As the aroma of funnel cakes wafted through the air, Angie Judy shouted to one of the families lining up (at a respectful distance) at the truck in front of her house.
“Smells like Santa-Cali-Gon Days, doesn’t it?” she said.
Judy is an organizer – a skill she acquired during her 14 years as a teacher. In these times of pandemic and quarantine, she figured those skills could help bring some happiness, connection and relief for parents like her with kids climbing the walls.
So Judy, with some help from other mothers in Independence’s historic McCoy Park neighborhood, organized a Facebook group, Hood Moms #therealmccoy. And while the rest of the world may seem shut down, Judy and the nearly 50 moms in her group have kept their neighborhood alive with Wednesday Walks, an Easter Egg hunt and “porchtraits.”
Or a funnel cake truck.
“I just like to do that kind of stuff,” Judy said. “Give me a theme, and I’ll roll with it. So I was like why not share it with others? Some of these parents are so busy. They’re trying to work, they’re trying to do schoolwork, they don’t have time for all that stuff. So I’m here to help, I guess.”
Judy, who left teaching to become a real estate agent, is busy juggling work, staying sheltered and parenting her 3-year-old son, Jack. She and the other mothers in her group, many of whom have been close friends for years, wanted something their little ones could safely do outside.
That led to their first event – a Shamrock Walk around St. Patrick’s Day.
“I saw a Shamrock walk on Facebook and I thought, OK, let’s do this the first day,” Judy said. “And then it’s kind of been like every Wednesday.”
The Shamrock Walk gave birth to the Wednesday Walks, where kids and parents can take a theme-inspired stroll through the neighborhood. One day they hunted for bears on front porches. There was a trip to the zoo and a chance to learn about different animals in front of each house. Last Wednesday, they celebrated Earth Day.
“Everybody went around and found a different tree or flower they could take a picture with,” Judy said. “It gets the kids out there learning also while they’re on their walk.”
It’s not all educational, of course. One of the parents took “porchtraits,” pictures of each family posed on their porch, some dressed in a theme. There was a house-to-house Easter Egg Hunt (“A social distancing House Hop,” Judy called it), a scavenger hunt, birthday parades … even a Hurts Donuts truck. And the funnel cakes.
“I know we’re cooped up at home, and I know a lot of these kids are,”Judy said. “We just love seeing our kids out in the neighboorhood and seeing people, so it was just a perfect way to get people involved and stay together even though we are apart.”
The moms enjoy staying together, and they also value the structure the events give their kids, most of whom are elementary school-aged. Beth Gall, who has twin 6-year-old girls and watches her 6-year-old nephew, said the weekly walks offer an opportunity for her kids not to feel so left out with no school to go to.
“It’s been really wonderful for us,” Gall said. “I think we’re all feeling crazy, but it’s been really great for us to at least be together during this time.”
Ashtin Bella, who has a 4-year-old boy and a 7-year-old girl, lives a few blocks away from the heart of the neighborhood. The walks, she said, give her kids an incentive for a long hike.
“Honestly I thought having kids was going to be a curse during all this, but I think it’s a blessing because it keeps us a lot more busy,” Bella said. “And I think the moms have connected a lot more. We were all close but this brought us together as well.”
Judy and the moms make sure they keep their distance as they stay together. Many walks run from 7:30 a.m. to 7:30 p.m. to spread out the crowd. The doughnut and funnel cake lines stretched at times down the block, but the clusters of kids and parents left plenty of space between them.
“People are just taking them and leaving,” Judy said as she eyed the funnel cake line. “And that’s what they did with the doughnuts too. I’ve seen some neighborhoods where people are lined up all down the block and not separated and I’m like what are they doing? I’m not afraid to tell anyone what to do.”
Judy said the moms have other events planned, too. And the planning isn’t going to stop after everything returns to some sort of normal.
There’s already one thing on the post-coronavirus agenda.
“We’re having a huge block party,” Judy said.