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WALTHAM

Spreading the word: Just say ‘hi’

By Jaclyn Reiss
Globe Correspondent / February 9, 2012
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Waltham Mayor Jeannette McCarthy and REACH Beyond Domestic Violence have declared this as “Say Hi to Your Neighbors Week’’ as part of the local nonprofit organization’s Small Actions campaign to end domestic violence.

According to Allison Berry, REACH’s community organizer, saying hello to strangers, acquaintances, and neighbors can help create a safer community, break the isolation felt by people experiencing violence, and help citizens look out for each other.

“The personal connection to one another makes a difference - people will talk to someone they know about their problems before going to someone like REACH,’’ Berry said. “Families and neighbors are the first people to know. It’s about building relationships.’’

Through Sunday, local businesses, elected officials, and clergy are working together to spread the word about the campaign, passing out yellow fliers, and encouraging residents to get to know their neighbors.

The organization has a goal of 2,012 local residents greeting people they would not otherwise know. As of Tuesday, an online tool where residents can log their actions showed 283 had participated.

“Not everyone will go online for the map, so we know for a fact that it’s much bigger, but it’s a neat way to use technology,’’ Berry said.

Several churches - including the First Lutheran Church of Waltham, First Parish in Waltham, and Christ Church Episcopal - announced the weeklong initiative last Sunday.

On Monday, the owners of In A Pickle, a restaurant on Main Street, hosted “Break the ice with icing,’’ where customers could sign up to send a free Yum Bunnies cupcake to a neighbor with “hi’’ written on top.

Restaurant employees planned to distribute approximately 35 cupcakes, donated by Yum Bunnies of Belmont, on Wednesday, Berry said.

Other scheduled events this week included a meet-up at Marcou Jewelers on Moody Street, passing out “hi’’ cards to local businesses and organizations, saying “hi’’ to senior citizens after Bingo, live updates at Back Pages Books, and meet-and-greets with local officials, including state Representatives John Lawn and Thomas Stanley.

The initiative has a growing Twitter following, with a handle, @SmallActions, and a trending phrase, #sayhiwaltham.

REACH will also host four more initiatives as part of its Small Actions campaign leading up to its fall festival.

The next event will focus on following up by getting neighbors to grab a cup of coffee and have a longer conversation. Local restaurants like In A Pickle will distribute free coffee vouchers for participants, Berry said.

“We want to encourage people to take the next step; if coffee isn’t your thing, have some tea, or go out for a beer, or call someone, or stop by and visit a neighbor,’’ Berry said.

REACH’s next events will focus on listening to others, knowing about available resources, and finally, being a resource.

“In the last couple events we will do training, such as what to do and what to say if someone is experiencing violence, what’s your role in that, who to talk to, and when to reach out,’’ Berry said.

For more information, e-mail Berry at allison@reachma.org.

Jaclyn Reiss can be reached at jreiss.globe@gmail.com.

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