The following is a copy of the President’s Report delivered by Lonnie Stewart to the Board of Directors at the first Annual Meeting on March 10. It gives a little history about N2N that we thought you might like to read.
My Fellow Board Members:
Simply stating that Neighbor2Neighbor in Greenwich Village, Inc. was incorporated on January 15th of this year, does not do justice to the work involved in arriving at that moment. In this first President’s report I want to acknowledge, however briefly, how we have come to our first Annual Meeting:
Between 2010 and 2013 a working group developed from Larry and Barbara Hohlt’s interest in the Village concept. Larry and Barbara visited Beacon Hill Village in Boston, and Capitol Hill and Palisades Villages in Washington, DC. Subsequently, they engaged a group of neighbors to think of how the Village concept might be implemented in our neighborhood. Early members of that working group included Eleanore and Marvin Korman, Martha Gabriel, Patricia Bartels, Sue McCain, Martha Davis, and later, Christopher Meeker. I was invited to join a group meeting in the winter of 2013.
On May 7, 2013, Neighbor2Neighbor held its first public meeting in a conference room at NYU’s McSilver Institute for Poverty Policy & Research, thanks to Martha Gabriel’s connections with NYU’s School of Social Work and the help of the McSilver Institute’s Deputy Director, Gary Parker, who recognized the importance of this idea. Thirty-seven people from the neighborhood attended that first meeting.
That summer I expressed an interest to Pat Bartels and Barbara Hohlt in helping to carry the idea forward more formally, and on September 23, 2013, we began to hold monthly organizational meetings. The McSilver Institute provided us with a meeting space, and, with the help of their Educational Coordinator, Ammu Kowolick, the Institute provided us with interns: graduate students working toward their Master of Social Work degree from NYU and Hunter College. In those first monthly meetings our name was established, and with the help of Quincy Long, the wording of our mission was crafted.
In the spring of 2014 we held three building-specific focus groups. Eleanore Korman hosted one at the Petersfield (115 4th Avenue), Mitchell Gross hosted one at 40-50 E. 10th Street, and Sugar Barry hosted one at The Devonshire (28 E. 10th Street). Overlapping themes emerged immediately from these groups and led to the development of our three main focuses: promoting social engagement, developing an intergenerational volunteer network, and acting as a clearinghouse for information and senior services.
In the months during and following those focus groups, several social groups began with various successes and struggles: Classic Movie Musicals led by Mitchell Gross and Lonnie Stewart; the first reading group hosted by Linda K. Jacobs; the first Bridge group meeting spearheaded by Eleanor Korman and Jane Perry. A successful social hour was organized at Burger Joint on East 8th Street. Two summertime, roof-garden, potluck socials were held at 40-50 E. 10th Street. The idea of the Petersfield tradition called “Sundowners” cocktail hour was trialed at 40-50 E. 10th Street, hosted by Kathleen Dimmick and Quincy Long, and later at the apartment of Sugar Barry to raise seed money.
In March of 2015, we began our foray into presenting lectures. Local elder law attorney, Linda Amato, gave two, well-attended presentations on estate planning. And a brief collaboration with Burner Law Associates resulted in a presentation on de-cluttering. During the general meeting of April 1, 2015, the people now sitting in this room (Linda K. Jacobs, Steve Gittleson, Jane Perry, Kathleen Dimmick, and Lonnie Stewart) volunteered to form the first board of directors for Neighbor2Neighbor (N2N). The following months were spent refining N2N’s mission, purpose, and description of activities. At the same time, Marjorie Elkin agreed to act as our pro bono attorney to guide us through the incorporation process and assist with completing our application for charitable status from the IRS. Her help has been invaluable, and our IRS Form 1023 was filed on February 8, 2016. We now await the government’s response.
Today, our general meetings include a presentation by a local speaker of interest. We now have two reading groups, one lead by Mary Ellen Fielder, and the other led by Eileen Wechsler and Kathleen Dimmick. Classic Movie Musicals continues to meet, though less frequently, and the bridge group is ongoing. Our Google Group subscription has grown from 8 people in May of 2013 to 100 in February 2016.
We have come together because we recognize the potential that good neighborhood relationships can have for our mutual health and wellness. I know the past three years have marched along slowly – I sometimes joke that we move at the pace of “community”. But our ultimate goal has not changed in that time: to assist neighbors to age with dignity in their own homes and neighborhood. I am confident, that as we begin to spread the word, and as more neighbors become involved, we can develop that corps of volunteers that we wanted to develop in the first place.
So, I thank you all for your hard work and your collective intelligence, and most of all for your patience. We will continue to develop this experiment in our community. The need has been identified. The organization now exists. Our next step is to begin to address the need, one step at a time.
Mahlon K. Stewart
President, Neighbor2Neighbor in Greenwich Village, Inc.