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Life gave her limes, grapefruit and, yes, lemons. She made people happy

Costa Mesa resident Heather Deyden-Littrell posted on Nextdoor.com a week ago, "Come and get free citrus."
Costa Mesa resident, Heather Deyden-Littrell posted on Nextdoor.com earlier this month, “Come and get free citrus,” accompanied by a photo displaying the fruit.
(Courtesy of Heather Deyden-Littrel)

With an abundance of ripe fruit hanging from her five citrus trees, Heather Deyden-Littrell wanted to ensure it was eaten rather than left to rot on the branches or on the ground. So the Eastside Heights Costa Mesa resident set in motion a clever plan to give away her bounty in a big way.

She labeled each of three farmhouse-style white metal buckets with what it would hold —Meyer lemons, limes, and grapefruit — then fastened each one to the rustic wooden fence that stretches across the front yard. She then filled them to the top and proceeded to publicize their availability on the social platform Nextdoor.com.

“When I first posted, ‘Come and get free citrus’ [on a recent Thursday morning] on Nextdoor, they were gone in a day,” said Deyden-Littrell. “There were 100-150 lemons, limes and grapefruit gone in 24 hours, so I had to take my address off the post.”

Carey Hewitt, who lives a few blocks away from Deyden-Littrell, saw the post and grabbed three lemons on her way to work.

“I was making a lemon meringue pie for a gathering and needed the rind and the juice of a couple of lemons,” said Hewitt. “It was very sweet of her to do that and saved me a trip to the grocery store.”

Hewitt followed up, sending Heather a “thank you” post followed by, “I loved petting your sweet dogs.”

What Deyden-Littrell didn’t see coming, though, was the Nextdoor alerts of 1900 reactions and 80 comments that ranged from acknowledgments of her generosity to compliments about the display set-up.

Heather Deyden-Littrell with daughter Ellie, and dog Luna pose in front of the empty buckets that held the donated fruit.
Heather Deyden-Littrell with daughter Ellie, and dog Luna pose in front of the empty buckets that held the donated fruit that was gone within a day.
(Susan Hoffman)

Among the comments: “What a sweet kind, gesture. We need more people like you in this world.” Another posted,“What a kind thing you do for neighbors. Love the buckets.” “Heather, you give away citrus with style.” “What a wonderful way to share.”

A Westside Costa Mesa resident commented, “Heather so thoughtful of you, I see so much fruit on trees in Costa Mesa and wonder why they don’t share instead of fruit rotting on the trees or ground. So again thank you for your kindness in sharing with your neighbors. Oh, your display is adorable.”

A Park Newport resident commented, “Thank you for doing this, I hate seeing all the citrus rot on the trees around here, wonderful to give back and perhaps help someone who could really use what otherwise might go to waste. Plus a really creative setup, love it!”

By the following day, her original post gained even more traction, and apparently many people across the nation using the Nextdoor platform saw it.

“The reactions and messages I have been getting are countrywide,” said a stunned Deyden-Littrell. “I just got a message from someone in Georgia.”

In her post, Cherie Steed from Georgia wrote. ”So do they sell neighbors like you on Amazon or what? I need to buy a few. You all are awesome. Just saw your post — it reached Georgia! Just stopped by to tell you, you are amazing!”

“How did it reach Georgia? Thank you!” replied Deyden-Littrell.

Steed responded, “I think when a post gets a lot of popularity people all over the country can see it. I love looking at the post. Nothing says home like having good neighbors.”

Deyden-Littrell, who has lived in the area for 12 years and has had the trees for six of those years, said they produce about three or four times annually and in a couple of months there should be more that will be ripe for the plucking. “We’ll take what we want and give away the rest before it goes bad,” said Deyden-Littrell.

When she alerts neighbors again by publicizing on Nextdoor, she will repeat the process of filling and refilling the bins until every last piece of fruit has been removed from the trees in order to keep up with demand.

Deyden-Littrell felt so bad about running out of fruit to give away this month that she is considering approaching neighbors with trees laden with citrus varieties about letting her pick some and bring them back to her yard to give away.

A Costa Mesa house down the street from the Littrell's is filled with hanging fruit from orange trees.
(Susan Hoffman)

“It would be so cool to hand them out to everyone who didn’t have enough,” she said.

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