As Illinois approaches the end of the third month under Governor J.B. Pritzker’s stay-at-home order, people everywhere are itching to connect with others. While Phase 3 of the State’s reopening plan allows for a slight loosening up on the reins, it’s clear that summer in Evanston will look and feel a lot different this year. But Evanstonians are nothing if not resourceful. Many people have found creative ways to connect with neighbors while staying safely distanced.

On Lincolnwood Avenue, a group of neighbors have started a sing-a-long. Every Wednesday and Saturday evening at 7:00 neighbors stand on their own front lawns (weather permitting) and sing together. The “MC” plays the music from speakers on his driveway and everyone has their own copy of the sheet music to follow along. 

“There are two blocks covered and everyone is invited,” said Holly Hoxie. “It started with a private Facebook group called Lincolnwood Lockdown and now there are 36 people signed up.”

The group sings familiar songs such as ABBA’s “Dancing Queen,” The Beatles’ “Twist and Shout” and Elton John’s “Tiny Dancer.”  Occasionally, some of the teenage girls gather in the street and line-dance while safely distanced.            

“We get in small visits from afar,” said Ms. Hoxie. “ It’s a great little get-together and usually lasts about twenty minutes.”

Farther east on Sherman Avenue near Emerson Street, a lot of noise can be heard every night at 6:00 in support of healthcare workers and people working on the front lines. The cluster of five buildings at 1856-1866 Sherman Ave. faces a large courtyard. Participants open up their windows or stand on their balconies and bang pots and pans, clap and cheer.  

Blair Laden said she came up with the idea after reading about New Yorkers doing the same thing every night at 7:00.

Ms. Laden, who is in her 90s, used to live and work in New York City and said the spirit of New Yorkers in the face of adversity has always inspired her.

“I just started banging some pots and pans one night and the next night a few more people joined in and then a few more,” she said. “One night someone started playing his trumpet and just last night one man came out into the courtyard to play his accordion.”

Ms. Laden said she hopes more people will join in and not only from her building, but from throughout Evanston.

Evanston resident Judy Chiss said her block has a nightly social hour. Every night at 6:00, neighbors convene – socially distanced – on connecting lawns, sidewalks and curbs to check-in on one another and maybe even have a few laughs. 

“We’re experiencing some sorely missed social interaction and strengthening our neighborhood bonds,” said Ms. Chiss. “Cars driving by our street often slow down or even stop to take in the scene of people spread way out and talking to each other.”

On Hawthorne Lane, one family connects with their neighbors by writing a different joke every day on a large chalkboard outside their home.

“We wanted to do something with our two daughters to help lighten the mood for people,” said Mary Foster.

The family of four spends about 30 minutes every evening looking though jokes to find just the right one. 

“We love watching from our window to see someone laughing at the joke or explaining it to a child,” she said.

Is your neighborhood doing something special to connect? The RoundTable would love to hear about it.  Please share your story with us.