At the Respite for All Foundation, we want to be able to provide dementia support for those whose lives have been completely disrupted by a diagnosis. Because, really, who do they turn to? Where do they find an anchor when a loved one loses their autonomy, their driver’s license, their responsibilities? Where do they go to restore meaning and purpose? To make new friends? To enjoy social interaction? How can they piece back together the parts of their lives to still bring joy? That’s what we do at Respite for All, and we’re proud to introduce you to our founders, who are deeply committed to advancing the RFA mission and building a global network of Respite Ministries.
RFA Co-Founder and Executive Director
After 15 years of working as an executive director in senior living administration, Daphne Johnston stepped into the non-profit world of the faith community in 2012 when her senior pastor, Dr. Lawson Bryan, asked her to develop a volunteer model to provide support for families living with dementia in Montgomery, Alabama. Together, the two quickly learned a volunteer ministry could galvanize a community and change the culture of how we all live among our friends with dementia and Alzheimer’s disease. It quickly became Daphne’s personal mission to help families, clergy, and professionals better understand that trained volunteers are the immediate answer for combatting the isolation of Alzheimer’s disease.
The success of the first local Respite Ministry in Montgomery inspired her to lead a national response to dementia through the faith community. In 2018, Daphne teamed up with care partner Warren Barrow to establish the Respite for All Foundation. Their goal was to scale the successful model of care for families living with dementia-related diseases across the U.S.
Daphne, lovingly known as “Boss” around these parts, is a fierce advocate for families living with memory loss, often sharing the RFA message online and in person. She presented the volunteer model in Australia to the International Spirituality and Dementia Conference in 2019 and was asked to keynote for the Council of Bishops Conference in January 2020 for the United Methodist Southeast Jurisdiction. She has also presented to such groups and organizations as the Florida Conference on Aging in Orlando, Florida; Giving Voice National Gathering in Minneapolis, Minnesota; Caregivers Conference in Atlanta, Georgia; National Alzheimer’s and Dementia Resource Center (NADRC) and American Society on Aging (ASA); DeWolf Family Innovation Center for Aging & Dementia at Mercy Medical Center-Cedar Rapids; and the BOLD Public Health Center of Excellence on Dementia Caregiving.
Daphne has a master’s in gerontology and is the author of Reclaiming Joy Together, a guidebook for “why and how” to begin an RFA community.
Co-Founder of the Respite for All Foundation
The year is 2014, and Warren Barrow, Executive Vice President of Caddell Construction Company, is at the top of his game. He has achieved national stature as one of the industry’s top construction professionals while overseeing all operations, estimating, and support for major construction projects across the globe. And right beside him, through it all, was the love of his life, his wife, Dolores. They had carefully laid out plans for his rapidly approaching retirement with dreams of travel, volunteering, and simply spending more time together when suddenly their world was turned upside down. Dolores began exhibiting strange symptoms that were finally diagnosed as Frontotemporal Lobe Dementia (FTD) – a rare form of early onset dementia that typically impacts people ages 45-65.
His wife’s diagnosis would prove to be the greatest challenge of Warren’s life as he mobilized to support Dolores and manage her care. The local Respite Ministry in Montgomery soon became Warren’s anchor in ever-changing circumstances. The relationships developed with the Respite community were by far the most important source of encouragement and fellowship as Warren and Dolores faced this staggering trial together but not alone.
While living with FTD, Dolores’ favorite pastime was going for rides in Warren’s antique ‘55 Chevy – a cherry-red hot rod. Unfortunately, in December of 2017, at the young age of 58, Dolores passed away. After her death, Warren sold the Chevy and used the proceeds to officially co-found the Respite for All Foundation with Daphne Johnston in 2018.
Warren has made it his personal mission to spread the volunteer model of purpose and hope for those living with dementia. His commitment to the Respite for All Foundation is a legacy of his devotion to his wife and a source of encouragement and real-time help for people who find themselves in a similar, profoundly stressful situation.
In 2023, after several years of chairing the RFA board, Warren has stepped back and now serves in an ex-officio capacity but is still driven to help other families living with dementia find their own anchor in a Respite for All community.