by Lou Mancinelli
After working for more than five decades, navigating through different careers — almost 11 years in commercial film, launching a food co-op and Quaker school in Central Pennsylvania and serving as executive director of a transportation company for 12 years – before Mt. Airy resident Peter Javsicas retired in 2014, he wondered what the future had in store for him.
Raised in Manhattan, Javsicas left Columbia University before his senior year. The year before he’d been abroad at the London School of Economics and Political Science. But in New York he simply just didn’t do the work.
He landed at the New York Herald Tribune as a copy boy. His father had been a journalist for Time and Atlantic Monthly, but after a year Javsicas realized that wasn’t for him.
There were hundreds of film companies that produced commercials and documentaries in New York City. One day he met a documentary maker, and they ended up having lunch. Maybe film was his calling.
“I discovered there are certain buildings loaded with film companies,” Javsicas recalled. So he’d ride the elevator up and down. Any door that had the word “film,” he’d knock and try for work. For the next decade he worked in film.
Well, his life continued and Javsicas ended up on a farm in Unityville near the Bloomsburg area, where his wife, Anne, was raised. There the couple launched a food co-op and later Greenwood Friends School, which is still there today.
At age 75, Javsicas is faced with a problem that will soon affect millions and millions of baby boomers – a label he’s five years too old to call his own – as they climb into their late 60s and 70s. We live in a society where it’s almost wrong to get too old.
So in 2012, Javsicas, his wife, Deborah Cooper, and Maurice Sampson held a series of meetings for a group they called Mutual Mt. Airy. Now called Northwest Village Network (NVN), the organization is dedicated to connecting seniors with other seniors in social settings and in other helpful ways.
Before NVN became official, the founders wanted to get a sense whether there was any community interest. Sixty-plus people showed up to that first meeting. Over nine months of meetings, surveys were conducted to see what sort of help people needed. In 2013 NVN became a nonprofit group under the Mt. Airy Community Services Corporation.
This July, NVN launched its ride service for members only. Members can now call and schedule to have a driver take them wherever they need to go – for groceries, to the park or doctor – within a 12-mile radius. The drivers have passed criminal background checks and must have clean driving records.
At the heart is “knowing that we wanted to be able to stay in our own homes as long as possible,” said Javsicas. With his two children raised and gone, Javsicas knew how “home can be lonely, risky … You can have a very poor quality of life … So how can we come together and offer each other some mutual aid? … Somebody had to be president, and since I talk a lot they made me it.”
The group now has 60-plus members, including 15 board members. Within, there are interest groups like film, books and a social and political one. They meet for round-table discussions. There are monthly luncheons, a weekly coffee gathering, newsletters.
In short it’s a social club for senior citizens who still want to make friends and be active. With NVN you find the chance for individuality that Javsicas says is lost in institutions like nursing homes and retirement communities.
“It makes it a whole lot easier to do something together, go to a meal together and go to see a movie,” Javsicas said about the friends he and his wife have made in NVN.
For more information, visit northwestvillagenetwork.org.