Posted September 16, 2011

Students and neighbors visit the Welcome Wagon to build off-campus bonds

Kevin Cook
Neighborhood residents Charlotte Savage and Estelle Wilson talk with Temple students Meghan Clothier, Stephany Parcell and Elliot Griffin at a recent Welcome Wagon event.

For a combined 95 years, Charlotte Savage and Estelle Wilson have lived and raised their families less than one block east of Broad Street. Their proximity to Temple’s Main Campus puts them in frequent contact with students living in nearby off-campus properties, and each year the two make it a point to get to know their new neighbors. 

On a recent Indian summer night, the women stood alongside Temple’s Captain Eileen Bradley and welcomed Temple students who have moved into their neighborhood. The event was one of several Welcome Wagon gatherings held at the start of every school year since 2002, a joint effort of Temple’s Campus Safety Services, Student Affairs and Community Relations.

Over the past decade, the number of Temple students living in the communities surrounding Temple’s Main Campus has surged. Students want the convenience of living near campus and the experience of independent living in the city. But, says Bradley, living off-campus also comes with responsibility — and that’s what she hopes to instill through the Welcome Wagon gatherings and similar events.

“Every year, there’s a turnover of students in the neighborhoods,” she explained. “At the Welcome Wagons, we try to educate the students about recycling, partying and being a good neighbor. We care about our neighbors and we care about our students.”

Bradley, a 39-year veteran of Temple’s police force, is the liaison with block captains and residents in the surrounding community. In addition to the Welcome Wagon events, she hosts a back-to-school picnic for neighbors and students living off-campus, and works throughout the year on community projects and issues.

“It’s important for students and community residents to talk to each other, so tonight is an open forum,” said Bradley. “We give out water ice and t-shirts to make people feel good, but it’s really to try to get the students and the neighbors to integrate together.”
Temple students Meghan Clothier and Stephany Parcell, who live together on Carlisle Street, are taking the advice to heart. After picking up a recycling bin and enjoying some water ice, they met Savage and Wilson, their new neighbors.
“It’s important for us to respect their neighborhood and do things like follow the trash pick-up schedule,” said Clothier.
“We live in their community,” said student Scott Rosnov, who lives around the corner in the Alpha Epsilon Pi fraternity house. “Anything we can do to help our neighbors, we try to do and they also help us. It’s a good thing to show appreciation for them.”
Savage and Wilson take a motherly, yet firm approach to the students who live in their neighborhoods, reminding them about trash pick-up days and quiet hours, but also getting to know them on a first-name basis.

Savage says the key to good relations is communication.

“We have our ups and downs. We just have to embrace each other and communicate and work with each other,” she said. “I have a policy of introducing myself when they move in. I go and let them know I’m the block captain if they need anything.”

The payoff can be great — rewarding relationships that last a year or sometimes decades.

Wilson smiled as she told the story about Temple students who helped her grandchildren build a snow woman and igloo after last year’s monster snowfall. And she fondly recalls a Temple student who got off to a bad start after moving onto her block more than ten years ago. Neighbors had nearly petitioned for his removal from the block after he hosted a rowdy party at his apartment. But he pleaded their forgiveness and became an exemplary neighbor. After graduating, he bought a house on the block and lived there for several years. He now rents it out to students — but demands that his tenants treat their neighbors with courtesy and respect.