By Maddie O’Shea
Kutztown Community Partnership (KCP) hosted a Whole Town Toast on Friday, March 27 from 6 p.m. to 6:30 p.m. The public event focused on coming together in a difficult time of social distancing.
Eric Mace, a KU professor and member of the Borough Council, came up with the idea. After his mother-in-law sent him an article about neighbors toasting each other from their porches in Aspinwall, Pa., he thought that Kutztown could replicate it, as the town also has a friendly and close-knit community.
Mace’s goal was inspired by New York Governor Andrew Cuomo, who has said social distancing has to be mediated by spiritual closeness. The event was a way to be collective and share support.
“It was a chance to check in on your neighbors, acknowledge that we wouldn’t stay away if we didn’t have to and to thank them for doing their part,” said Mace. “Every person in Kutztown who checks on their neighbors, works at the grocery, keeps delivering food, stands ready to save lives, keeps the utilities working or just stays at home is essential to our whole town.”
Many were involved in the Whole Town Toast. The Kutztown Fire Company, Kutztown Borough and KU police all got involved. Sandy Green of KCP organized the event. Mayor Schlegal and President Hawkinson created toasts for the broadcast. And, of course, it also took the participation of every member of the Kutztown community, such as students, businesses and residents.
Right at the start of the event, Mayor Schlegal broadcasted a message of camaraderie to the community through the sound systems of St. Paul’s UCC and St. John’s Lutheran.
After the broadcast, Kutztown locals were encouraged to gather on porches and balconies with his or her favorite drink to toast those on the front lines dedicating their time to the pandemic. Local church bells rang and Kutztown Fire Department’s trucks celebrated with sirens.
KU senior Alexa Staehs, who resides in town, participated in the event with her roommates.
“We drove onto Main St. with drinks and there were a bunch of fire trucks that were waving to us and everybody sitting outside on their porch was waving to us,” said Staehs. “It was so cute and awesome to have so many people join in on this toast.”