Tuesday, August 13, 2002

Picnic to introduce Reading-area neighbors

By Cindy Kranz ckranz@enquirer.com
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        READING - The Neighbor to Neighbor initiative lives on in Reading, where residents have invited neighbors from six communities for a picnic next month.

        The “Getting to Know You” community picnic will be 2-6 p.m. Sept. 29 at Reading's Koenig Park, Columbia Road and Koenig Avenue.

        Residents from Amberley Village, Arlington Heights, Blue Ash, Evendale, Lincoln Heights and Lockland - as well as Reading - are invited. All of the communities border Reading.

        The Cincinnati Enquirer organized Neighbor to Neighbor conversations to promote racial harmony and understanding after the April 2001 race riots. More than 2,100 people from 94 neighborhoods discussed improving race relations during 145 community meetings over five months.

        Some communities, including Reading, are continuing the momentum. About 35 people still meet to plan activities that promote harmony.

        “You have to learn to love one another,” said Carol Bullock-Carpenter, a retired school district secretary from Reading who is spearheading the effort. “It's hard to accept people if you don't know anything about them.”

        A committee of residents from Reading, Lincoln Heights, Lockland and Amberley Village is planning the free picnic, with entertainers from diverse cultures, a magic show, face painting, storytelling, clowns, volleyball, corn hole and horseshoes.

        “I think the Neighbor to Neighbor is a very good effort in light of everything that's going on and the tensions in the city of Cincinnati,” said LaVerne Mitchell, a teacher and councilwoman from Lincoln Heights who is on the picnic committee.

        “It's to try to pull everybody together and say, "We're in this together. We have to continue to work it all out and communicate,”' she said. “This picnic that Reading Neighbor to Neighbor is trying to do is right along with what everybody is trying to do 1/2ndash 3/4 to make sure we as a valley community get to know each other so we can minimize any problems and maximize the opportunities we have with each other.”

        The committee has planned ways to ensure that people don't just cluster with their own neighbors:

        Reading firefighters have invited fire departments from the other communities to join them in grilling hot dogs for the picnic.

        People bearing nametags with even numbers will be asked to introduce themselves to people with uneven numbers.

        Plans are for a Fact Sheet Scavenger Hunt with 10 items asking questions about different communities. Participants will have to find someone from those communities to get the answers. Gift certificates will be given as prizes to encourage participation.

        “We want this to be an annual event and a different community doing it each year,” Ms. Bullock-Carpenter said. “We're planning for 500 people, so whether we have 100 people or 1,000 people, we have started something and made a difference.”

        For more information or to donate to the picnic, call Ms. Bullock-Carpenter at 733-4857.


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