Joan Borovoy is as original to Queens as apple pie is to America. The daughter of social activists and the 1960s, she was born in Woodside and raised in Jamaica. She obtained her undergraduate degree in Family and Child Studies before earning a Masters of Public Administration degree and launching a 41-year career with the New York City Health + Hospitals system. When Joan retired in 2019, she began volunteering with our food pantry and became one of our most dedicated and inspirational volunteers thereafter. For the last two months, Joan has volunteered multiple days a week on our COVID-19 Vaccination Taskforce, helping nearly 2,500 community members with vaccine access. Her warmth, patience, and purpose are her most defining qualities as a volunteer. Recently, we had the chance to interview Joan and ask her about her life and passions.
Tell us a bit about your background: I was born in Woodside, Queens. My family then moved to Jamaica, Queens to a Mitchell Lama low-middle income co-op named Rochdale Village. At that time, the early 1960’s, it was considered to be an experiment in integration. My parents were socially conscious and active individuals. I grew up during the Civil Rights Movement and Vietnam War. Living in Rochdale Village and growing up during such turbulent times influenced many of the decisions I made in my life — one of which was to participate in community work whether it be as a career or as a volunteer.
How did you spend your career? My undergraduate degree is in Family and Child Studies. I have a masters degree in Public Administration-Health Care. I worked for NYC Health+Hospital for 41 years. I worked for H+H because their mission was important to me: access to health care for all. The patient population is primarily underserved and many are immigrants. The last 30 years I worked at H+H I was a project manager for the installation of patient information computer systems. These systems are used by all hospital staff to document patient health care information. I worked directly with MD’s, nurses, pharmacists, dietitians, and social workers. These systems enable hospital staff to have immediate access to patient information.
By having this information online, data can be tracked and trended which is then used to develop new services such as diabetes education, depression screening, addiction screening, and many more services which address population health.
How have you spent retirement? I retired in May 2019. Months before I retired I looked online for organizations where I could volunteer. It was important to me that the organization(s) I volunteered with were doing community work. I discovered Common Point. I reached out to the Director of Volunteers, Sam Schacter. Sam reviewed the volunteer opportunities with me. At that time the greatest need was serving lunch at the Senior Center, packing food at the Forest Hills Food Pantry and chaperoning monthly weekend social events for young adults with developmental disabilities. I volunteer for all three of those activities however since the pandemic the Senior Center cannot serve lunch on-site and social activities for special needs young adults are on hold. I enjoy all of the volunteer activities however I most enjoy volunteering at the Food Pantry.
Why do you enjoy volunteering with Commonpoint Queens? Volunteering at the food pantry provides the opportunity to work directly with people in need and selfishly is an activity which enables me to be physically active. I enjoy talking with the clients. There are times when a client is experiencing a particularly difficult time in their lives and needs someone to talk to.
It is my honor to listen and if needed, provide comfort. One benefit I never expected when volunteering was to make new friends. I have made several new and what I know will be lasting friendships. I have had challenges in my life and am grateful to the people who helped me during difficult times. As a result my favorite part of volunteering with Common Point is having the opportunity to give back.
If you could share one message with the world, what would it be? My philosophy of life is a simple one: treat others as you want to be treated. I believe that if everyone adopted this philosophy and most importantly put it into action, we would have a kinder and more equitable world.