By the time Grace Gerry was seven years old, she already knew how to pour a pint of Guinness.
Gerry grew up in a small village near Donegal, Ireland where she would help out at the 7 Arches Bar, a local pub her father owned. As part of the small five-person staff, she quickly learned how to use a cash register, pack shelves, pour beer — and most importantly, socialize with members of the community.
In the town of only a few hundred people everyone knew everybody from miles around.
“In Ireland, we had a strong sense of community. Where I lived because we know a lot of people, we know when people die,” Gerry said. “There are a lot of wakes and funerals and people get together for those. It’s a way of reinforcing community.”
It is here that she learned the importance of building community — something she hopes to achieve in Fernwood.
For the past 11 years, Gerry (who came to Canada 20 years ago) and her husband David have hosted a Christmas neighbourhood soup event.
The couple go door-to-door and personally invite local residents to their home to get to know neighbours over a bowl of homemade soup.
The first year Gerry hosted the event, there was a big snow storm, which resulted in roughly 40 people showing up.
Now, Gerry knows 90 of her neighbours by name and has become so close with some of them that she can go over and borrow a stick of celery or glass of milk.
“It’s in our interest to know our neighbours because if there was a disaster it’s not our Facebook friends that we’re going to turn to, it’ll be our neighbours,” she said, adding she has also hosted a music, gardeners and ice cream party in the past. “If we don’t know them, then we’re at a disadvantage. So I encourage people to get to know their neighbours now.”
Shay Lockhart, who has attended the event since it started over a decade ago, said it has brought the community closer together.
“It’s a really good opportunity to talk to people that I live in the same neighbourhood with, but never get to see,” Lockhart said. “Most people are working and you don’t get to see them a lot. It’s a good excuse to meet people.”
The annual Christmas neighbourhood soup event is Sunday, Dec. 20 from 11:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. at 1622 Pembroke St. To RSVP email firstname.lastname@example.org.