Updated: Feb 28
The Power and Importance of Community is Highlighted as We Support Each Other and Medford Businesses
During the time when kids piled onto school buses every morning, we invited friends and neighbors over for dinner, and life was normal, nobody could have anticipated that a global pandemic would flip the world upside-down. In the beginning, many of us may have assumed that Covid was just something fresh for news stations to rave about; another swine flu that would subside in a month or two. Even as concerns rose and policies were put in place, most of us figured that, over a year later, life would be back to normal, including 50% of small businesses surveyed by PNAS.
Having opened just weeks before news about the pandemic broke, Medford Shoe Repair was one small business with the same high hopes. As we watched other businesses, big and small, new and old, shut down around us, we feared that all our effort would be for nothing. But we rode out the storm nonetheless, and though we can’t say we didn’t take a hard hit at first, we were ecstatic to receive a warm welcome to the Medford community upon business reopenings.
Supporting small local businesses brings a plethora of benefits to communities. It not only puts your tax dollars back into the local economy and increases the diversity of products and services available, but it brings communities together by creating a unique local identity. Small businesses also tend to have stronger and more personal relationships with customers. While you may be a “regular” at a big department store, there’s just something more fulfilling about being welcomed into a shop by a familiar face who remembers your name.
However physically distant we may be, it’s important now more than ever for friends and neighbors to stand together. Though supporting small local businesses helps us preserve our special little community identity, there are so many other ways to foster the same sense of connectedness. These heartwarming community stories show us that it’s easy to come together, even when we’re apart – you just have to get creative!
Socially Distanced Block Party
Shelter in place orders couldn’t stop residents in Buffalo, New York from finding a way to party. At the same time every night, lively music can be heard blasting down the streets as neighbors of all ages come out of the woodwork and gather in their lawns, driveways, porches, and balconies to cut a rug together while on their own personal dancefloors; plus, everyone gets their own spotlight!
Residents of one neighborhood in Lexington, Kentucky also partake in their own community dance parties, except living on their block puts them in the VIP section of one DJ’s Friday night concerts. Leo Pineda, known as DJ Nytro, hopes to put smiles on his neighbors’ faces by spinning beats in his driveway every week until quarantine is lifted. He says, “I want to help as many people as I can.” At the sound of his mixes, neighbors venture onto their lawns to have some fun, dancing at a distance to form a high energy audience.
These communities show us that sometimes the best escape from stress is to dance it out and share your moves – even if they’re not so great.
Neighbors in Lexington hold a socially distanced dance party. Source: coladaily.com
Graduate Car Parade
More locally, the 2020 highschool graduates of Swampscott, MA found a way to stay cheerful through their unconventional highschool experience; having missed out on senior prom and their final end of year sporting events, these soon to be college freshmen got creative.
Preceding a drive-in style graduation ceremony in the Swampscott High parking lot, students decked out their cars with balloons, the school’s nickname, “Big Blue”, painted across their hoods and doors, and stickers on their windows donning their prospective colleges with pride. Led by the Swampscott police, the students then drove around town in a massive car parade, honking their horns and hanging out of their sunroofs with overjoyed smiles. Swampscott residents all over town were enlivened by the celebration and cheered them on from a distance, standing on their porches and balconies waving signs that read “Congratulations Class of 2020!”.
At their commencement ceremony, the class’s valedictorian, Leonie Flacke, found a light at the end of the tunnel, “I know this isn’t the typical type of graduation speech, but I thought it was true to myself, and I would not stand up here and tell you it was perfect, it was not.” Future students, Flacke predicted, will read about the class of 2020 in history books.
Swampscott High graduation parade. Source: Wicked Local Photos, Jared Charney
Healthy Community Competition
In Warminster, PA, a local community center created “Quarantine Quest”, a Covid-safe outdoor game that’s fun for adults and children alike. The game is simple, Christ’s Home placed 30 small numbered signs around the Warminster community, and challenges residents to find them all while walking at a safe distance from neighbors. Once a sign is found, participants write the location and number on a sheet they are given when they register to play, and once all of them are found, they bring their sheet to Christ’s Home’s reception desk for a prize!
Administrator for independent living at Christ’s Home, Vernon Morris, says that as soon as residents received their game flyers they scrambled to search for signs. “If you had a satellite view of our campus right now, it would look like a socially distanced ant farm.” He goes on, Diversion beats depression!”
All Fun and Games
Warminster isn’t the only neighborhood getting in touch with their inner child. The staff at Aldersgate, a life plan community in Charlotte, NC, brainstormed a plethora of socially distanced community building activities for their residents.
Among the activities that residents enjoyed was balcony charades, where they were given a sheet of topics, and picked a partner on a balcony across from them along with a time to play. Staff also say that plans are in the making to distribute flashlights and morse code sheets so residents can “light up the night” communicating the old school way.
On St. Patrick’s Day, the residents also set out to their balconies to sing, their voices resonating through the small community. They loved putting on the choral performance so much, in fact, that it’s becoming a tradition; something that brings any community closer, no matter how far we are apart.
A Mile in My Shoes
Now it’s our turn, Medford! As new members of the community, our team at Medford Shoe Repair was so inspired by these stories and the support we’ve received that we wanted to start our own little community project called “A Mile in My Shoes”. Since our job is to bring your favorite shoes back to life, we want to know what makes them so special! Maybe you had a memorable adventure in your hiking boots or inherited heels passed down in your family through generations; every pair of shoes has a story! We hope to compile a photo collage of shoes and their stories to add to our upcoming community page on our website so we can capture the uniqueness and diversity we have here in Medford.
Submissions can be sent to firstname.lastname@example.org and can be anonymous if requested.