"Just a spark of why not bring this wonderful community together, and let's see what we can do to make it look pretty," says Laurel Khan, the founder of Neighborhood's First in Hagerstown.
And grew to become the organization called Neighborhood's First in Hagerstown. Local resident, Laurel Khan, thought her South-end neighborhood needed to get back to the basics where neighbors knew each other.
"It's just good practice to get to know your neighbors," adds Khan.
Four years later, Neighborhood's First has become a group of hands-on residents who beautify and protect local neighborhoods. The group worked with the city to install traffic-calming devices, like the round-about circle at Reynolds and Summit Avenue.
"It's beautiful, it's visually pleasing, and it actually has a purpose, which is to slow people down on summit avenue," says Khan.
The City says drivers used to speed at an average of 40 miles per hour in this 25-zone.
"One of the reasons is because the street is so wide. It used to have the trolleys go up and down," explains Heather Holman, the president of Historic City Park and Neighborhood's First.
But now neighbors say speeders and the amount of traffic here has decreased notably. The City Park neighborhood group has beautified their area with decorative street signs, and made it safer by petitioning the city to install new cross-walks and lighting around the lake.
"It's taken three and a half years to complete this, but what I'm really excited about is we have just completed this for the first time ever, in the history of the city of Hagerstown, that we've been able to do this in the South end. I'm very, very tickled about it," says Khan.
From crime-watch to regular pot-luck dinners, neighbors say they the best part of working together is realizing they've transformed from strangers to friends.
"That's what makes this neighborhood special," says Holman.
Neighborhood's First is working on new ideas now, like decorative lighting around the lake in City Park and "Arts in the Park." It had a trial run with the "Magic Flute Opera" in September, and now they're hoping to host an event every other Sunday starting this May: beginning with model sail-boat racing at City Park.
City Park officials say they're looking for historic photos of the park and local neighborhood for their website. If you have any you'd like to share, you can email Heather Holman at Heather@historiccitypark.com .
Meetings for the City Park Neighborhood's First group are held the second Monday of each month at 7pm at the United Methodist Church on Summit Avenue; all neighbors are welcome to attend.