By editorial board • 

Doors open in face of adversity, neighbors recognize opportunity

“Do you know your neighbor?”

Well, maybe you should. Emergency preparedness advocates will tell you that your neighbors are your first line of defense in a natural catastrophe, so it’s best to be familiar with those living nearby. 

The power of neighbors can be equally effective when faced with adversity in a less direct way. Two such examples surfaced last week.

The rural crossroads community of Ballston had been caught in the grip of a long, slow decline when residents decided to fight back.

“We started off by saying, ‘Do you know your neighbor?’” recalled Joyce Gerhardt, a 16-year resident and Ballston Women’s Group stalwart. “That’s what we want to be about, knowing and caring about your neighbor.”

Made up mostly of widows, the group set out to prepare for emergencies. But it soon began tackling small projects for the community, which is enjoying a liveliness it hasn’t witnessed in years. 

In a twist of fate echoing Alexander Graham Bell’s words, “When one door closes, another opens,” the Eola Hills Charter School decided to move into the Ballston Community Hall after its former quarters on Bethel Road were destroyed by fire in October 2013.

That fire left students, teachers, parents and alums nostalgic about the past and apprehensive about the future. But the school is back on a firm footing, and the rent it pays is helping fuel resurgence in Ballston.

In southeast McMinnville, a celebration of neighbors was staged at Thompson Park in conjunction with National Night Out. In this case, it was the unsavory dilemma of a drug den and nuisance house that brought people together.

Residents near the park began taking their complaints to the city council this summer regarding a house often drawing police in response to criminal activity. They said their neighborhood park had become a gathering place for local drug users leaving needles behind.

The campaign has spawned a local watch group and, more importantly, stronger ties between residents of the area. The drug problem forced neighbors’ hands, and something very good came out of it.

The remainder of that Bell quote goes, “But we so often look so long and so regretfully upon the closed door, that we do not see the ones which open for us.”
The residents of the Ballston and Thompson Park communities realized doors were closing. But instead of dwelling on that, they sought out openings that will make local lives better.

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