Northland News

Larry and Jeanne Rinehart

Columbus couple embraces 'lost art of being neighborly'

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RYAN M.L. YOUNG/THISWEEKNEWS
Northland residents Larry and Jeanne Rinehart have made it a point to welcome newcomers to their Salem neighborhood since they themselves were made welcome when they moved there 14 years ago. Their efforts earned them accolades at the Northland Community Council's annual Volunteer Awards Banquet in May.

Some people moved into the Salem neighborhood recently, and naturally, Jeanne and Larry Rinehart stopped by to make them feel welcome -- just as they have been doing since they were new to the area 14 years ago.

The warm greeting gladdened the hearts of the newcomers, and that, in turn, gladdened the hearts of their greeters.

The Rineharts felt as if they were instantly welcomed to the Northland neighborhood, and have made it a point ever since to offer that to others, like the new family the couple visited recently.

"It turned out they, too, were looking for the same thing: a place they felt welcome, a place they could call home," said Mrs. Rinehart, 70.

Jeanne and Larry Rinehart, 72, were once again practicing "the concept of the lost art of being neighborly," Salem Civic Association President Brandon L. Boos said last week.

For their willingness to meet and greet new neighbors, volunteer work at Salem Elementary School and years of involvement with the civic organization, the Rineharts were jointly nominated to be honored at last month's Northland Community Council Volunteer Awards Banquet.

"There really is an art to it in this day and age, and it's not something people do intuitively," Boos said. "It's really an example of how to be a neighbor, how to live in a community that we wanted others to see so they could say, 'Oh, that's how you do it.' Nobody does it better than Larry and Jeanne."

"They call me the mayor," Mr. Rinehart joked. "I just like to know who the new neighbors are, where they work, just get to know a little bit about them."

Of the 825 homes in Salem Village, Chaseland Manors, Pencader and Indianola Estates, the developments that make up the overall neighborhood, Mr. Rinehart said, "We probably know over 300 of the people who live here, know them by face or car or house -- maybe not by name, because I can't remember my own name."

For Mrs. Rinehart, greeting new neighbors, being involved with the civic association -- the couple chaired the members committee for five years -- and volunteering at the neighborhood school are legacies left to her by her father.

"He said to us as we were growing up, 'When you buy a house, you're making an investment, but you're also making an investment in the neighborhood,' " she said. "That's the way we've always done it. We just become members of the community.

"You have neighbors you know better than others, but that's OK. At least you know who your neighbors are, and can keep an eye on things."

Mr. Rinehart, a retired truck driver, said he and his wife moved to Salem 14 years ago from the East Side to be closer to her job with Chase Bank in the Polaris area.

"We just started looking at everything north of Morse Road, spent weekends and evenings riding every street we could ride," he said. "In the evening, we found dog-walkers in this area and we'd stop and talk to them."

"They were friendly," Mrs. Rinehart said.

That sealed the deal, and the couple bought their home. They began offering welcoming visits to new neighbors "not very long after we moved in," Mrs. Rinehart said.

They started volunteering at Salem Elementary, helping out at parent-teacher meeting events or serving food to children and adults at school festivals, not long after that.

"For me, it's called paying it forward," Mrs. Rinehart said. "I think it's necessary for children to see that people do care. It doesn't have to be a parent or grandparent or whatever, just that people are willing to volunteer and help out and do whatever has to be done."

A few years ago on Halloween night, Mrs. Rinehart recalled, a large group of trick-or-treaters arrived on their porch and she gave all of them candy. They went on to the next home, she said, save for one little child "in a very cute costume" who remained behind.

"Did I miss you?" she asked.

"No," was the reply. "I just wanted to tell you that I know you. I see you at my school."

"It made me feel good, that this little child knew who we were," Mrs. Rinehart said. "And the mother came up and said, 'Thank you.' The children do notice, and for me, that's what it's about."

"Together, they have been a lighthouse for our community," Boos said as he introduced the Rineharts at the May 29 awards banquet. "They reach out and show people the better path. Their example is one of how to meet your neighbors, to engage and know them. Every day they show us the way to be a community rather than just a cluster of homes."

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