A Portage Life in the Spotlight – Joanie Sulivan

A Portage Life in the Spotlight – Joanie Sulivan
By: Kali Beatty Last Updated: July 17, 2019

Joanie Sulivan was born and raised in Griffith, Ind., where she had a love for science, math, and running. Now, many know her as the Business Manager at the YMCA of Portage, but that wasn’t always the direction Sulivan saw herself going. 

When Joanie Sulivan began her college education at Indiana University, Bloomington, she was pursuing a bachelor’s degree in nursing, but it didn’t take too long before Sulivan had a change of heart. 

“Once I started doing clinicals, I realized that [nursing] wasn’t quite for me,” said Sulivan. “I liked the personal side of things, but it gave me anxiety to feel like another person’s life was in my hands.”

Because of her other love for math, Sulivan decided to take an accounting class as an elective for her nursing degree. After acing the class, she found a new path she wanted to follow. 

“I tried the science route and it didn’t work out, so I decided to try math,” Sulivan said.

This decision led her to change her major to business, with a focus in accounting, and transfer to Indiana University Northwest. But it wasn’t all perfectly paved out from there. 

“At the age of twenty I had my eldest daughter,” Sulivan said. “But that didn’t stop me. I still went to school full time and graduated within five years.”

After her graduation from Indiana University Northwest, Sulivan moved straight to downtown Chicago. There, she worked at a consulting firm for five years and then an investment firm for another year. After that, she met her husband, Danny, who would lead the way to Portage, Indiana. 

The two got married and had two more kids, which led Sulivan to the decision to be a stay at home mom for the next few years. 

Then, the mom of five decided to start teaching preschool at the Portage YMCA. It didn’t take too long before the staff found out she had a background in accounting and approached her with a job offer to be the business manager. 

“I loved helping people, and I loved doing things for and taking care of people, that’s why I started out with [nursing],” said Sulivan. “So I think working at the Y helps out with both of those parts of me. I get the numbers, but then I’m also helping people out.”

Between processing payroll, bookkeeping, and her new role of spearheading the summer food program, Sulivan couldn’t be happier at the Y. 

“Working at the Y is not just like a job,” said Sulivan. “It’s like a family.”

Outside of work, Sullivan enjoys running. Be sure to cheer her on as she’s running the Chicago Marathon in October. 

The YMCA of Portage Summer Food Program is available free for children under 18, Monday through Friday, with breakfast served from 8-9AM, and lunch served from 11AM-1PM. 

Check out ymcaofportage.org for more information.