Left: Volunteers add tags of sponsors to each individual rose. Top right: a resident appreciates the gift of flowers. Bottom right: A family prepares to deliver roses to neighbors.
Houston, Missouri, was recognized with the "Best of Missouri Award," for efforts that began when to Shari McCallister, the owner of D&L Florist, began offering free roses as an act of kindness. Now volunteers tag each rose with the name of sponsors of the annual event, which last year gave away 2,850 roses in a town of 2,950 people. (Submitted photos)

OPINION |

No town in southwest Missouri celebrates National Good Neighbor Day in a way as big or colorful as Houston in Texas County. But starting this year, every Missouri town has an entire week to try. 

University of Missouri Extension and The Hopeful Neighborhood Project, headquartered in St. Louis, Mo., are working together to expand the celebration of National Good Neighbor Day (Sept. 28) and the first Missouri Good Neighbor Week (Sept. 28 – Oct. 4).

The goal this year is to document 10,000 acts of neighboring in Missouri that week and to recognize the best neighbors in every Missouri county.

From Sept. 28 to Oct. 4, every person who reports an act of neighboring will be entered into a random drawing for prizes and receive a neighboring memento by mail. The best examples are eligible for county prizes and special statewide awards.

In my neighborhood, I am planning a party in the park one night, an ice cream social another, and even a service project for neighbors in need. But I also use the week to take goodies to my neighbors and reconnect face-to-face.

I will report each of the actions I take that week on the Missouri Good Neighbor Week website, or on social media using the hashtag #mogoodneighbors.

Volunteers add tags to individual roses, recognizing sponsors of flowers given away as an act of kindness each year in Houston, Missouri.
Volunteers prep some of more than 2,800 roses given away for Good Neighbor Day in Houston, Mo. (Submitted photo)

Best of Missouri 2021 found in Houston

Awards were given throughout the state in 2021 for some of the best acts of neighboring. The “Best of Missouri Award,” recognizing the best neighboring project in Missouri, went to Shari McCallister, the owner of D&L Florist in Houston.

In 2021, McCallister used her Texas County business and various community sponsors to distribute 2,850 individual roses to neighbors in and around Houston to celebrate Good Neighbor Day.

“Visitors to the floral shop could pick up a dozen roses for free,” said McCallister. “You keep one rose and give the other 11 away to neighbors.”

Each rose in the dozen carries a tag with the names of the community sponsors that make this significant celebration of good neighbors possible.

McCallister said her shop started in 2007 by giving away a small number of flowers, but it has grown to more than 2,800 roses in a town with 2,950 people.

A rose left in a neighbor’s mailbox is an act of kindness for Good Neighbor Day in Houston, MO. (Submitted photo)

“Over the years, the impact we have had on our community with this kindness campaign is just tremendous,” said McCallister. “People in our town look forward to it, and Houston has led the way in this area with Good Neighbor Day.”

The hope in 2022 is that the enthusiasm for being a good neighbor in Houston can spread statewide as Missourians take seven days to celebrate.

COLUMN CONTINUES BELOW

State law designates special week

In 1978, U.S. President Jimmy Carter announced the creation of a national day to raise public awareness that good neighbors help achieve human understanding and build strong, thriving communities. Since then, National Good Neighbor Day has been celebrated on Sept. 28.

Missouri Governor Mike Parson signed HB1738 on Friday, July 1, 2022, which included language designating Missouri Good Neighbor Week starting on National Good Neighbor Day (Sept. 28) and continuing for six days.

My state Rep. Bishop Davidson, R-Republic, asked me to testify before the House Committee on Tourism on Feb. 7, 2022. That is when I learned that a conversation he and I had several months earlier at a Republic Chamber of Commerce meeting had resulted in him introducing a bill.

When Rep. Davidson heard we had documented nearly 5,579 acts of neighboring in and around Greene County during 2021, he became very interested in the statewide potential.

The original bill was amended and then stalled until another bill began its legislative journey two days before the term was to end.

Rep. Davidson messaged me on May 13, the last day the Missouri legislature was in session, to say: “Just wanted to let you know that our Missouri Good Neighbor Week Bill is headed to the Governor’s desk. We got the language added to another bill, and it passed! It started as HB1559. It ended as HB1738.”

When the Governor signed the law, Missouri became the first state to designate a whole week for celebrating neighbors.

Efforts build on past success

Efforts to celebrate the 2021 Good Neighbor Day in Greene County resulted in 2,281 acts of neighboring being submitted. Statewide 5,579 acts of neighboring were reported and celebrated.

Winners of the statewide “Top Neighbor” community awards included Milton and Judith Moore, a rural Missouri couple who prepared 13 quarts of homemade Hot Cocoa Mix for delivery to their neighbors, some of whom lived miles away.

Elaine Montgomery of Springfield organized a “Socialize and Safe Disposal” event in north Springfield with donuts, coffee, and lemonade for the 95 who attended.

Candy Smith and the Westside Neighborhood Betterment Association in Springfield celebrated the day in 2021 by delivering an information packet with a $5 gift card to the College Street Dairy Queen to people who were new to the neighborhood or had improved their homes.

More information

Further details about the challenge, ideas of how to neighbor, and links for reporting your acts of neighboring or nominating the top neighbor in your area can be found on the Missouri Good Neighbor Week website.

David Burton

David Burton has served as a County Engagement Specialist with University of Missouri Extension for over 20 years. To learn more about his “Engaged Neighbor” program, go online to https://extension.missouri.edu or contact him by email burtond@missouri.edu or telephone at (417) 881-8909. More by David Burton