“Community” Is Back in the Miles Neighborhood Community
For the past few months Josie Zapata on 13th Street rummaged through her house, storage bins and homes of her understanding relatives to gather up all of her teaching tools and games she used over the years. Many she made herself like the 8 foot duel track run constructed out of 6” PVC pipe cut in half.
Josie’s community building idea hatched the night in March I told the Miles Neighborhood Association about my One Can A Week food donation program. She regularly attends these monthly association meetings because she thinks community involvement is very important. We talked afterwards and she said she was concerned kids don’t use our beautiful little Miles playground park that has a basketball court, soccer field, baseball diamond and jungle gym. Josie thought that a family night once-a-month would get the whole neighborhood excited and involved if she showed the kids how to have fun again with simple outdoor games.
Family FunNight was her solution and she pulled it off beautifully this past Sunday. Lots of neighbors and their kids showed up, too. There were sprinklers and huge yellow balls for the little kids and ball games for the bigger kids. The basketball court was the most active with kids and parents playing together.
As the sun set, the conversation turned to the spectacular view. Of course this wonderful display happens every fall night in our neighborhood. But what hadn’t happened here for a very long time—until this evening—was a gathering of neighbors as an engaged community just sitting or standing around the Miles schoolyard discussing Sunday’s football games, the kids growing up and the magnificent sun going down.
Plenty of popcorn was available along with bottled water and fruits and vegetables. A family who had just gotten back from the apple orchards brought an apple cake to share. The EMS guy offered his knife to cut it up. When the knife was returned, he licked his thumb and index finger and began to wipe the blade carefully between them. I asked him if he always cleaned his medical equipment like that. He said I should not worry about how he cleaned his knife. What I should worry about is the ingredients in the cake. Even though the apple cake was very tasty, I put my thoughts about a second piece on hold.
Towards the end of the evening a number of folks mentioned to Josie how fun and delightful the evening was. She turned to me and said, “Peter’s inspiration for One Can A Week was President Obama and my inspiration was Peter.” That was very nice but I was more impressed with her decision to do something about her concerns and frustrations. And the neighbors were right, it was a delightful evening.
Bill Richards, the Miles Neighborhood Association president saw that the kids were having a ball but there was not much for adults to do but talk and munch popcorn. He suggested Bocce ball, a great game with just a little physical activity. Josie is on it and knows where there is a Bocce set unopened. You could see others had ideas about how they would up their participation at the next gathering but kept it to themselves. The sleepy Miles community is awakening.
Josie’s next Family FunNight is scheduled for Sunday, October 25th, a week before Halloween. One thing for sure, there will be lots of candy and tiny ghosts and goblins.
It’s been nearly a month since we talked to the students and I completely forgot about our Thank You note conversation until I open my mail box on Friday. At the time we gave our presentation, I actually thought the teacher, Ms. Pamela Stein, dispatched the two girls to get an address for her. The truth is 48 Gridley Middle School students each sent us a Thank You note filled with their own art and sentiments.
It’s apparent they were given guidelines to follow such as “What did you learn?” and “What did you like?” about our presentations. Everything else was left up their initiative and creativity. As the photograph of the Thank You notes shows, no two are alike.
According to the students, they really liked learning about the Community Food Bank’s maze-like Spiral garden and the Pizza garden featuring vegetable toppings grown in the shape of pizza slices. The whole garden is one giant pizza.
At one point Pauline asked the students to name some of the items they grow in the pizza garden. As they called out tomatoes, onions and spinach, I had a hard time resisting the temptation to say anchovies. If I were in the class I know I would have said it just for the laugh. Those were the days!
The Community Food Bank’s Children’s calendar was also a big hit. Lena wrote, “My favorite part was when we got the cute little calendar. I like all (of) the drawings.”
Many of the students also expressed themselves relative to what they are learning in their Life Skills class. Brandon was perhaps the most insightful. On my story about having dyslexia and authoring 22 books, he wrote, “I found it interesting that even though you had dyslexia, you still taught yourself how to read and write. That is just proof that a disability is not a limitation.”
He summed up his comments by responding to Pauline’s story on helping people in trouble. “I am gonna (sic) help people,” Brandon noted, “by being more kind and respectful.”
Can’t ask for any more than that, Brandon.
See you next Sunday.