By Ilona Merritt
SAVE THE DATE: “Hi, Neighbor!” is traditionally held the first Thursday in November. This year the date is November 3, from 6:30 to 8:30 p.m. at the Community Hall on South Pebble Beach Blvd.
Since the 1960’s, “Hi, Neighbor” had been an event in Sun City Center. At first, it was a monthly event at the Town Hall, inviting all new residents to meet their neighbors. Residents gathered according to the state from which they came. Eventually, it was limited to quarterly and then annual meetings. Somewhere along the way, the “Parade of States” was dropped and club representatives were added.
About 16 years ago, John and Linda Bowker thought it would be helpful if all the newcomers had a way of becoming familiar with all of the activities available in the community.
With much help and cooperation from Linda Cannarelli, who was then the CA’s Club and Event Coordinator, they invited all of the clubs and organizations to an event at which they could discuss their club with the newcomers. The new residents were sent an individual letter, inviting them to the event. In addition, all residents were urged to take advantage of this opportunity to learn more about clubs and organizations in which they might be interested.
The event was so popular that eventually it became the responsibility of the Hospitality Chairman, who also had the responsibility for the operation of the Information Center. That person at the time was, of course, John Bowker.
When John decided to retire from this responsibility, Joe Elam took the position over for a year. The present Chairperson is Janet Ditmore, who is planning her fourth “Hi, Neighbor!” event.
In discussing the event, Ditmore commented, “The event has grown exponentially and we have expanded to fill the entire Community Hall with Club and Organization exhibitors. We estimate that, last year, almost 800 residents took advantage of this opportunity to become more familiar with the activities in our community.
“It is amazing how much time and effort goes into preparing for this two-hour event, and it could not be done without the help of so many people. Claudia Hinson, the present Club and Event Coordinator, is instrumental in notifying the Clubs and Organizations, taking applications, planning the placement in the Hall and coordinating with the maintenance people for the set-up.
“The maintenance people are the backbone of the event. Not only do they set up all the tables and chairs but they are there before and during the event to handle any changes or problems—and run the coffee machines! Then, when everyone has left, they take care of the clean-up and take-down. They are an invaluable resource.
Ditmore also depends on her many volunteers who help to make this event possible. Linda Bowker still keeps the list of newcomers each year and she graciously prints address labels for Janet from that list. Janet sends an individual letter to each new home owner. Last year, she sent almost 400 letters.
John and Linda Bowker also help procure cookie donations from Aston Gardens, and the Solo Line Dance Club has been so generous in donating their time each of the past five years to manning the cookie and beverage tables.
“My sister, Dorothy Kociban, is my right-hand person,” states Janet, “she supervises the refreshments, as well as helping with many of the other tasks that need to be done.”
Janet is thankful and fortunate to have the help of about a dozen volunteers who take on the responsibilities of meeting, greeting and guiding attendees at the show.
This year they are going to try an experiment to see if they can alleviate the massive parking problem that occurs during the event. Robert Sullivan has accepted the responsibility for directing traffic in the parking lot and he, too, will need the help of volunteers.
“So you can see, it does ‘take a village’: Claudia and Janet begin work on this November event in early August. By October, they have all the exhibitor applications, maps of table placement and letters to new residents completed.
“Then Janet handles the ordering of supplies and scheduling of volunteers and advertising. It is really an intensive job. But everyone who exhibits at or attends “Hi, Neighbor!” seems to love it! That’s what makes it worthwhile.”
“Hi, Neighbor!” is traditionally held the first Thursday in November. This year the date is November 3, from 6:30 to 8:30 in the evening at the Community Hall on South Pebble Beach Blvd.
We’ll see you there, Neighbor!