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Covering life at Maris Grove

Community publication a must-read for residents

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August 3rd, 2015
Maris Grove residents
Maris Grove residents

At , people can choose from more than 180 groups and activities to participate in: they can continue favorite interests, pursue new ones, and even launch their own group.

One of the more interesting and creative activities, NeighborNews, rates high with residents who volunteer for it and earns kudos from the entire community. 

From its inception, the monthly newspaper has served as an independent voice for Maris Grove residents.

Community voice

Launched in 2009, it covers campus organizations, Maris Grove’s accomplished and creative residents, and noteworthy campus events.

Its staff of about a dozen residents includes skilled photographers, a technical advisor, seasoned writers, and people who’ve always wanted to write. 

Dori French is the official NeighborNews poet, and Maris Grove’s writers group members also submit articles. 

As a result, the paper has eyes and ears throughout Maris Grove.

While all the input comes from residents, NeighborNews editor Arlene Prince is grateful for management’s involvement in two important areas: Executive Director Maureen Heckler reviews each issue, and Maris Grove pays the printing costs. 

Although publishing a monthly paper is a big job, says Arlene, in true Maris Grove spirit, it’s a team effort. 

Even the Treasure Chest, the campus resale shop that benefits Maris Grove’s resident care fund, has pitched in. It awarded grants that enabled NeighborNews to purchase three copies of Microsoft Publisher software plus a new printer for its office space in Miller’s Run residence building.

Discovering inspiring lives

Arlene’s career in social work never stopped her from pursuing the writing she loved. Through the years, she wrote and edited for a series of weekly newspapers. 

She still maintains her professional touch. “She knows what she’s talking about, and she gives everyone’s opinion respect,” says reporter Joan Bateman. “Plus, she trusts you. And I trust her to cut my articles when necessary.”

Joan recalls the Arbor Day article she wrote this spring. The idea sounded boring, and she didn’t want to do it. Then, because Arlene encourages creative work, Joan started thinking outside the box. “The light went on, and it was an exciting moment,” she says. She wrote the piece from a tree’s perspective.

A late bloomer to the writing world, Joan earned her degree after her sons had graduated from college. When her professors told her she had talent, “My fires were lit,” she says. 

She specializes in resident profiles. “I’ve met people who’ve added such color to my life,” Joan says. 

She most admires women of her generation and older who earned degrees and built careers at a time when that wasn’t encouraged. 

Given her journalistic bent and her long friendship with Marian Ellis, a playwright and Maris Grove resident who helped launch the paper, it was inevitable that Joan would join its staff.

What keeps her at it is what brought her from Broomall, Pa., to Maris Grove in the first place. 

“I looked at other places,” Joan says, “but the energy level here was different. People were active and involved in life.”

Exploring exciting possibilities

Fellow reporter Howard Hoffman moved to Maris Grove in 2007 and joined NeighborNews two years ago. 

Howard has a son who is a professional journalist. He, on the other hand, was a pharmacologist who spent 32 years at DuPont. What little writing he did was of a technical nature.

Volunteering for NeighborNews appealed to him because he wanted to interview some of the interesting residents he’d met. “And I enjoy finding out about people I haven’t yet met,” Howard says. “Maris Grove is fertile soil for subjects.”

One of his beats is the community’s 165-member veterans club. He also writes about his personal experiences. 

Some years ago, he wrote a fictional piece about a virus, but the manuscript was never published. Howard’s fiction muse remains strong, however. He belongs to Maris Grove’s Players group chaired by Marian Ellis, and he sometimes collaborates with her on musicals. “Playwriting is absolutely exciting to me,” he says.

Sharing technical talents

Barbara Gobrecht, the paper’s technical advisor, is its newest staff member.

A former project manager with Campbell’s, Barbara’s stock-in-trade is computers and computer programs. 

She came on board when a neighbor lamented that she couldn’t reread old NeighborNews articles unless she searched through every issue shelved in Maris Grove’s library. 

Barbara described an easy solution, the neighbor connected her with Arlene, and a NeighborNews catalog was born.

Last winter, Barbara read every issue, categorized every article by subject matter, and created a spreadsheet that she updates monthly and files in the library.

“For me, categorizing the articles wasn’t that difficult,” Barbara says. “To the staff, it was the greatest thing on earth.”

Now she’s helping to cross-train people on Publisher software and shares photography assignments with Gerry Sorensen. 

A fairly new resident, Barbara also contributes in another important way. She and her dog walk everywhere on campus, and she often has questions about things she sees. When she brings those questions to staff meetings, the answers frequently lead to articles.

Arlene says Maris Grove residents love the paper. As one of them said, “When NeighborNews comes out, it’s a happy day.”

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