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Forrest Brook: Neighbors supporting neighbors in challenging times

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Story by Gay Lyons | Photography by Carol Moore

Located between Westland Drive and Northshore Drive in West Knoxville, the Forest Brook neighborhood takes pride in its unique charm and neighborliness. With its annual Easter egg hunt, Fourth of July potluck, Halloween party with cotton candy machines and spooky decor and a Christmas tree lighting complete with hot chocolate, cookies and Saint Nick himself, the neighborhood shows its holiday spirit.

Forest Brook resident Julie McKnight said, “ It’s the kind of neighborhood where you run into at least three neighbors on a walk. The kind where neighbors look out for one another. The kind where we celebrate the good times and come together during hard ones.”

It comes as no surprise that this family-friendly neighborhood found ways to support each other and come together, while staying safely apart, during the last few months.

It was Julie’s idea to have food trucks visit the neighborhood. “I was a bit nervous because I had no idea what the turnout would be like,” she said. “ We were asked to place our orders in advance and were told they would not take walk up orders. Forest Brook showed up! I received a call from the owner of Wood Oven Eats saying he had orders for 110 pizzas and 40 pretzels. I knew right then the food trucks were going to a success. We hosted Penne For Your Thoughts the following week along with Forks on the Road the week after that.”

“Each truck’s system was pretty similar,” she continued. “Order ahead and either request a time to pick up or be given a time to pick up. They only accepted credit cards and asked that we stand six feet apart in line.

The best part of hosting food trucks was getting to see our neighbors from all over the neighborhood. Front yards were sprinkled with picnic blankets and lawn chairs. Golf carts packed with families whizzed in to pick up their meals. What had felt like such a quiet few months felt bustling again even if just for a few hours.” 

The food trucks were such a hit that Julie says she will keep them coming as a monthly or quarterly tradition. “One neighbor told me she didn’t know how to cook on a Saturday night anymore.”

The neighborliness did not stop at food trucks. According to Forest Brook resident Carol Moore, “Emily Miller and her daughters Ruby and Saide-Parker painted rocks and strategically “planted” them in yards around the neighborhood. Judy Barnette sewed dozens of beautiful face masks and hung them on a tree for neighbors to claim. Curt and Thelen Wright and their two daughters bought a truck load of individually wrapped ice cream treats, decorated their pickup truck and gave out free ice cream.

Neighbor Irene Matthews invited the “bagpipe man,” who was playing in neighborhoods all around town, to visit. “The neighbors came out with their checkbooks to donate to Second Harvest which was what the bagpipe man was playing for,” said Carol.

Some neighbors cleaned out their garages. Chris and Amy Skalet posted on the neighborhood Facebook page that they had two small children’s bicycles and a little red wagon to give away. “Four kids were delighted to get them,” Carol said. Instead of the annual Easter egg hunt in one yard, children hid eggs in their own yards, and the Easter Bunny rode by in a golf cart to see them, In recognition of the missed proms and graduation ceremonies felt by the classes of 2020 all over the nation, the Forest Brook neighborhood honored its 11 graduates with a parade. Neighbors lined the streets to cheer on the seniors who rode by in decorated vehicles.

“We had no idea we were moving into such a wonderful, tight knit neighborhood,” said Julie. “Forest Brook is a really special place.”

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