What makes a good neighbor?
For the Highlands Neighborhood Association, it's residents who nurture others, lend a helping hand and hatch bright ideas for improving the community.
Monday night at Highlands Baptist Church, Longview Police Chief Alex Perez presented Nellie Flubacher, Floyd Willet and J. Coy Middleton (who was not present) with the HNA's first-ever "Good Neighbor Award" plaques.
"We all need to follow their example," said Highlands Community Coach Liz Haeck. "They are kind, giving people who put others before themselves. We should all be more like that. That's going to change the Highlands - it's nothing more than people and relationships."
Meet the Good Neighbors:
Nellie Flubacher, a retired professional cleaner who has lived in the 300 block of 17th Avenue for 20 years, bakes goodies every day for her neighbors and the mailman. Flubacher is coy about her age, saying the kids on her block know she's 39.
"I love where I live, I love the area, I love the people on the street," she said. "I love the kids coming up to the door, knocking - ‘You got any cookies today?' They sit down and visit."
Every couple of days, Flubacher cooks for an ailing 90-year-old neighbor and leaves a bag of food on the woman's porch to make sure she's getting fruit and proper nutrition. Flubacher never has been inside, but she calls the older woman several times a day to check on her.
"I worry about her," she said.
Flubacher, who grew up in foster homes and later adopted three foster children, relishes seeing families and neighbors connecting with each other, doing yardwork together and visiting outside. She organizes the youth for block cleanups and calls her block's kids "the 17th Avenue All Stars."
"I'm just a person that cares down there, and I want to see families be together, and I want to see our yards looking good and see people happy," she said.
Floyd Willet is a retired delivery truck driver who's lived in the 200 block of 18th Avenue for
30 years with his wife, Betty, the HNA secretary. Willet, 58, pitches in where he's needed, whether it's setting up the HNA meeting room's tables and chairs, giving a friend a ride from Tri-Cities to Tacoma and back to visit her ill mother, or rototilling people's gardens.
"I have nothing else to do but go fishing, and the fish aren't biting, so I might as well do something else," he said.
He came up with the HNA's logo and motto "Circle of Friends" at a recent contentious meeting. Willet grabbed a piece of paper, drew a circle with the words "of friends" inside and held it up to the group, saying, "I'll tell you what we ought to be. This right here is what we ought to be."
That simple doodle immediately changed the tone of the meeting and every meeting since, Haeck said.
J. Coy Middleton, who lives in the 300 block of 17th Avenue, has led the HNA's rapid response graffiti removal team and participates in block cleanups. Middleton, 46, also is credited with hatching a plan to distribute energy-efficient light bulbs to every resident in the Highlands' 40-block area during Servant Week in May. The front porch lights were intended to brighten dim streets at night and provide a symbol of solidarity among residents.
The Cowlitz PUD donated 2,600 light bulbs and 300 youth volunteers distributed them in an effort dubbed "Coy's ‘Lights On' Project." At 9 p.m. May 3, all residents were asked to flip on their switches at once.
"The neighborhood is brighter because of Coy," Chief Perez said.