The new year brought new leadership to the board of Northwest Neighbors Village, an organization that helps people stay in their homes, surrounded and aided by friends and neighbors, as they age. The work became all the more important as the pandemic brought new challenges. We asked NNV’s new president to fill us in.
by Morgan GopnikOn January 1st of this year, I began my term as president of Northwest Neighbors Village, a local organization that supports older adults in our neighborhood. I’d like to introduce myself to the Forest Hills Connection community, provide an update on recent activities at the Village, and invite you all to join us in fostering a supportive, inclusive, multi-generational community.
My husband and I moved to DC in 1987 – a young couple with new jobs, a two-year-old son, and no car. As we searched for a place to live, top priority was to be walking distance to good public schools, a grocery store, a video rental store (remember those?), and a Metro station. We chose the Van Ness neighborhood and have lived here happily ever since, moving from an apartment to a tiny house to a bigger house as our family grew.
Fast forward about 30 years! When I retired from the field of environmental policy, a friend
suggested I consider volunteering with the Village. In case you’re unfamiliar with the Village concept, it’s a national movement of neighbors helping older neighbors to age well within their communities. The first Village was founded in the Beacon Hill neighborhood of Boston, Massachusetts in 2002. There are now over 250 Villages nationwide, with thirteen in Washington, DC alone. Northwest Neighbors Village was created by a small group of neighbors in 2009 and covers an area stretching from Van Ness Street to Western Avenue, bounded by Rock Creek Park and Massachusetts Avenue.
The volunteer work proved extremely rewarding, as much for what it gave me as for my ability to help others. The spirit of the Village – among the members, volunteers, and staff – kept drawing me in and, to my pleasant surprise, I now find myself the new president of the Village’s hard-working board of directors.
As you can imagine, the last year has been challenging for our older neighbors and for our organization. With the pandemic raging, we found ourselves unable to provide the face-to-face personal attention, services, and activities for which we are known. We were also unable to host the galas, auctions, and in-home salons that brought in much of our funding. But responding to ever-changing circumstances is in our DNA, so we got creative!
As in-person activities became restricted, we enlisted a “phone buddy” for each of our members, arranged for grocery deliveries, and provided safe transportation to critical appointments. We moved our popular programs, like a weekly yoga session, online and produced high-quality new content, including a Virtual Speakers Series that has proved extremely popular with the public. Equally important, we helped our members master the new technologies needed to access services and programs remotely.
Because many members of our Village are in vulnerable age or health brackets, we also became a centralized source for the latest coronavirus information, answering questions and updating recommendations as they evolved. Most recently, we have been helping our members navigate the maze of options for obtaining Covid vaccinations. We also relied more than ever on loyal neighborhood donors and foundations to support this important work.
Many are waiting for life to “get back to normal” later this year. Others say we must prepare for a new “normal.” But whenever, and however, we emerge from this difficult period, Northwest Neighbors Village will be there to continue working toward our vision of “a generous, supportive community where all older adults are valued, age with dignity, and enjoy opportunities for growth and engagement.” I consider myself fortunate to be involved in this wonderful organization and I hope you’ll join us, as a member, a volunteer, or both!
Learn more at nnvdc.org.