After the flood in the summer of 2006, the Woodlawn Estates neighborhood really came together.
Once the water had drained and the cleanup was done, Nancy Apostle didn’t want to let the community just fade away. It started with a simple jewelry party and grew into the Women of Woodlawn, a social and charity-based neighborhood group.
Earlier this year, Apostle was named our Brecksville Patch Person of the Year. She was nominated by more than 40 individuals for her work to bring the neighborhood together. But she doesn’t like to take the credit for the group, and said it can be replicated in any neighborhood.
"I don't want people to think you have to have this catastrophe to get together," she said.
Apostle said members share the good, such as upcoming weddings, graduations and grandchildren, as well as the bad. The community finds ways to support members who are suffering from an illness or grieving the loss of a family member.
“We really want to know what’s going on in the neighborhood,” Apostle said.
Member Sandy Spann said the group really tries to support local businesses and watches what’s going on in the city in general. If members spot something unsafe in town, they’ll bring it to the attention of local officials.
“We look out after each other,” she said.
The group also makes it a priority to support charities. There are monthly collections for a variety of causes. About once a year, the organization will support a charity with monetary donations, but the rest of the time, it’s items like clothes, box tops, coupons and books—things people are likely to have around the house, Apostle said.
A lot of the charity drives support service work members are doing, Spann said, such as mission trips or fundraising walks. Everyone has different talents they bring to the organization.
The group also has special themed meetings around the holidays with a local arts and craft sale in November and a cookie exchange in December. The monthly meetings are just for the women of the neighborhood, but they make sure to hold some events where husbands and families can take part, too.
They also have an email list for sharing information on a regular basis, Apostle said. Neighbors ask each other for recommendations on contractors and doctors and alert each other if there is a crime in the neighborhood. There are people who rarely or never come to one of the monthly meetings, Apostle said, but they get the emails. There are more than 70 residents on the list, and about 25 people come to the meetings each month.
Want to start your own neighborhood group? Here's Apostle's advice:
- Plan a small, informal get-together at first, and ask attendees to bring a friend to the next meeting. If the neighborhood already has a block party, use that to get a regular meeting started.
- Put together an email list to keep everyone up to date.
- Schedule meetings far in advance so people can plan for them.
- It’s not necessary, but it’s helpful to have someone like Apostle who oversees the whole group and keeps it organized.
- Stay away from politics. Apostle said the members of the group have a lot of differences in terms of age and beliefs, but they set everything aside for the meetings and focus on what’s going on locally.