Costa Mesa community picnic brings together Nextdoor neighbors

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Eastside Costa Mesa resident Kelly Dane thought that since food is a good way to bring people together, a little potluck could be a step in that direction.

Her participation in the social network spurred her idea to make an in-person connection with some of the other members of her community.

Dane had found a dog sitter, bought and sold items and learned about local crimes and upcoming events via the Nextdoor website, a free platform for community communication that is used in more than 159,000 neighborhoods nationwide, according to the site.


However, she didn’t like that a smattering of angry, politically charged postings were making a site designed to be helpful become a forum for negativity.

So, Dane focused on positive things people posting on the site had in common.

“It began with my post about food,” she said. “I asked, ‘Has anyone ever tried pierogies? Would anyone like to try them?’”

Pierogies are dumplings stuffed with mashed potatoes or other fillings and fried in butter.

She got a lot of responses and people started talking about food. Then someone suggested a get-together to try one another’s traditional family recipes.

“From there, I got the idea to put a potluck together,” Dane said.

The picnic, held this month at Heller Park in Costa Mesa, drew about 30 people.

“Kelly Dane really did an amazing job of opening up the opportunity for neighbors to become friends,” Carleen Butterfield said. “Can’t thank her enough. She planted the seed for many good things to come.”

Lisa George, who moved to Costa Mesa six months ago, got what she was looking for by attending the picnic — to meet some of her neighbors.

“My husband and I ended up going out afterward with a couple we met at the picnic who live on the corner of our street,” George said. “Another woman I met at the picnic said, ‘I’m right up the street from you. Let’s go for a walk in the Back Bay.’”

George joined Nextdoor to use it as a source of information about her new community, such as cable service and good restaurants.

“What I’ve observed is it’s an effective way to find lost animals,” she said.

Louise Costa, who took three homemade lasagnas to the picnic along with her two Pomeranians, visits Nextdoor to keep informed about crime and coyotes.

“It’s such a mixed blessing,” she said. “It informs you; in that regard, I love it. On the other hand, it scares the crap out of me.”

Every day, she said, there’s something on the website about cars being broken into and coyote attacks. It makes her more cautious and afraid, and as a result, she no longer goes out at night, she said.

Janet Rolek, who made Polish noodles with sauerkraut for the picnic, said she “enjoyed meeting new neighbors and tasting different cuisines.”

She joined Nextdoor about three years ago and said she has found helpful suggestions for tradespeople, restaurants and events and cute postings about pets.

SUSAN HOFFMAN is a contributor to Times Community News.