Joan Garde has valued charity since it was instilled into her during childhood.
“I was born into a family that always gave,” she said.
Her upbringing imparted, in addition to other Jewish imperatives, a value for service. When she reached adulthood, Garde started giving to the Jewish Federation of Greater Philadelphia.
“I was very young,” she remembered. “I thought I should, because I’m a Jewish woman.”
That moral duty to give back has stayed with Garde, who lives part of the year in Blue Bell. She lamented the hyper-politicized culture of today and wished the nation would return to the core value of helping others.
“You need to help other people to have a decent life. I feel that everybody should give back,” she said, noting even the smallest donations can be important.
Garde and her husband, Joseph, devoted themselves to giving to charity over the course of their 61-year marriage. Joseph died in 2013. The couple have two adult children.
Beneficiaries of Garde’s charity include the Philadelphia Museum of Art; WillsEye Hospital, where the couple started a fund for children’s eye treatments, exams and glasses; and the Jewish Federations of Philadelphia and South Palm Beach County, where Garde spends six months a year.
A 2015 SunSentinel article noted that Garde underwrote a Boca Raton, Fla., appearance of actor/comedian Larry Miller at the Florida federation’s major event that year.
The philanthropist has also donated a Dynamic Thorax Phantom radiation treatment machine to Einstein Healthcare Network, where she was treated for breast cancer. The machine can help doctors assess how the way a patient breathes impacts the movement of a breast or lung tumor. That enables them to fine-tune their calibrations before delivering radiation.
With a schedule brimming with charitable events and meetings, Garde acknowledged that she can get carried away.
“Sometimes I overextend myself [with my giving back], but it makes me feel good. It’s both a selfish thing and not at all a selfish thing,” she reflected.
Even if helping others left her in poor spirits, Garde said she wouldn’t decrease her efforts.
“I believe in charity,” she said simply.
This article is part of an occasional series of profiles of Jewish Federation of Greater Philadelphia supporters.