If you’re going to the Neighbors Day event at Celebration Church, you might want to come hungry.
The Forest Hill neighborhood church is hosting a pig roast in honor of Akron’s seventh annual Neighbors Day on Saturday, and is asking residents to bring a covered dish — and their appetites.
“I wanted to do something that would bring the neighborhood together — that wasn’t just us having a meal,” said Jeff Wade, pastor of Celebration Church. “We want to get to know each other and enjoy each other’s company. It’s something for the neighborhood.”
That’s the point of Neighbors Day, an event Akron has held annually since 2007 but that has been waning in recent years. The event had 100 neighborhood activities, ranging from neighbors serving tea to bigger block parties, in its first year, but the number dropped to 38 last year. In hopes of rejuvenating interest, Akron is kicking in more money, sponsoring larger events in each neighborhood and has sought the support of neighborhood groups and churches.
“We are going to grow it,” said John Valle, the director of the relatively new Department of Neighborhood Assistance whom Mayor Don Plusquellic tasked with trying to revive Neighbors Day as part of his duties.
The city will host events at all of its community centers (except Northwest Family Recreation Center, where another activity already was planned.) Woodland United Methodist Church instead will host an event for this area of the city. The pig roast at Celebration Church rounds out the 12 city-sponsored sites.
Beyond this, about 35 events are planned at other sites across the city, a number Valle hopes will grow to about 50 by Saturday. The city provides assistance to residents who register to host an event, including allowing them to put out extra trash after the event, mowing a grassy area and blocking off a street.
Akron is spending $3,500 on the event this year, up about $1,000 from previous years, and has been promoting the event, including the placement of 150 signs posted in front of city buildings, community centers, schools and fire stations.
Valle has talked up the event at neighborhood watch and ward meetings he has attended and office hours he has held during the past several months.
The city also is getting assistance in one form or another from various local businesses and community groups. Papa John’s Pizza is donating pizza to events at three community centers, and the Firestone Park Prime Timers are cooking for the Firestone Park event.
Other organizations are providing financial assistance.
Chapel Hill Tower is underwriting the cost of the Patterson Park event, and the city is providing a trolley to shuttle seniors from the tower to the community center for the festivities.
The Kenmore Community Council donated $400 to the Kenmore event, which will cover the costs of hot dogs, buns, chips and pop.
“It’s about giving back to your community,” said Tom Abbott, who heads up the council. “It’s not always me calling [Councilman] Mike Freeman and saying, ‘I need money.’ It’s kind of a positive.”
The Kenmore council plans to continue the Neighbors Day theme during the annual Kenmore Community Days Festival, with discounted ride passes offered Friday, Saturday, Sunday and Memorial Day. The festival starts Thursday at Prentice Park and will offer the Akron area’s only holiday-weekend fireworks, at 9:45 p.m. Sunday. (For more information on the festival, visit http://kenmorecommunitycouncil.org/.)
Abbott said he’s pleased the council can give back to the community that has supported the festival for so many years.
“It’s the neighborhood and the neighbors that are going to make or break our community,” he said.
Wade, the Celebration Church pastor, also sees his pig roast as a way to thank the community, especially about 140 Forest Hill-area residents who attended recent meetings about starting nine new block watches. The residents also are discussing starting a neighborhood association to take on bigger issues, such as vacant houses.
“We want to work together and make a difference,” Wade said.
He said Neighbors Day events at his church and elsewhere in the city are another way to bring the community together.
“Everything is so divided right now,” he said. “Anything that’s bringing people together in this country, I am more than willing to support it.”