Noble Neighbors reflects on a year of COVID creativity
Noble Neighbors responded to adversity with creativity in 2020. While COVID-19 necessitated restricted gatherings, it exposed overwhelming generosity.
Springtime planning for the annual "We Are Noble" festival was suspended with the Ohio stay-at-home orders. In those early days of the pandemic, restriction horizons were discussed as weeks or perhaps a month of inconvenience. When it became clear that Ohio might not open back up until the summer (so naive in hindsight), Noble Neighbors pivoted toward a creative approach for its annual neighborhood celebration.
Noting that the festival has two main goals—to enjoy one another as neighbors and to invite others to enjoy the Noble community—the celebration launched into COVID-safe expression along four themes: show, support, serve and savor. Neighbors showed they cared by decorating their front doors, storefronts and yards with signs of encouragement, congratulations for graduates, flags and holiday lighting. Partnering with Start Right CDC Hunger Center, donors contributed items that were in short supply and brought in more than $1,300 for bulk food purchases.
A litter pick-up effort during the festival weekend brought folks out to serve their neighbors, and all were invited to drive or walk the neighborhood to savor the displays of “All in This Together,” the unofficial slogan. The weekend gave neighbors an opportunity to express unity during the early days of social distancing.
Even before the weather warmed, two lot-sized projects began. At Roanoke and Noble roads, Barb Sosnowski and Laura Marks transformed a vacant lot into a public mini-park. They reconfigured a low retaining wall from a straight line into a lovely sweeping curve, planted perennials, and reconstructed a crushed-brick path into a river-rock walkway. A Little Free Library (there is another at Central Bible Baptist Church) is stocked with children's books and surrounded by seating. A picnic table invites adults to watch over kids from a comfortable distance, and city-planted trees provide shade.
The park has become a feature of the neighborhood. People seek out Sosnowski and Marks to tell them stories of how the space has given them peace on a chaotic day or boosted their hope for the neighborhood. At the Noble Gardeners' Market, which takes place in the park in August and September, sellers who grow vegetables and flowers in their backyards or community gardens provide a safe way for buyers to purchase hyper-local produce, and new sellers are always welcome. The new mini-park rarely has litter, because so many folks look after it.
Last spring, Delmore Community Orchard was established. Danialle Benham, Tom Gibson, Elsa Johnson and an army of volunteers converted an abandoned community garden into an orchard with apple, pear and paw-paw trees, berries, grapes and pollinator flowers. The orchard is open and inviting, has places to sit and relax, and exudes hope. Neighbors who had despaired of the vacant lots are now joyfully contributing to a source of pride and identity for the street. Everyone is anticipating the spring blooms of flowers and trees.
Meanwhile, Northampton Road neighbors worked with Green Paradigm Partners to establish perennial plots designed for beauty, insect health and ease of care. Soil-building started in the spring, preparing the beds for fall planting.
The year ended with a second drive for the Start Right CDC Hunger Center, and neighbors responded with overwhelming generosity, donating needed items and raising another $1,500 for food.
Noble is home to kind, caring, creative, generous, hopeful people. Read more at www.nobleneighbors.com.
Brenda H. May
Brenda H. May is one of the leaders of Noble Neighbors.