Joyce Jed, president of Good of Neighbors of Park Slope, is an extraordinarily caring human being. She even worries about how candidates for the Good Neighbors board will feel if they lose the election.
Joyce has always liked running organizations, a talent that has greatly benefitted members of Good Neighbors. And as a professional in the field of mental health, she saw how a lack of social support could lead to serious mental illness. So, when she retired from her job as an administrator at the South Beach Psychiatric Center in 2000, it’s not surprising that, not long after, her thoughts turned to the needs of older adults.
“Suddenly we found ourselves in that category, older adults,” she said, laughing, referring to her friends and neighbors, most of whom, like her, had spent a good part of their adult lives in Park Slope and were now in their sixties and seventies. “What were we going to do,” she said. “As we got older, what kinds of services would we need?”
As she talked with other people about this, she discovered that Bob Ohlerking, who lived in another part of Park Slope, was also concerned. They decided to invite the people they knew to a meeting in Joyce’s living room. One Sunday afternoon in 2014, more than 40 people showed up!
Most had heard of the “Aging in Place” movement so they pooled their knowledge and, after the first big meeting, they broke up into committees, each with a mandate to decide what was needed to set up the kind of organization they envisaged.
“Because of my background, I was thinking that we would have to hire a part-time coordinator to organize services for people and so the annual membership fee would have to be around $1,000, more than most people want to pay.”
“I chaired some of the groups but the task became overwhelming. I had grandchildren who needed me and I was involved in other activities.” (Joyce has two sons, one who lives in California and has one child, and another son who lives in Rockland County, New York and has three.) “In the end we formed a steering committee of about 10 people who met every month to hash out what was required to become a non-profit.”
Ultimately, they decided to open up in two phases, the first one being social activities run by volunteers and the second, social services, later dubbed Share and Support.
“When it came to organizing the Share and Support phase in 2020, we put a lot of effort into it but surprisingly we found nobody really wanted this kind of help. I’m still puzzled about that.”
“Of course, we had to have a web site. We considered paying $1,000 to someone to set it up but then Lynne Ornstein said she wanted to try. She said she’d been interested for years. And you know the result. We have this amazing website that’s probably the envy of much bigger organizations.”
When she’s not working on behalf of Good Neighbors, Joyce and Arnie Wendroff, her husband, a serious outdoors man, are thinking about their next expedition. On their first vacation together, they went to Africa. Now they’re in love with France and are exploring the French countryside through a company that helps set up bike trips, mapping out routes and places to stay.
Anyone who knows Joyce, knows that she brings the same spirit of adventure and planning to Good Neighbors as she does to her backpacking trips.
Joyce and Arnie biking in France