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Decades-long Maine neighbors host 'Quarantine Block Parties' to help stave off isolation

On any given evening the neighbors living at the corner of Wood and Ivie Roads in Cape Elizabeth can be found sitting at the edge of their yards socializing.


On any given evening, weather permitting, the neighbors living at the corner of Wood and Ivie Roads in Cape Elizabeth can be found sitting at the edge of their yards and driveways, talking loudly with their neighbors ten feet or more away. 

The couples of the crossroads have all been living there for more than three decades and over the years they have become very close friends. 

The neighbors. which include Tony and Cathy Ornatek, Randy and Kathy Blake, Christine and Joe Groff, Jennifer and Dan DeSena and the Pratts, meet most nights around 5 p.m.  Some bring snacks and drinks but the only thing they share are stories as they check-in with one another during this unprecedented time when so many are feeling isolated.  

"It's sort of like sustainable social sanity," explains Dan DeSena. "We can't get super close but we can hear each other pretty well."

The couples say they are following public health guidelines and maintaining more than the recommended distance from one another. The neighbors are retired and their children and grandchildren who they normally see often are making sure to stay away, making some of the normally outgoing seniors feeling a bit lonely. 

"It is difficult not being able to get together with our children and grandchildren," says Christine Groff who cares for her husband Joe who has Alzheimer's. 

Credit: contributed
Christine and Joe Groff

"It's hard to be alone in your house and it is very worrying because you don't know how long it's going to last but if you can get together in a situation like this we were are still maintaining the required distance and we can catch up and laugh and I think that is the most important thing," explains Christine. She says the block parties have become the highlight of her day. 

The quarantine block parties were Randy Blake's idea. He wanted to get out of the house and he wanted to make sure his neighbors were getting on alright during this difficult time, especially the Groffs.

Credit: contributed
Randy and Kathy Blake

"We have been through a lot together and we normally do a lot together and so the relationship is very, very important to us," says Christine. 

Geography may have made them neighbors but the years have made them much more. 

"They are not just friends. They are family," says Christine. 

"It takes a village and we are the village ... its important for us I think especially being such close friends, not just neighbors it's important for us to exercise a family kind of environment here," says Tony Ornatek. 

Credit: contributed
Dan DeSena, Randy Blake, David Pratt, Tony Ornatek and Joe Groff.

And this is one village that is not letting a pandemic stop them from being good neighbors. 

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