This past Fall, The Center invited families from our neighborhood to pick “guest” pumpkins that somehow sprouted up in our back yard during the year. We all enjoyed some good company and refreshments. And the neighborhood children had a great time going through the garden discovering pumpkins among the tangle of vines. The stories and memories shared by all were truly wonderful and brought new life to a community that has had a great deal of the life taken out of it by gentrification and economic decline.
The idea started when we discovered that pumpkins we had discarded into the yard the previous year had sprouted all around the narrow yard. We weren’t quite sure what to do with them. But as Halloween was approaching, we thought it would be fun to have the neighborhood children come and collect them. But of course the parents would have to be invited as well, so we decided to host a neighborhood gathering. And the Fall Pumpkin Patch Party was born!
We printed up a batch of flyers and distributed them around the neighborhood. At first neighbors were a little skeptical; no one had done anything like this in a while. But we were known in the community and people soon warmed to the idea. As the date of the party neared, neighbors were excited about coming out.
We baked some cookies, put out some candy, and warmed up some apple cider…
But when the day arrived, our neighbors were still a little hesitant to come over. We went out front to encourage them to come. The kids came running over to see the pumpkin patch, pulling their parents along with them. Once the adults saw that it was truly a welcoming environment, they not only came in, but went through the neighborhood, encouraging other to come over also. We were all feeling pretty good that our neighbors were coming together. Although most everyone knew each other, this gathering enabled them to come together in a totally different way. They shared stories of growing up on that block, the people who came into their lives, and those whom they lost. No one wanted to leave.
Many times after that initial gathering, our neighbors talked about sharing projects we all could take part in. Activities such as a block party, community yard sale, and even a community garden, utilizing our connected backyards, were suggested.
The interest in sharing their memories and stories, coming together as community is powerful. It shows that people want to be connected to each other and their environment.