Maplewood street holds social, yet distant, gathering

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MAPLEWOOD, NJ — The neighbors on North Terrace have been throwing block parties for years, but March 24 brought a different kind of celebration to the Maplewood street.

As the COVID-19 pandemic has forced people across the globe to stay home, preventing normal socializing and forcing new work-from-home and distance-learning protocols, residents on North Terrace managed to find a way to see each other when they held a “Stay in Your Own Yard” block party. Everyone went outside with their beverage of choice and stood talking to one another for more than an hour.

“It was a wonderful idea,” Barbara Sheridan, who has lived on North Terrace for more than 50 years, said in a phone interview with the News-Record on March 27. “We talked and laughed and stood around for an hour and a half. It was just the greatest thing that lifted our spirits.”

The party was the brainchild of Rich Wener and Ginny Kurshan, Sheridan’s next-door neighbors, who were celebrating their 45th wedding anniversary. Unable to hold a bigger celebration, the North Terrace residents were able to raise a glass to the couple from their front lawns. Kurshan and Wener’s anniversary is only one day, but Sheridan said the new kind of block party will continue every Tuesday for as long as the crisis lasts.

“Usually the spring and better weather get us out, but this felt different,” Sheridan said. “Spring is here and the weather is changing, but we can’t go out. So it brought us together even though we haven’t been able to do that.”

North Terrace was already a close-knit neighborhood, but now they’re leaning on each other even more. Sheridan said she plans to put a radio on her porch at the next socially distant gathering to listen to music, inspired by a video of people in Italy singing and playing instruments from their apartment balconies.

“We were careful about staying in our yards and staying six feet apart from each other,” she said. “It made all the difference in the world to look in each other’s eyes and catch up, even talk about what’s going on. We feel like we’re all holding hands across our houses.”

Photos Courtesy of Barbara Sheridan