If you happened to drive by the corner of E. Main St. and S. Champion Ave. on a Thursday afternoon this winter, you may have seen an interesting spectacle. Since February, a group of volunteers from the neighborhood has passed out cookies and hot cocoa on the corner of Main and Champion every Thursday from 2:30-4. The goal? Simply to do something positive on a corner notorious for negative activity.
So far the initiative has received a variety of responses, from the wary “you’re really giving these out for free…no strings attached?” looks to the big eyed, eager toddlers waiting to board the bus with their parents. By far the most encouraging interaction we’ve had came from a local resident. After only a few weeks of the effort, he stopped by the table and asked with an incredulous face, “How did you do it?”. We told him we really had no idea we’d done anything, other than add some calories to a few people’s diets. He replied, “This corner used to always have drug deals, but now there’s not. How did you do it?” It turns out cookies and a few hours of our time may be more powerful than we ever imagined.
Now that spring is here, the group has switched to lemonade and will be moving the time to Fridays from 4-5:30, but the purpose remains the same: to get to know our neighbors, to be a force for positive change, and to increase the safety of our neighborhood. If you would like to be a part of their efforts by either passing out cookies on Friday afternoons or making cookies please contact Courtney Rowland at 614-252-3157 x124 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Before I moved into the Near East Side a few months ago, I knew exactly one of my neighbors, and even that might be a stretch. I really didn’t know much of anything about the couple next door except for their names.
I hadn’t thought much about this until I managed to get out of the house for a bit on an unusually warm day a few weeks ago. As I walked the dog through the neighborhood I found myself waving at people on their porches and stopping to chat with other residents in the area. Suddenly, I realized I knew not only my closest neighbors, but neighbors from several streets over. And I knew more than just their names too.
I lived in my last apartment for a year and a half and I never had a neighbor over for dinner or went to a neighbor’s house for a party. We didn’t have Wednesdays on the Porch or Cocktails at the Conservatory or gardening nights or Mardi Gras parties in my old neighborhood. But we have that here.
I think it’s something we take for granted, that you know the people you live closest too. But I can share from experience that what we have here is a rare gift. It means something to be able to wave to your neighbors and call them by name when you walk by. It means something when a resident calls you up to make sure you’re okay when they hear gunshots down the street. This community is special and it is these relationships which will continue to help it grow, change, and flourish.
So take some time to walk around on a warm afternoon. Join a block watch or a civic association. Invite a neighbor over for lunch. Come out for Sweets on the Streets or an Open Mic at Urban Spirit. And don’t forget to show some love to our business neighbors too! Stop into one of our new restaurants–like Portico, Smothered Gravy, or Angry Baker–and get to know the owners. It’s an investment that’s well worth your time and energy.