Nextdoor 100 Winners — 4 inspiring stories from community members

Bringing their parcels or watering their plants during the holidays, lending them a cup of sugar or an egg when they need it – there are many ways to be a good neighbor that may seem unimportant, but even small acts of kindness can make a big impression on your community members. Highlighting the power of these “next-door” relationships, the Neighborhood Network The next door launched the Nextdoor 100 program, inviting anyone to nominate an individual or small business they believe deserves recognition for their impact on the community. The judging panel included kindness advocates like GRAMMY award-winning artist Tim McGraw and our very own editor, Meaghan Murphy.

The program has received more than 46,000 nominations, from every state in the country, with stories ranging from inspirational to humorous, heartwarming to lifesaving. There are people in our communities who seek ways to serve, who galvanize those around them to find solutions to problems, who take a “see something, do something” approach to life. Meet four such people – inspiring neighbors and Nextdoor 100 winners – who embody kindness and actively put the livelihoods and happiness of their neighbors at the top of their priority list.

Evelyn Pederson, Ellensburg, WA

“Evelyn founded the Spirit Therapeutic Riding Center in Ellensburg, WA as one-stop therapy for children with special needs. She brings her love for horses and riding to this non-profit organization , and as a volunteer I have seen firsthand how much a weekly half hour of horseback riding therapy session can do for these children, giving them confidence and developing their motor and language skills. his heart in this work and we are lucky to have him in our small community.

Evelyn Pederson unites children with special needs and horses.

Dana Whitney

Seeking stronger purpose and joy in his adult life, Pederson took his sister’s advice and began volunteering at a therapeutic riding center outside of Seattle. Despite the two-hour drive, she found herself contributing more and more of her time. “I’ve always been a soft-spoken person, but as I watched the instructor for my volunteer role, I found my ‘arena voice’. I felt empowered,” recalls Pederson. Deciding to turn this part-time passion into a full-time commitment, Pederson earned his Therapeutic Riding Instructor certification before selling his house and buying the property that would become the Spirit Therapeutic Center. Opening in 2006 with just one horse – Trapper, a gentle animal given to him by a colleague – Pederson has worked with children with special needs to develop life skills and confidence through horseback riding. therapeutic.

“Horses don’t judge,” Pederson said. “They hold space for you in an incredible way.”

When Covid hit, Pederson developed ingenious ways to maintain – and even strengthen – these unique and important relationships between child and horse. Handing out “Spirit Packs” to his students to use during social distancing, these kits allowed children to recreate exercises they had performed in the arena at home. Containing items like miniature traffic cones, a Frisbee, cut pool noodles and a lesson plan, kids could create their very own Spirit TRC Arena, encouraging them to show and teach the lesson plan to their family. Pederson also created a correspondence program for his students, started with an initial letter from their companion on horseback and completed with a horseshoe signature. To bring some much-needed joy to the elderly in the community, Pederson also took her undeniably adorable miniature horse on special “window” visits to assisted living facilities.

This summer, Pederson is opening its arena to the entire community, with its first summer camp program and a reading paddock, where participants read to their horse.

Terri Gaar, Huntersville, North Carolina

“She is kind, caring, loving, organized and a great neighbor. She’s given manicures/pedicures to neighborhood kids, shopping for the older ones who can’t leave their house, pet sitting, helps keep our neighborhood clean, hosted a party for a retired postman for let the neighborhood say goodbye, works on the Joys and Concerns Committee, which places baskets with cards, plants or prayers on the porches of those who are sick or those experiencing joy (babies, marriage , etc.). She works with the social committee, helps run the clubhouse, and the list goes on… She’s THE ONLY ONE! »

Nextdoor 100 winners terri gaar giving a young girl a pedicure

Terri Gaar gives a neighborhood kid a manicure and pedicure.

Dana Whitney

For Terri Gaar, contributing to her neighborhood is part of her nature. “Everyone has different gifts. If you see someone who needs help, think about what you can do for them.” Now retired from a career in social work in assisted care and palliative care facilities, Gaar looks forward to making his neighborhood a welcoming place for new residents and a connected, caring community for all. From impromptu manicures/pedicures in the garden for young girls in the neighborhood to organizing Ladies Night Out excursions for local seniors, Gaar is inspired to action by the very people she supports. Creating an ambassador program in her community, she recruited someone on every street in their neighborhood to ensure that all new residents receive a personal visit, a welcome letter with vital information and a new sense of connection. Recently, Gaar hosted a retirement party for their local postman who, for more than two decades of service, had been a frequent attendee of Ladies Lunch events and a constant caretaker of those in the area. “When you get involved in a community, when you’re part of something, when you create new friendships for people, you think, ‘It went well, but what can we do next?

Jorge A Grajeda, Montclair, CA

“My super amazing neighbor saved the life of our other neighbor. Her house was burning and she had no idea. He broke down the front door to get her out of her bedroom, where she was resting and didn’t was unaware of the dangerous situation she was in. If it weren’t for her quick actions, things could have been fatal.”

Nextdoor 100 winners Jorge Grajeda holding a baby girl

Jorge Grajeda puts his community first, even when he is not on duty.

Dana Whitney

Following in the footsteps of his grandfather and father, Jorge A Grajeda has been a police officer for over 26 years.

But he was off duty, visiting his in-laws, when his wife noticed smoke coming from a house a few doors down. Noticing that there was a car parked in the driveway – a good sign that someone was in the house – Grajeda knocked on the door while his wife called the police. With no response and the smoke thickening, he entered the house. “For me, it’s just a normal thing — to work or not to work, it doesn’t matter where I am or who’s involved, I’m ready to act. I’m not a firefighter, but I had to do something. Beginning to explore the various rooms, he was joined by local law enforcement in his sweep of the dwelling as firefighters made their way to the scene. In the bedroom, they found the neighbor, an elderly woman who seemed disoriented. Taking charge of the situation, Grajeda got her to safety as the fire took hold of her home.

Neighbors in his tight-knit community nominated Grajeda for both a Red Cross commendation and the Nextdoor 100.

Lorri Brown, Lawrenceville, Georgia

“While working full time, Lorri (and her husband Randy) spend 110% of their free time helping others. Focused on veterans in need, they have mobilized resources with goods, services, clothing , shelter, legal aid, medical care and housing.. They fill the void left by government and non-governmental organizations.

Nextdoor 100 winners Lorri Brown at the Nextdoor 100 event

Lorri Brown devotes her free time to helping veterans and other local people in need.

Dana Whitney

For Lorri Brown, supporting her community means following in her family’s footsteps. “Helping others has always been a part of me, born in me from parents who have both helped people all their lives,” she says.

But her inner drive to support those in need became a catalyst for the community as a whole. “When I started seeing families in need in our community, I knew something had to be done to help them, so I started helping one family at a time until soon, more more people were asking for help and the needs were growing faster than the ability to help them all I started asking our neighbors in the Nextdoor community in Gwinnett [County] to help me and everyone started showing their kindness. Recently, Brown coordinated a food drive for a family in need, saying, “It’s a good feeling to know these kids won’t be going to bed hungry.

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