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Red Table Block Party aims to unite neighbors

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April Rus, foreground, of Eldridge and Kela Ganzer of Donahue go to work painting red tables as part of their new North Scott Community Enhancement Project.

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Katie White of Long Grove and April Rus of Eldridge paint a red table to help kick off their new North Scott Community Enhancement Project.

They bonded at a Quad-Cities Big Table, but now a group of North Scott women hope to take steps to unite Eldridge and its surrounding communities with a red table. 

The women, some of whom only just met, have formed the North Scott Community Enhancement Project and organized its first event — a Red Table Block Party.

The family-friendly event, open to residents across North Scott, will unveil the new initiative as well as help neighbors meet neighbors. It will be from 6-10 p.m. Saturday, June 16, at 1208 W. Scott Court, Eldridge. A $5 donation is suggested to fund future enhancement projects. 

"We think the North Scott area has grown so much it's hard to keep everyone involved," said Kela Ganzer of Donohue, one of the organizers and the owner of Backwards Yoga in Eldridge. The project, she said "is about bringing people together as a community."

The project, which is a nonprofit, plans to develop ideas and activities to find new ways for residents to meet, become engaged in the community and be kept up-to-date on community activities. 

"We wanted to see how can we get to know each other better as neighbors," said organizer Jillian McCleary, who moved to Eldridge about eight years ago and now lives in Mount Joy. "If you're new to a community you don't know things like where do I send my kid to pre-school or how to signup for Little League."

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April Rus of Eldridge paints the leg of a picnic table in preparation of a Red Table Block Party this weekend at her home. 

April Rus, who is hosting the block party at her Eldridge home, said the North Scott Community Enhancement Project took root when the women met at Happy Joe's in Eldridge for a Big Table event in April. The Quad-Cities Big Table gathered thousands of Quad-Citians for conversations on a variety of issues. It was hosted by Q2030 Regional Plan, an initiative of the Quad-Cities Chamber of Commerce. 

Rus, who owns a few businesses in Eldridge including Sips Coffee, said the group's common goal is to help the North Scott area "feel like they're part of a larger community."

In addition to Ganzer, McCleary and Rus, the project was founded by Heather Link and Deanna Valliere, both of Eldridge; and Lora Dierickx and Katie White, both of Long Grove. Lynnette Olson of Long Grove also just joined the board.

The Red Table Block Party will showcase one of the group's newly painted red picnic tables, which they plan to place around Eldridge to provide a space for neighbors to meet and talk. 

According to Valliere, the table project follows a national model known as the Turquoise Table, which she researched prior to the Big Table. It was founded by Kristin Schell when she painted a turquoise picnic table and placed it in her yard in Austin, Texas, to encourage neighbors to sit down and talk. Five years later, the Turquoise Table movement has expanded to 50 states and 12 countries.   

But Rus said their North Scott version had to be red with silver — which is how they have painted a handful of tables so far. "It's our community, it had to be Lancer colors," she said.

In addition to the Red Table Block Party, the women see their project focusing on increasing community engagement, developing an inviting community, youth civic engagement and a fundraising component.

With a new Youth Civic League, the program wants to remove financial barriers for area youth to get involved in leadership development activities such as sports, theater, youth groups and more. "We believe those opportunities are the kinds of things that give kids skills and set them up for success later in life," said McCleary, who also is the chamber's communications and membership vice president.

For more information about the North Scott Community Enhancement Program and the Red Table Block Party, visit Facebook.com/NSCommunityEnhancementProject

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