Meet Joan Windis. She is 80 years young and always on the move.
“Busy, busy, busy keeps you young,” said Windis. “I’m hardly home because I choose to be busy.”
Windis is a native of New York – Manhattan to be exact. She moved to Florida about 25 years ago when her husband passed away.
She is always on the go and very involved in the community, helping different service organizations and nonprofits.
One group she has been with since 2002, is New Horizon’s for Widowed People and Friends. She served as president for six years. This organization is for widowed, divorced or women with dying spouses who need support of other women.
“We play cards, go to the theatre, have picnics, potlucks and a Christmas party. The whole idea of this group is so you are not alone,” she said.
The group meets once a month at the Imperial Palms Apartments in their clubhouse. Windis says she enjoys being a part of this wonderful group of people.
One of Windis’ hobbies is knitting. She loves to knit. She makes hats for the troops and for cancer patients going through chemotherapy. When she knits the hats, the dark colored hats she says are for the troops and the bright colors are for the chemo patients.
The military have a special place in Windis’ heart. “My husband was in the service and my brother was also in the service. I think 911 affected me. It was very upsetting. It made me want to do more for our troops. Since 911, I have been collecting and sending items to our troops. One organization she helps is the nonprofit Operation: Military Matters started by two Seminole fifth graders. For the past year, she has been bringing them hats and toiletry donations so they can send them overseas. “It gives me a good feeling to know I’m doing something for someone wherever, whoever.”
When she’s not knitting for the troops, she’s knitting for family. She has two daughters and a granddaughter who live in New York along with other family members. She recently made 14 infinity scarves and took them to her family in New York. Her favorite time to knit is when she is watching television.
You also will find Windis collecting items like diapers, juice boxes, clothes, onesies, toys and other items for children. She brings everything to the Pinellas County Sheriff’s Child Protection Agency for kids who are taken from their homes because of abuse or neglect.
She also gives clothes and food to the RCS Food Bank in Largo to help the poor. Another thing she likes to do is collect tabs from aluminum cans to donate to the Shriners Hospitals for Children.
Not only does Windis do all of this in the community, but she also has a part time job working for S & S Casino Tours. She takes groups of people to Atlantic City. “Travel is fun,” said Windis. Even there she’s working her magic to collect items for the troops. “I give them tours and while on the bus, I tell them to save toiletries for the troops. I even ask the people who clean the rooms for extras. I tell them I have room in my suitcase to bring them back.” She’s been doing casino trips for 17 years. She loves this job and says her bosses are like family.
Another place you’ll see Windis is at the Central Parks Performing Arts Center formerly the Largo Cultural Center. She’s the head usher and has been volunteering there since 2001. She also volunteers at the VA in St. Petersburg.
Windis has been active her whole life. She has had quite the career. Her past includes jobs like a medical assistant, real estate agent, travel agent, defensive driving instructor for AAA at the police department and she worked in a bank.
Windis is not only active, but healthy. “My doctor says I don’t have any health issues. I only take vitamins and minerals. So far, so good. I do my own cleaning and errands and cook a lot.” Windis says when she cooks, she cooks big and freezes meals. She even has an extra freezer for all her frozen meals.
So what’s her secret to being active and healthy: “Do what pleases you, only be with happy people and stay away from negative people because that makes you negative.”
Windis says she doesn’t really need anything, so if she can help someone she tries to. She says she doesn’t have a lot of money, but likes to give it her all when she does something.
Her friends keep her busy too. Once a week she plays cards and the Chinese card game Mahjongg.
She says even though she sees her friends weekly, they have a ritual every morning. “We call each other and say, ‘We made it. See you tomorrow.’”
And tomorrow is another day for Windis to help those around her. Because Windis is so busy, she tells her friends, “You’ll have to find me to bury me.”