It used to be that neighbors knew one another. Those new to the neighborhood would be greeted with warm smiles and baked goods. They congregated for potluck dinners and counted on their next-door neighbors to babysit their kids, check their mail when they went on vacation or help with a flat tire.
Today, many of us don’t know our neighbors, limiting our interactions with a hurried wave so we can return to our homes for an evening of binge-watching Netflix or scrolling through Facebook.
THE SPIRIT OF COMMUNITY
The neighborhood of West Old Town Greenwood is bringing back the spirit of community.
Several years ago, Tiffany Woods and her husband moved to West Old Town Greenwood and began a family. After the birth of her second son, she left her teaching job to be a stay-at-home mom. “Being home all day made me want to find ways to connect to others and socialize,” she said. “But the primary motivator at the time was thinking of the future when my children grew older and reach the bike-riding age. I want my kids to have the ability to explore the neighborhood and ride bikes just like I did. I realized that since I didn’t know my neighbors well, I was not comfortable with that idea.”
Woods reached out to the few women in the neighborhood she knew, and those women gathered their neighbors to meet up at Vino Villa. Shortly after, Woods formed the Neighbors of West Old Town Greenwood Facebook page to reach out to others living in the area and extended an invitation to meet up at Jockamo Upper Crust Pizza. About 30 neighbors showed up. “We got to know each other, plotted everyone’s house on a map and brainstormed a list of activities residents would like to do,” she said. “Everything just snowballed from there!”
SOMETHING FOR EVERYONE
The neighbors enjoy planning a variety of events: a spring picnic/Easter egg hunt, Cinco de Mayo party, a summer ice cream social, a monthly book club, a men’s chili cookoff, bunco nights, euchre tournaments, dinners, fall parties, Christmas caroling and a holiday cookie exchange.
In addition, “I have started a summer yoga and mediation every Tuesday morning at 7 a.m. in the summer,” said neighbor Kelly Munoz. “I have a free little library for all ages. I reach out to all my neighbors. Waving to all, speaking to all, I have paired with Coffeehouse Five, our local coffeehouse for coffee with neighbors. I have hosted many parties and get-to-know-you ‘tapas dinners.’”
The neighbors have become so close, they also look out for one another and pitch in to help when someone is sick. Darlene Williams moved back to Greenwood two years ago after having been away for 40 years. Her kids were adults and lived on opposite coasts, so she felt a little apprehensive when she returned to a town where she knew few people. But she was quickly embraced by her neighbors and looked forward to attending activities to spend time with them.
A LIFT TO THE SPIRIT
When Williams was diagnosed with cancer, her neighbors came to her rescue. “I would get messages asking if I needed anything from the store, a Jockamo’s pizza and salad was left at my door, along with flowers and cards,” she said. “But the weather was breaking and now, I needed to deal with the yard. I didn’t say anything to anyone but received a message from (neighbor) Jessica Garber, almost as if she was reading my mind. She wanted to spring clean my flowerbeds for me. She picked up new flowers to plant and organized a whole crew to come over on a Saturday morning. They weeded, planted and mulched all around my house. It was a tremendous lift to my spirit.”
“This is exactly what Ellen and I wanted when we moved here,” said neighbor Charles Miller. “We wanted a place where we could sit on the porch and say ‘hello’ to neighbors. A place where we could walk the dog and actually stop and introduce ourselves to strangers. A place where when someone new moves in we acknowledge them in some way. Neighbors of all ages are getting together and knowing each other, not just living in proximity.”