Late last week, a short obituary ran for Joan McGovern. She was 86 years old and a 50-year resident of White Plains. The Westchester-Putnam Association of Realtors also also ran a short tribute to her, as she was a former licensee with Century 21 Wolff in White Plains. A mother to 13 children, that her loss would be felt in numerous circles would be understandable. But that is not the end of the story.
Simple math tells us that a mother who raises 13 children will serve about 85,000 meals in their collective first 18 years.
Joan served 2 million.
In 1991, Joan’s son Tommy died of complications from AIDS. As she states in “A Mother’s Story” on her website:
the night he was inducted into the National Honor Society—he informed me that he was gay.
It never changed our relationship; he was still my son and I loved him.
After Tommy’s death, Joan started to feed homebound HIV and AIDS patients in a project that soon became her new life’s work, a project known as The Lord’s Pantry. Based in White Plains and with the initial help of two other surviving mothers, the charity grew to 150 volunteers and serves 13 Westchester County communities.
Joan did all of this after the age of 65. Her work started before Magic Johnson or many of the advances in treatment. One can only imagine how difficult this must have been- to grieve your son and push a project uphill that would not have the popular support then that it has today. One can only imagine the single minded need to do something to make a difference with no money and your own kitchen to have it grow to make such a huge impact.
Like most mothers, Ms. McGovern sought no attention for herself, only the organization. She just wanted to feed people in need and give them some comfort. Earlier this year, the Ryan White foundation ceased funding the charity and they had to find alternate resources. Their website says that they need $40,000. I’d encourage you to log on and do what you can. While all of us can’t be just like her, we sure do need more people like Joan McGovern.