Each year, our Good Neighbor Awards honor some of the dedicated neighbors who volunteer their time to help seniors and people with disabilities get the resources and support they need to age and thrive in their own homes and neighborhoods. We are delighted to honor Barbara as our 2020 Good Neighbor Honoree for the Inner Sunset.
When Marina Lazarra started as a Community Coordinator, Barbara Meli was one of the first people to welcome her. Over the past year, scores of new participants join and let us know, “Barbara sent me.” Barbara would always urge everyone to be the best they can be, even while facing life-changing limitations like Parkinson’s Disease or aging. Rather than complain, this former ballet dancer would make it into a full split at the end of every exercise class.
On group walks, she would walk with those who walked more slowly. She’d then let Marina know that everyone got home safely.
Barbara was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer when sheltering in place began. But that didn’t diminish her curiosity and concern for everyone in our community. She would call to find out how everyone was doing and if they were able to get food. Barbara was always looking forward to seeing us back at the church for exercise class, inviting friends and neighbors — including seniors she didn’t know — to join the class.
Keeping her neighborhood beautiful was important, too. She helped out the committee for tiling the Hidden Garden Steps on 16th between Kirkham and Lawton. While her strength held out, she organized sweeping parties to keep the steps clean.
She also volunteered frequently at the public library. Everyone there loved the boxes of homemade holiday cookies she delivered every December.
Barbara passed away in June and we’ll all miss her.
Special mentions: Katherine Rato and Leigh McLellan
Special thanks to Katherine Rato and Leigh McLellan for their extra help and generosity during the pandemic.
Katherine has helped identify isolated seniors and took gifts to them during the Walk and Waves. She’s a generous and kind soul who does more than just participate. She reaches out to her neighbors with our calendar and by hosting a Little Library.
Leigh cheers up her neighbors by walking around the neighborhood with her cat, Emma, on a leash. She also visits those who live alone and helps out on weekly garden walks. She has introduced our group to new friends and encourages participation in our events.