‘What’s happening?’ Jeannie’s there to share it with you
Though she grew up in Illinois, Jeannie Joyce has had ties with Englewood for 37 years. She and husband Jeff were married in 1982 and took their honeymoon right here in paradise. After they returned to Illinois, they talked about moving south someday. “We knew Englewood was a place we’d want to come back to,” Jeannie says. “My in-laws moved here 20 years ago, and we’d come down to visit at Christmas and other times. When we finally did move here in 2016, it was partly because we wanted to be close to them. But also we wanted to embrace Florida and especially Englewood.”
But that “someday” didn’t happen right away. First there was a family to raise. “I was a stay-at-home mom for our three kids, Jason, Danny and Megan,” Jeannie says, “and Jeff worked as a furniture salesman back then. (Nowadays he is the dog behavioral specialist at Suncoast Humane Society.) I did a lot of volunteer work with the PTA and the Salvation Army, and I was a soccer mom. I drove the kids and their friends to the games in our minivan. And I became a member of the Woman’s Club in Elgin, Illinois and also in St. Charles, Illinois when we moved there.”
Once her children were in middle school, Jeannie joined the staff of St. Charles School District 303 as a special education assistant, working with individual elementary school students as they took part in their regular classes. She worked one-on-one with these children and stayed with them from class to class, in some cases for as long as five years. “It was very rewarding to see the progress they made, and to know I was making a difference in their lives,” she says. “I’ve always wanted to help kids out.”
After 10 years at St. Charles, Jeannie retired in 2015, and on June 13 of the next year she and Jeff were on their way to Englewood – she in their family car and Jeff on his motorcycle, giving each other hand signals and riding out storms in what was probably the most nerve-wracking trip of their lives. “Since then,” she says, “it’s been a roller-coaster ride of fun here in Englewood.”
That fun began on October 17, 2016. “I was sitting on the couch that day, and I got on Facebook and I just asked the question, ‘What’s happening in Englewood, Florida?’ I immediately found out that there’s a lot going on in Englewood. We have talent here, shows, art classes, and much more. I started a public group, and I had NO idea what I was creating.” It turned out to be something substantial.
On her Facebook page there’s a box where you can sign up to become a member of the group and share news and information about goings on in Englewood and the surrounding area. When people sign up, Jeannie reviews and authenticates them. “I tell people this is not a commercial site and they cannot advertise. I’m just looking for positive things to share, not complaints about a store or a bad meal. They can go somewhere else to do that.” She deletes requests that do not look acceptable for the site and okays the ones that do. “I was excited when I got to 100 members,” she recalls. But the group has grown since then. As of December 13, “What’s happening in Englewood, Florida?” had 22,123 members.
“It really began to take off when Hurricane Irma struck,” she says. That was the monster storm in 2017 that reached Category 5 when it struck the Caribbean and weakened to a Category 3 when it made landfall in Marco Island on September 10. “Jeff and I weren’t going to leave, and I wanted to share with other people what was going on: information about the storm, what to do, where the emergency centers were located in Sarasota and Charlotte counties. A lot of people were wondering what to do, and I just wanted to share that information. Sharing is what I do.” It worked. Since then, 30 or 40 people have been signing up every day to be members.
“I go through my newsfeed every morning. I get notifications that people want to post or want to join. I get news from everybody. I go through the posts to make sure they’re suitable to share with our group. I want no drama. There’s no hidden agenda on my site.” But it’s one busy place. There’s a box for members to recommend something they like, be it a beach, an exhibit, a fitness program, a church or charitable organization or a happening. There’s a discussion box for talking about any suitable issue on a member’s mind. And there are numerous opportunities to sign on for helping a charitable organization.
One recent example occurred just before Christmas. Jeannie posted a notice under the rubric “The 15 Days of Christmas Spirit,” saying, “All I want is socks and underwear and PJs for the needy kids of Englewood.” She had an arrangement with a couple of businesses that set up receptacles for dropping off those items. “We have ties with Kids’ Needs, Project Phoenix and the Jubilee Center Food Pantry, so we could help families in need during this holiday season,” she points out. “We were not trying to compete with Toys for Tots. What we were doing was just putting a cherry on top of their ice cream.”
The response locally was gratifying. “I’m amazed at how many businesses and organizations wanted to help out,” she says. “A business can’t advertise on my site, but they can be on it if they’re doing something good, helping out a charity or celebrating an event.” And Jeannie doesn’t solicit memberships. “I don’t look for people,” she explains. “People find me. And when they apply, I ask them for the reason they’re doing so. If they have a good reason, they’re in.”
“I see good in people,” she says, “and in what they’re doing. I love helping people, and this is my way to do it. By sharing.”
Look up her Facebook page, “What’s Happening in Englewood, Florida?” and you’ll see she’s doing a very good job of it.
Dean Laux is exploring interesting folks living in our community. If you know of anyone with an interesting background please send an email to: firstname.lastname@example.org. Include the person’s name, contact info and give a brief description of the person’s background.