Ice cream social yields more than a tasty dessert.
Thursday, August 14, 2008
I found the flier tucked under the welcome mat at my front door.
“Dear Neighbors– You’re invited to the party of the year. Our very own neighborhood ice cream block party, celebrating good neighbors, good friends and great ice cream!”
There was a phone number and name for an RSVP, so I called and left a message.
That evening Nancy Myers called me back. Turned out she won a contest sponsored by Dreyer’s and the prize was enough ice cream for a party for 100 people.
Myers, who moved here from Tucson 12-1/2 years ago, came upon the contest some months back while searching the Dreyer’s website to find which local store had gotten the latest shipment of butter pecan, her husband’s favorite. Entrants had to write 350 words or less explaining why their neighborhood deserved a “Dreyer’s Slow Churned Neighborhood Salute” ice cream block party.
Myers composed her entry on the spot– she didn’t keep a copy– and submitted it. There were more than 19,000 entries from across the country, and 1,500 winners. Dreyer’s supplied Myers’ winning essay, which said, in part:
“KNOWING MORE PEOPLE IN THE NEIGHBORHOOD IS IMPORTANT.”
“Sharing chili, cookies and firewood during our frequent power outages, helping with yard work for an elderly neighbor, feeding the rabbit during vacations, these are some of the pluses of living in our neighborhood. We have people of all ages, races, family size, some who have lived here all their lives and some who have moved in last week… People look out for each other… [Having] neighbors that take time to learn first aid and CPR for the Neighborhood Response Team, who donate hours to the neighborhood association to bring needed improvements, who deliver the casseroles for new moms or shut-ins, who wave when you drive by and leave cuttings of the flowers you admired– these are some of the reasons our neighbors’’ deserve the party.
Myers, who works with severely disabled kids for the Monterey County Special Education Local Plan Area, says the ice cream social idea struck a homey, nostalgic chord.
“When I grew up in Babylon, New York, we all moved into the area at the same time and everybody knew each other,” says Myers, 57. “My mom would have kaffeeklatsches.”
“It’s harder when you move into an established neighborhood. We have quite a few people here only part time, so the ones who are living here full time, it’s nice to know who is near you.”
She is friends with her immediate neighbors. “But in these times,” she says, “knowing more people in the neighborhood is important.”
“What if there is a natural disaster?” she asks, noting how members of the Big Sur community pulled together during the recent fire.
Myers’ words struck a chord with me, too. It does seem like knowing your neighbors is a thing of the past; I remember growing up that we pretty much knew everyone on both sides of my street, behind us and on the side streets. Maybe kids are the common bond for that familiarity; we all played together and the families looked out for one another. I remember how our neighbors two doors down always checked on our house and picked up our mail when we went to the beach every August, and how my mother made sure to give them something for their trouble– maybe a new cookie jar filled with homemade cookies.
In the 10 months I have lived in Monterey, much of my time has been spent learning a new job and becoming familiar with the county. I know my neighbors across the street. But the others I only know to wave or say hi to– which strikes me that that is the typical response police get at crime scenes when they ask neighbors if they knew the victim or the suspect in a hideous crime. Well, I decided I had better get more information and get better acquainted with my neighbors, and Myers’ invitation was the perfect excuse. So this past Sunday afternoon, I went to the party at Hilltop Park.
Besides meeting Myers in person, I also chatted with many of the 35 or so people who also attended the event. And I learned some things about the ’hood: We have a neighborhood association with a president and board that meets every month, the fire department will offer free community emergency response training in September, and there is neighborhood improvement money for all kinds of projects.
“This party is a marvelous idea to bring people together… ” says Sharon Dwight neighborhood association president.
Myers echoes those sentiments as she continues scooping ice cream for neighbors, their guests, and people who just happen to be in the park this day. I tell her she should make sure she at least gets a taste.
“I don’t even like ice cream,” she says, smiling.
Seeing neighbors coming together, it seems, is a bigger treat.