Employee Spotlight: Joan Hazelwood


Joan has been an integral part of our company since she first started here in 1987. Her natural leadership ability, experience, and passion for helping others has earned her the role of Team Lead of the Group Sales Department at Fellowship Travel. She plans custom air arrangements for Azusa Pacific University and Binghamton University as well humanitarian organizations such as World Gospel Outreach and Volunteers in Medical Missions.

What brought you to Fellowship Travel?

I went to travel school with plans to become a flight attendant. Since I wasn’t 21 when I finished, I had to wait a few years. In the meantime, I met my husband and we decided to settle down in Richmond and for me to work at a travel agency instead.

FTI in 2001
FTI in 2001

How has your role evolved since you started working here?

When I started, we had maybe 10 employees. I started in Accounting, and since we are a small agency I was given a lot of different tasks. From going to the post office to doing the ARC report, even handling smaller groups, I’ll always remember that I’ve done it all here, even changed a toilet seat.

Once my daughters were school aged, I transferred to the role of sales agent. I’ve been here for 30 years, and I’ve seen it all, but I still learn something new every day because this industry is changing all the time. With the newer staff that comes on board, I try to mentor them and show them what I know. I always tell them its not a boring job and you’re always learning something new.

Team Lead is a new role at FTI. How do you feel this position benefits your team?

Since we’ve grown, managers have other tasks to focus on. Team Leads do the sales agent job on a daily basis, therefore we know the proper procedures and what’s working/what’s not working.

What advice would you offer group leaders looking to plan their first trip?

Plan early, use Ubi, and my favorite saying, “Blessed are the flexible, for they shall not be bent out of shape.” So keep that in mind when you’re traveling.

What’s one of your favorite travel memories?

It was when my now son-in-law proposed to my daughter in the Bahamas. Our family was getting ready to go on vacation, and he told us he was going to propose ahead of time so we all knew. He was very nervous because he had to have the ring with him – and going through security he was afraid that they’d make him turn out his pockets. We were trying to distract my daughter and our flights ended up being delayed. By the time we got to the Bahamas we immediately went out to the ocean in the sun. My daughter was tired, and that was the big night that he had set up a dinner on the beach to propose. She was so surprised!

Where was the last place you traveled to (internationally) and the next place you’re going to (dream or already planned)?

I actually haven’t taken advantage of traveling as much as some because when I started working here I immediately started my family. I didn’t travel for a very long time. It was hard to leave them at home. Really, it’s only been since they’ve grown. I went to Portugal last year, and that was just different – I’ve been to Central America and Europe. We put together our own sightseeing and talked to Denison who helped us see a different view than a typical tourist.

Lisbon, Portugal
Lisbon, Portugal

We’re going to Ireland in the fall. My sister in law is my travel buddy now – my daughters like to travel but they’ve started their careers and families. I have Irish roots and so does she, we even did a 23 and Me to get some more background on our history. We don’t know what we’re going to do yet – I’m kind of a last-minute planner. My great grandparents came through Ellis Island.

What’s something your customers don’t know about you?

I am a Gammy (Grandma). But I’ve already probably bragged about Berkley to most of my customers. She’s almost 2. My daughter lives about a mile from my house so I see my granddaughter very often. It’s so much fun.

What are you passionate about?

I really enjoy exercise, like yoga. Church is also really important to me. Mainly, I’m very family-oriented so I’m always trying to look out for them and take care of them.

What’s your favorite thing about working at FTI?

I’ve always said it’s the relationships that I have. Immediately with the coworkers its like a family. Everyone is here for the same reason – to serve our clients. Also the relationships I’ve built with my clients over the years is very important to me. And even the airlines, we talk to the same people a lot and there’s representatives that I’ve worked with for years. We’ll exchange pictures of the grandbabies *laughs*.

FTI Family community service
Joan & the FTI family serving meals.

Thanks for stopping by! For more employee spotlights, check out our Group Sales Agent, Tish Marrero-StoneLead Tour Coordinator, Jenny Burkholder, and VP Jeremy Lawhorn!

It’s a big world. Get out there!
Your FTI Team