By Andrew Canino
The annual Good Neighbor Day event on Sept. 20 drew a crowd to Downtown Wake Forest, packing Holding Park with children and adults of all ages who spent the day sampling various vendors’ booths, getting their faces painted and listening to the live music provided by the Soul Play Band.
The 10th annual event was a rousing success in many aspects, providing a family-friendly outing for a beautiful Sunday afternoon. However, the undoubted stars of the show were the recipients of the Good Neighbor Day Award, co-winners Connie and Herman Cole and Norma Bennekin, who were presented their award by Mayor Vivian Jones.
Bennekin was nominated by Lorraine Smith, the director of the Hope House in Wake Forest.
“It felt good to be nominated for this award because … you’re blessed with your health, and then you give back, just because. Not for recognition, but just because it’s what God would have us to do – to help others. I wasn’t looking for anything, but it is nice to get,” Bennekin said, finishing with a smile.
Bennekin works with Hope House in the northeast end of Wake Forest in conjunction with the Food Banks of Central & Eastern North Carolina, and she says that on a daily basis she is reminded just how many lives she helps change by distributing food at the Hope House.
“We have served people not only from Wake Forest, but people from Henderson, Youngsville and even people from Raleigh that come up to us,” Bennekin says. “What we’re trying to do is make sure that every child knows that they are blessed. We’re trying to make sure every child knows that they’re not alone. I had a lady tell me once, ‘I could not do this if Hope House wasn’t here. I just lost my job.’ ”
For more information about the Wake Forest Hope House, visit www.hopehousewf.org.
The other award winners, the Coles, were nominated by their neighbor, Cindy Estes, for opening their home to the company of any of their neighbors who may happen to be alone or away from family for the holidays.
“I did not know I was nominated, and I did not know until Monday [Sept. 14], I think it was. … I got a phone call saying that I had won,” Connie Cole says. “My husband and I were just humbled, because we don’t do these things for attention; we do it because we care.”
When describing what gave her the idea to host neighbors, Cole says, “When we moved here, we didn’t have family, and we didn’t know anyone. My husband had been in the Marine Corps for 10 years, so we were always away from family around the holidays. I just hate to see anybody alone, so we started out with a neighbor – a widowed lady who had no family, and we invited her down to all the holidays. And, we always told her, if you know somebody else, send them over, and it just grew from there. Really, all of the people we invited to our house were much more of a blessing to us.”