Spouse of Maj. Harry J. Sears Jr.
Air Combat Command’s Intelligence Directorate
Langley Air Force Base
A strong family tradition led Jo-Anne Prokopowicz Sears to believe in dedicating herself to volunteering in the community. Despite raising two young children, Jack, 4, and Sophia, 2, being married to Maj. Harry J. Sears Jr. of Air Combat Command’s Intelligence Directorate at Langley who deploys frequently, holding down a job of her own and working on her graduate degree, Jo-Anne has committed herself to many organizations.
During the day, Jo-Anne is an associate with consulting firm Booz Allen Hamilton, working with the Air Force to develop and deliver a new manned Intelligence Surveillance and Reconnaissance (ISR) weapon system – a Secretary of Defense program called Project Liberty.
“I work with amazing military and civilian people,” Jo-Anne said. “I can’t speak highly enough if them. The job is so much fun.”
In the evenings, Jo-Anne works toward her graduate degree in organizational management through Hawaii Pacific University. Even with this busy schedule, Jo-Anne continually sets aside time to volunteer.
“Volunteering is part of my family heritage,” Jo-Anne explained. “I grew up as an Army brat. When my mom was younger, she was a military spouse at Fort Benning and was there to support the families of those who died in Vietnam. My mom and dad were always volunteering at places like soup kitchens. I’ve had many role models in my life that have led me to volunteer. And it feels really good to do that.”
Jo-Anne recently joined the Junior League of Hampton Roads (JLHR) and was named the director of communications for the freshman class. JLHR is an organization of women committed to promoting voluntarism, developing the potential of women and improving communities through the effective action and leadership of trained volunteers.
“Most people think of the cookbooks we sell to support our causes,” Jo-Anne said. “But we’ve also created bereavement kits for the children of terminally-ill parents. There are crayons, coloring books and information for the parents about coping with death. We include a plaster of paris kit so the child and parent can make a mold of their handprints together.”
Their freshman class project is to assist the Transitions Family Violence Services, whose mission is to assist adult and child victims of domestic abuse by providing shelter, counseling and advocacy services.
“We bring the women and children at the shelter basic care items, like toothbrushes and toothpaste and pajamas,” Jo-Anne said. “A few weeks ago, we repainted and redecorated some of the rooms at the shelter.”
So far, one of Jo-Anne’s biggest impacts with JLHR is the effort she gave to help raise $50,000 during their casino night to benefit JLHR initiatives. Jo-Anne has made it a habit to help raise funds for the less fortunate.
“I have been involved with the Polar Plunge for the last three years to help raise money to support the Special Olympics,” Jo-Anne said. “A group of us from work got together, and we are sponsored by our employer, Booz Allen Hamilton, which has provided us with our white polo shirt and shorts uniform. We have so much fun.”
Jo-Anne can trace her tradition of fundraising to a bake sale while Sears was stationed in Hawaii. The proceeds from the sale supported the children of 12 Marines from the Joint Intelligence Center Pacific Command who were killed in Afghanistan.
“We discovered three children were left without fathers, including one who was unborn,” Jo-Anne explained. “A few girlfriends of mine got together to figure out what we could do to help. Many people were making donations like clothing, diapers and cash to help right then. We decided to do something that would help later. So we had a bake sale, and in two hours, raised $5,000. Some were donating $50 for one chocolate chip cookie. Through the YMCA of the Armed Services, we were able to set up an education savings bond for each child.”
More recently, Jo-Anne began a nursery co-op at Our Lady of Mount Carmel Church in Newport News.
“Several of the families wanted to have the chance to pray and meditate by themselves,” Jo-Anne explained. “So we set up a nursery co-op during the 9 .m. and 4 p.m. masses. We now have 12 families involved and about every six weeks, each family takes their turn in the nursery.”
For Jo-Anne, her organization skills are what enable her to balance her family life with volunteering.
“I am queen of crock pot meals,” she said. “I have devised a system using sweater shelves so I can plan mine and my kids’ outfits for the entire week based on the weather forecast. Getting going in the morning and cooking meals are the hardest part. If I can plan a menu ahead and set up clothing, it makes everything else so much easier.”
Perhaps the easiest times are behind her. Jo-Anne had been a career woman working for the State Department as a spokesperson for Secretary of State Colin Powell when she met her husband on a blind date.
“I had never thought about getting married,” Jo-Anne said. “When Harry called to set up the date, I choose a Wednesday night because I didn’t want to waste my weekend. But we had such a good time, we stayed until the restaurant closed, and we’ve been together ever since.”
That together ever since has allowed Jo-Anne to not only have a family she can be proud of as well as a career, but to commit to improving the lives of those around her.
“She is true and selfless, and I love her all the more for her dignity under tremendous pressure,” Sears said. “She’s the perfect combination of old school and 21st century military spouse. She is my hero at home.”