September 28, 2018

Building connection with neighbors by Elizabeth Richards

When members of a community are connected, it makes the community stronger. Irina and Alexi Popov understand this. Twice now, they have hosted neighborhood gatherings to get to know their neighbors better and create that sense of connection.

Because of the time we live in, we notice that all the gadgets, technology, and social media take away the real relationships people can have or used to have. It is something we ourselves want to work on,” Irina said. 

Late this summer, the Popovs hosted a gathering in their yard, inviting all of the residents of Old County Road and the three roads that branch off it to attend. Two years ago, they did the same thing, with about 20 neighbors attending. This year, they had six families, and a total of 22 guests, plus the band members, who live in other parts of Windham. They would like to make this an annual event, Irina said.

“We wanted to socialize more, be more like a community,” Irina said when asked why they decided to host such a gathering. The Popovs have lived in the neighborhood for ten years now. They have two young children, aged one and three. While they know their immediate neighbors on top of the hill, she said, they didn’t have the same connection with other area residents. “We realized that sometimes we are up here in our own little world. We wanted to know other people. That was a pull for us,” she said.

The event included a bounce house, trampoline and other fun activities for children; refreshments; live music; and a bonfire at the end of the evening.  Guests arrived at 5 p.m. and stayed throughout the evening. They spent time talking with the neighbors about how long they have lived on the road and their history.  “It was a blast to find out the history of the road,” Irina said. “One neighbor has lived in the house his father built in the 1960's! His sister lives up the road.”

As the evening wound down, they formed a closer circle and asked a specific question: what the highlight of their summer was. “Everyone shared,” Irina said, and answers allowed more insight into who the people in the neighborhood are. 

The goal of the event was to get to know the neighbors, Irina said, and it was a great success.  “If we didn’t have this gathering, we probably wouldn’t even know who else lives out there,” she said. “Now when you drive by, it’s more than just a wave.” The group has created a Facebook page to keep in contact and continue that connection.

“It was a good experience,” Irina said. She added that they hope people reading the story are encouraged to do the same kind of thing in their own neighborhoods.

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