off and on for the next 12 years throughout northern Canada.

“I got a lot of dirty jobs at the start but I was getting more responsibility,” she recalled, working up to crew leader, responsible for quality control and 50 to 200 workers, depending on the job.

Once again, the overseas travel bug hit and she took a teaching job in Korea for a year and a half, working six weeks, with two to four off. During that time she visited Malaysia, the Philippines, Thailand, Vietnam, Hong Kong and China.

She headed back to Canada to serve as dean of instruction at a private college, supervising a staff of 12 and marketing the school to Japanese and Korean students.

But after two years, the owners, citing an economic downturn, closed the school, and Jones found herself heading to Mexico to teach for another year.

It was back to Canada for more pipeline work after that.

In the meantime, her parents had relocated to Duncan after a short stint in California, drawn by her father’s contract work as a field project manager.

“My parents asked me to come home,” and as the oldest of the four girls, she did.

She quickly found work at the Simmons Center, beginning the first of many different positions as an events supervisor in the convention center.

“When they found out I had a minor in theater, they asked me to be the assistant technical director.”

But with the position only part-time, Jones took a leave of absence and went north again to work on a pipeline.

When that job kept getting extended, she returned to the Simmons Center on the events side but soon after, made a change to the aquatics area.

It wasn’t long before she took on the lifeguard and swimming instructor coordinator roles plus taught fitness classes, both land and water.

She did both of those until December, when she took on the fitness coordinator duties, as well. She still teaches two classes a week, evenings and Friday mornings.

And she still instructs the lifeguard classes.

“I enjoy my work at the Simmons Center, but it’s been difficult to find my niche.”

That belief, coupled with “three different people encouraging me to apply for the United Way position,” prompted her application.

Since she took the job, she’s toured 10 of the 15 United Way agencies.

“I’ve been impressed with the people at the agencies. They fulfill a real need in the community.

“And I’ve been impressed with the passion of the volunteers.

“The community support makes it possible for our agencies to provide help.

“It’s been a real interesting process,” she said, “I’m going to be in the learning curve for some time, at least until I go through one full cycle of the allocations and campaign process.

“Carol (Wanzor, the former United Way director), left very detailed notes and she’s made herself available to help with the transition, which has been a real plus.”

Jones said she has a simple goal for herself in her new position.

“I want to make a difference here. I want to make my backyard as good as I possibly can.”

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