It’s hard to believe it’s over.
Months of preparation and planning, committee meetings, and dreaming, and then one whirlwind week of 2,654 “Hi”s!
After a great turnout at our kickoff event the week before at Back Pages Books, we were excited and ready to go for Waltham’s 2nd Annual “Say Hi to Your Neighbors Week” from February 9-16! So at first we couldn’t believe it when our first scheduled events over the weekend got postponed due to a blizzard of historic proportions! But then we realized, what could be more perfect? Nothing brings neighbors together like a snowstorm. Waltham residents came out to help dig one another out, check on folks next door, and commiserate about the snow. When you think about it, it’s a perfect metaphor: During storms and struggles in our own lives, it’s good to know that we have family, friends and neighbors who will look out for us.
Once the roads cleared, we were back on track. The goal of the week was to help prevent domestic violence and build community in Waltham by encouraging people to look out for one another. Our Community Organizer Allison Berry and her team of volunteer committee members packed the week full of fun events. We handed out free cups of coffee at the train station, worked with In A Pickle Restaurant to help residents to send “Hi” cupcakes from Yum Bunnies Cakery to neighbors, and tracked the location of each greeting through a map on the REACH website. We set a goal of 2,013 “Hi”s, and exceeded that goal by more than 600 with 2,654 “Hi”s recorded.
Throughout the week we met person after person who told us how their lives had been affected by domestic violence, who told us stories of their own struggles or of family and friends who have experienced it. We realized again that you never know by looking at someone what they’re going through or what they’ve been through. Domestic violence affects people from all walks of life, from all types of backgrounds, in all types of relationships. As Allison says, “By saying hi to our neighbors we open the door to conversation. We break down the isolation that people experience, and we know that isolation is one of the things that abusers use to keep their victims in harmful relationships. As incidents of domestic violence continue to appear in the news and in our neighborhoods, the week’s activities served as a reminder that there are services available through REACH and a supportive community in Waltham.”
That supportive community includes everyone from the Mayor, who issued the official Say Hi Week proclamation, to the City Council, to local businesses like In A Pickle, Back Pages Books, and Shopper’s Café who were all a part of this year’s effort. Media correspondents from the Waltham News Tribune, Waltham Patch, the Boston Globe, and WCAC-TV helped to spread the word to readers and viewers across Waltham and beyond. Local groups such as the Waltham Rotary Club, Waltham Woman’s Club, Waltham High Peer Leaders, and the Stanley Senior Center all joined in the fun. Since this was our second Say Hi Week, more people in Waltham were familiar with the concept and helping to spread the word about it this year. As a result, we felt like people were quicker to respond and get excited about saying Hi.
Even though the week is over, we hope that people in Waltham continue to say hi to their neighbors. And we hope it’s not just limited to Waltham – that wherever you’re reading this from, you’re inspired to do the same. Every one of us can be a resource and build those community connections that make us safer. Go check out our interactive map to see how the “Hi”s have been counted and keep adding to the count. We can continue to build communities where acts of kindness happen daily.
To be quite honest, saying “Hi” can be tiring. It’s going to take us at least another week to recover around the REACH office – Say Hi posters are floating around our cars, and Allison’s office looks like it got hit with its very own snowstorm of Say Hi pins and REACH materials. But we can honestly say it was worth it. Watching conversations take place and new friendships form, and knowing that each one is a step toward a healthier, safer community makes our job worthwhile.
In addition to the businesses and groups listed above, we want to thank our dedicated planning committee members: Karen Toney, Jim Preston, Jim Walker, Dan Reedy, Belgica Garzon, Roberta Factor, and Bob Marcou. And a special shout-out to the recipients of our Community Organizing Awards, which were presented at the kickoff event: Tim Burke, Jim Preston, Dan Reedy and Jim Walker.
If you want to be involved in Waltham-based organizing work like Say Hi Week, please be in touch; we’d love to work with you! Contact Community Organizer Allison Berry at (781) 891-0724 ext. 107 or email her at firstname.lastname@example.org. Do you have a story from Say Hi Week? Share it in the comments section below.