Joy Center


The Jeanne Otter Memorial Youth Center (JOY Center) aims to reach and educate young people, provide support to adult family members, and empower the community around our youth center on the Lower East Side of Manhattan.

For our registration form and brochure please click here

Daily Schedule, Fall 2010

Jeanne Otter

Jeanne Otter was a long-time GVYC administrator who helped develop our entire program, and who deserves much of the credit for creating the JOY Center. Jeanne joined John Pettinato at the Greenwich Village Youth Council program around 1974 and helped to build it into a multifaceted youth program, including more social services and the arts.

“She was totally dedicated to the participants and often spent 12 to 14 hours per day at the center,” says John. “She was extremely talented and often donated back her pay. She was my best friend.”

We opened the Jeanne Otter Memorial Youth Center in 1986, shortly before she died from cancer, and named it after her. We are honored to continue to serve children in her memory.

What JOY Does

The JOY Center soon established a reputation for being able to reach and engage the most at-risk youth in the neighborhood. Many of the hundreds of at-risk children we have worked with over the years are now healthy adults giving back to their chosen communities. Over the years many former youth members have come back to work at the JOY Center.

The JOY Center supports at-risk and low-income young people and their families so they and their community can thrive and become productive, caring citizens. Our programs run five days a week from 3 to 7:30 pm and during school hours in the summer, and serve youth ages 7-21. We offer:

  • Academic support, including homework help and tutoring
  • A safe, supervised place for youth to spend free time
  • Meals: We provide a healthy snack and dinner every day.
  • Mental health counseling
  • After-school recreation, including arts and crafts, cooking, games, sports, dance, movie night, and teen night.
  • Parent support programs

Who JOY Serves

JOY serves at-risk youth and families from the LES 1 public housing development in which the Center is housed, as well as from the surrounding neighborhood. We accept all young people, and all of our programs are free.

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Of the children and youth we served last year, most were Latino, one-quarter received food stamps, and two thirds lived in single-parent households.


Andrea Sherwood, Site Director
(212) 979-2442

Get Involved

We are always in need of volunteers and mentors at JOY. Here are a few ways you can help our kids:

  • Help a child with homework
  • Do buddy reading with a first-grader learning to read
  • Help serve dinner to 30 kids at the JOY Center – we do it every night!
  • Grab some friends and help clean, paint, or re-floor the JOY Center
  • Teach an art workshop – these kids get very little art at school
  • Play kickball with our kids
  • Run a gardening workshop
  • Ask local businesses to support the JOY Center
  • Photograph kids for our website

Why JOY Succeeds

Soon after opening its doors in 1986, the JOY Center established a reputation for being able to engage the neighborhood’s most at-risk young people. Many of the hundreds of children we have worked with over the years are now healthy adults giving back to their chosen communities — and over the years many former youth members have come back to work at the JOY Center.

We never turn children away or expel them from the program. This means that we often serve children with behavioral problems who are not able to function well in other programs. JOY is successful at reaching these young people because of its unique strengths:

  • We have an excellent staff to client ratio of usually fewer than 10 children per adult, which means more individualized attention. This enables us to work with all children to meet their needs.

  • We design creative and exciting programs so that we can reach and engage youth

  • We are skilled in building trusting relationships with youth

  • We provide an array of services and referrals so that we can support individual families’ needs

  • We are embedded in and help build a community where people look out for one another

  • We draw on the expertise of our parent agency, the Greenwich Village Youth Council (GVYC), which has been empowering youth since 1969.