Meet the Winners of the Real Simple Great Neighbor Awards
In partnership with Nextdoor, we honor people who took care of their community. They prove that anyone can do good—and sometimes all you need to do is look in your own backyard.
In collaboration with the hyperlocal social media network Nextdoor, we're honoring 17 people (our five 2020 winners, plus 12 from 2018-19) who have stepped up in their communities. By helping those in need, rallying their community around a common cause, and connecting with others, these everyday heroes are making a difference. Read more about our Great Neighbor Award Winners, below, and you may just feel inspired to join a group in your own community or reach out to a neighbor in need.
The Urban Farmer: Jamiah Hargins (2020)
When Jamiah Hargins moved to the West Adams neighborhood of Los Angeles in 2015, he planted a backyard garden so he and his family (wife Ginnia and daughter Triana) could enjoy fruits and vegetables. But that small plot produced more than they could eat. Not wanting all the herbs, lemons, and beans to go to waste, Jamiah posted on Nextdoor, the hyperlocal social network, to gauge his neighbors' interest in a crop swap. The turnout was substantial. Read how Jamiah turned that initial meeting into a full-fledged community farmers market.
The Volunteer: Leslie Mallery (2020)
Minnesota is home to more than 52,000 people of Somali heritage, a community that grew and thrived after an influx to the area in the early 1990s during Somalia's civil war. As established as the population is, Minnesotan Leslie Mallery says, "I realized I was surrounded by Somali people, but I knew nothing about them." When she saw a volunteer opportunity on Nextdoor to teach sewing at the Somali American Women Action Center (SAWAC) in Minneapolis, the sewing enthusiast raised her hand (and pincushion). Here's how the class stitched together two cultures—and bridged a language barrier.
The Guardian Angel: Emmàlee Abel (2020)
Emmàlee Abel has known Jayson Amos since she was 11. He was her older brother Adam's good friend—and the last person to see Adam alive before he died by suicide. Jayson would sometimes help Abel (she goes by her last name) around her house in Indianapolis. One day, in her living room, Abel found Jayson flat on the floor, disoriented, with one side of his face drooping. He had suffered a brain hemorrhage. Read how Abel stepped into action, rallying the community to support Jayson.
The Community Organizer: Willie Poinsette (2020)
It's rare that a heated, bitter pile-on in social media comments results in anything good—especially when the topic is race. But that's how events transpired for Willie Poinsette and Liberty Miller in Lake Oswego, Oregon, a predominantly white suburb of Portland. When someone shared a piece on Nextdoor about a black man being called a racial epithet by a white driver, the commentary devolved into arguments and misunderstandings. Here's how Willie and Liberty got the community to meet and discuss the issue in person.
The Friend: Abraham Walker (2020)
Women can seemingly make a dozen new friends between their homes and the corner mailbox. Men? Not so much. That's why Abraham Walker got proactive about his social life after he, his wife, and two sons relocated to Alexandria, Virginia. A real estate agent and an extrovert, he noticed his neighbors seemed to just go to work, come home, and repeat. Read how Abraham forged a group of friends in his new community.
The Bike Fairy: Kathy Downs (2019)
After Kathy Downs started volunteering as an advocate for a nine-year-old foster child, she noticed the girl had a bicycle in the garage that was too beat-up to use. So Downs reached out to neighbors and friends in her community in Orlando, Florida to ask if anyone had a spare kid’s bike. She ended up with not one, but six bicycles, sparking an idea for a project that would eventually reach more than 1,500 foster children—and counting. Here’s why she feels every kid deserves to grow up with a bike.
The Mover: Sean Boren (2019)
After Sean Boren and his family members had to evacuate their homes during the Carr Fire in Redding, California, last year, he couldn’t stop thinking about all the people who lost their homes entirely. Thinking on ways he could help relief efforts, Boren realized that victims needed manual labor, so the 19-year-old launched TTASC: Trucks and Teens Assisting Shasta County. Read more about how Boren has continued his efforts even after going to college and how anyone, no matter their age, can make a difference.
The Caretakers: Crystal Krason and Patrick Krason (2019)
When Barbara Bell stopped by Crystal and Patrick Krason’s home outside Washington, D.C. to pick up a shoe rack the couple was selling, Barbara and Patrick realized their children were close in age and scheduled a play date. What Bell, who had been moving around for a while because of domestic violence and wildfires, didn’t expect was for the couple to take her family in while she had a medical crisis. Read why Crystal and Patrick felt it was a no-brainer for them to come to their new neighbor’s aid.
The Gardener: Nadine Ford (2019)
When she noticed a dilapidated garden in the Belmont neighborhood of Charlotte, North Carolina, Nadine Ford couldn’t help but use her green thumb to revive it. A few years later, she now runs two community gardens and donates the fruits of her labor to her neighbors in need. What’s more: Realizing that many people in her community didn’t know how to grow their own food or include nutritious fruits and vegetables in their diets, she started teaching in the garden. Read on to learn about Ford’s delicious mission.
The Coach: Jorge Contreras (2019)
When Jorge Contreras realized that families in his East Los Angeles neighborhood couldn’t afford to enroll their kids in local basketball leagues, he formed his own club to give kids an outlet to shoot hoops at a fraction of the price. The first practice was attended by just 15 kids, but word quickly spread, and to date more than 280 boys and girls have been through the program. Learn how Contreras provides a place for kids to compete.
The Rescuers: Sharon Swanson Evans and Kenny Evans (2018)
When hurricane flood waters rose to five feet and beyond, Sharon Swanson Evans and Kenny Evans could have evacuated to drier ground, safe and sound. Instead, the Texas couple stayed put—using their aluminum johnboat to rescue stranded neighbors during Hurricane Harvey. Here’s why these two were inspired to save more than just themselves.
The Advocate: Jessica Bueler (2018)
When Jessica Bueler read about an attack on Syrian refugees in her neighborhood, she went straight to their community to find out how she could help. What started out as a toiletry drive to help area families turned into full-blown mentorship: Bueler is now an advocate for 20 refugee families in her city. Read more about what compelled her to devote her free time to others.
The Fixer: Selena Silvestro (2018)
When she learned of a local wheelchair-bound vet in need of assistance, Selena Silvestro paid him a visit. His needs were great—he required a wheelchair-accessible shower, his garage door was stuck, and his ceiling had water damage. So she organized a lemonade stand, which grew into a social chain, and attracted help at record speed—in the form of cash donations and volunteer work from area contractors. Here’s how she changed a life with the ring of a doorbell.
The Matchmaker: Payton Walton (2018)
As a nurse caring for victims of the Northern California wildfires, Payton Walton was heartbroken by the trauma and loss happening just 45 minutes north of her community. In her gut she knew that if her neighbors were made aware of the incredible need of the displaced families and individuals, they’d reach out. So she spread the word—and her instinct proved right. Read how Walton played matchmaker with nearly 9,000 donors and 250 families in need.
The Organizer: Seshat Walker (2018)
The Organizer: Seshat WalkerSince moving to her Washington D.C. neighborhood, Seshat Walker has steadily tried to infuse it with the community spirt of her childhood hometown. Her micro-activisim has led to local history projects, newcomer activities—and now, she hopes, eliminating the food desert in their area by bringing more fresh food to the area. Learn why this cause is so important to Walker and her neighbors.