In an extraordinary act of selflessness and putting others before themselves, Joseph and Barbara Havranek showed up throughout COVID-19 to continue to volunteer every Monday at Neighbor to Neighbor.
Masks on, wearing protection and taking all precautions, they fearlessly felt compelled to help pack the grocery bags to get people the food they needed to survive.
As part of the “Fill the Build” campaign, Neighbor to Neighbor is taking this moment to celebrate and honor the people who went above and beyond, putting others before themselves. The Havraneks are one of six being celebrated this year. Duncan Lawson, Food Resource and Operations Manager at Neighbor to Neighbor, appreciates the Havranek’s bravery. “How do we repay our gratitude to such a dedicated couple? They are a brilliant example of service for others to follow. They worked tirelessly throughout the pandemic and continue to volunteer every Monday to help us pack bags and prepare for the busy week. We are incredibly grateful for their support."
This is not the first time the Havraneks have shown extraordinary acts of courage. During COVID, they also prepared meals at St. Mary’s Church, to feed adults facing homelessness at Covenant House. They have lived a life of giving back.
Serving others came early to Barbara and Joe. They met while they were serving in the Air Force at a top-secret command post in Massachusetts. Barbara was a switch board operator in the 18th Communications Squadron. Joe was a part of the 814 Combat Defense Squadron Air Police and would have liked to become a Police Officer after his Air Force discharge, but at 29 he was “too old.” He got a job as a logistics coordinator for General Foods, now Kraft Heinz, while he volunteered as a Special Officer with the Greenwich Police Department. The department rules changed when he was 45 years old, making Joe the “oldest rookie” as a paid Officer until he retired in 2006, and returned to the Special Police as a volunteer until full retirement in 2019.
Joe’s call to help others started as part of the police department, but never stopped. The department went down to help in the wake of 9/11. When Hurricane Sandy hit, Joe and some friends went to Breezy Point, Queens, to pump out basements and empty houses. “People lost everything,” Joe said. “It was awful.” Joe also spent 10 days at an orphanage in Honduras. “It was eye opening. We didn’t expect how bad it was.” Because Barbara and Joe are veterans, they have stepped in to donate the funding for the U.S. flags along the David N. Theis Memorial Bridge in Cos Cob every year, which is sponsored by the Cos Cob Volunteer Fire Company. Joe and Barbara pay for brand new flags and poles and help put them up as an annual tradition. “It looks beautiful when they are blowing in the wind,” Barbara said proudly.
The Havraneks are devoted to Neighbor to Neighbor. Barbara was a longtime volunteer and spent time as a paid staff member in the clothing division of Neighbor to Neighbor while she had a career as an Office Manager for a dentist’s office. “Part of my nature is to step up and help,” Barbara said.
Why did they volunteer throughout the pandemic without missing a beat? “We’ve been fortunate. We want to give back and they needed our help. Simple as that,” Joe said. “When we tell our friends that we pack over 500 bags of groceries for Greenwich residents every week, they don’t believe me. We will do anything to help Neighbor to Neighbor.” Barbara added, “It would be nice if people would help get the new building set up and fill the shelves.”
To donate to help “Fill the Build” for Neighbor to Neighbor here.