Ballard neighbors create an extended family
A core group of families in Ballard has revived, in a decade, what many people today bemoan as lost — the notion of neighbors as extended family. Recently, the city's Department of Neighborhoods asked people to submit personal stories online for Saturday's Neighbor Appreciation Day.
Seattle Times staff reporter
It's hard to say, exactly, how the tight-knit Salmon Bay Park community got started. But it went something like this:
Lawrence and Karen Jobe met Michael Vacirca and Faye Baker in 2002. The Jobes were looking for a house and found one on 18th Avenue Northwest, right next door to the other couple. Both women were expecting babies within months of each other.
Colleen Butler and her husband arrived later from San Francisco with their 10-month-old daughter.
They moved in a block away, down the street from Ruby and Sebastian Grynberg, who now have four children.
More parents, more kids and countless potlucks later, the dozen or so families of Salmon Bay, a middle-class "micro-hood" in the heart of Ballard, say they pinch themselves all the time for landing here.
This core group has revived, over a decade, what many people today bemoan as lost — the notion of neighbors as extended family.
Here, children run to the house next door when they're bored, and a dinner for four can quickly blossom into a barbecue for 20 ... just because. No phone calls, no Outlook-calendar-blocking required.
In fact, for the past two years, the neighbors have shut down one block of Northwest 70th to host a Thanksgiving dinner for 65 people. Last year, Vacirca, a general contractor, helped put up the huge tent. Butler created a shared document on Google to organize the food. And everyone brought a dish.
Recently, Seattle's Department of Neighborhoods asked people to submit personal stories online for Saturday's Neighbor Appreciation Day. Vacirca, who bought his house here in the '90s, couldn't resist gushing.
"Our children are growing up together, (and) as we watch each other's crow's feet advance, I couldn't be happier," Vacirca wrote.
Online, the submissions ranged. Some talked of how grateful they were for the warm welcomes after moving to a new place; others recalled meaningful details about their neighbors' generosity. All resonated with the message that these relationships are valuable — and vital to quality of life.
Roger Kluck and his wife, Betsy, live in Crown Hill and hold "Waffle Sundays," a tradition they started five years ago.
An Evite goes out to 90 or so neighbors inviting them over on the first Sunday of the month. Usually, about 25 to 45 show up, Kluck said. He and Betsy provide the waffle basics, and others bring the maple syrup and toppings. It's a chance for everyone to eat, drink and catch up, he said.
"I'd be lying if I said there weren't days when you go, 'Oh God, I've got to get up and do waffles,' " Kluck said. "But as soon as people start showing up, it's so much fun. It gives you that sense of community."
Plus, Kluck said, he now knows the perfect gift to give graduating seniors and newlyweds — a waffle iron.
The Salmon Bay neighborhood, roughly bordered by 21st and 17th avenues Northwest and Northwest 73rd and 67th streets, is anchored by a nearly 3-acre park.
The playground, equipped with six swings, a merry-go-round, yellow slides and a jungle gym is the unofficial town square.
"This is it," said Butler, as she watched her two children play there Wednesday afternoon.
"This is what we've been looking for," she said. "Everything can be spontaneous. You walk out your door and bump into friends."
Many here, like Butler, are transplants from the East Coast, the South, California and even South America.
That's probably why they rely on each other as family would, said Lawrence Jobe. Butler feels so rooted here, she said, she and her husband just added a second story to their house because they don't want to move.
It's unclear why a community like this grows in some places, and not in others. Perhaps it's because these families are similar in age and class.
Or maybe, Lawrence Jobe said, it's simply good luck.
"I think the stars aligned," Jobe said.
He and his family aren't going anywhere.
Sonia Krishnan: 206-515-5546 or email@example.com
Sam and Sara Lucchese create handmade pasta out of their kitchen-garage adjacent to their Ballard home. Here, they illustrate the final steps in making pappardelle pasta.
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