On Sept. 8, WIPB-TV will transform Canon Commons into a “neighborhood” where families will get to meet Daniel Tiger and celebrate the fourth annual Be My Neighbor Day.
From 1 to 4 p.m., children will have the opportunity to ride the MITS “neighborhood trolley,” watch a production at the Muncie Civic Theatre, volunteer with different organizations and get to know more than 20 community neighbors at their designated booths.
“The goal of the event is simply to show little ones — and their parents or caregivers — the importance of being a good neighbor,” said Michelle Kinsey, the community engagement coordinator for WIPB-TV. “At each of the booths, kids are invited to do a fun activity that does just that, whether it’s creating kindness rocks to put around their own neighborhood or coloring placemats for the Muncie Mission.”
Be My Neighbor Day was originally created by the Fred Rogers Company, the group behind “Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood,” partnered with a different PBS station. WIPB-TV became one of the many other PBS stations to create their own version of the event in 2015.
“We took the epic route and decided to create a free event in downtown Muncie,” Kinsey said. “Hundreds of kids and their families can meet Daniel Tiger, enjoy local entertainment and hang out with more than 30 community neighbors.
“Our hope is that by offering an event like this, young children will learn early the importance of giving back to their communities and just being neighborly.”
Kinsey said that each year there are roughly 800 to 1,000 people who join the activities, and new community members are added as well.
One new group who will set up a booth this year is the Second Harvest Food Bank.
The organization plans to host a sorting activity where families can help organize donations that are brought to the warehouse.
“We can get small donations from local farmers, or we can get semi-truck donations from Walmart,” said Stacy Britton, the resource development coach for Second Harvest. “Ultimately, there is always food that needs to be sorted and distributed, and we believe that getting the community involved is a great way to also spread our message.”
Second Harvest will also have a booth set up in the neighborhood where families can learn more information about Forward Steps, a program Britton organizes that works with families in Muncie “who cannot sustain themselves after they lose their state benefits due to a raise.
“We want to eventually start working with employers and get them to give raises slowly over a period of time, so families do not instantly drop from what they are used to,” Britton said.
Britton also said they will use their booth as a teaching opportunity to help families understand that the dates on food does not always mean it is bad and how to tell if a given food is unsafe to eat.
“A lot of the donations that we get are discarded food that supermarkets couldn’t sell,” Britton said. “If you go to the grocery store and look at all the red potatoes in the bin, they will all look around the same color and the same size. They don’t grow that way though. We get all the other potatoes that didn’t meet the standards of the others, so they may not look the prettiest.
“We want to teach families that one potato cooks as well as another, even if it looks different. We have also started handing out different recipes with foods that people may not know how to cook, so that they can have multiple ideas about what to make.”
This is Second Harvest’s first time joining the neighborhood celebration, but Britton said she believes the event will be successful because it will teach children reciprocity and families will be able to get the information they need, even if they may be too embarrassed to ask for it or may not realize they need it.
“I really think the community should come out and participate so that they can see everything that Muncie truly has to offer,” Britton said. “There are so many great neighbors around you that you probably don’t know, and this is the best place to meet everyone.”