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SWEET SALUTE TO GOOD NEIGHBORS

A Timber Pines woman writes of thoughtful and generous villagers and wins an ice cream party for them.

Bev Berger is not a professional writer. But the 66-year-old Timber Pines resident nonetheless concedes, "I'm an avid letter writer." And a committed friend to neighbors who live in the 133 units of the community's Pinegrove Village.

Berger paired those pursuits earlier this year and came up one of 1,500 winners nationwide in Edy's Slow Churned Neighborhood Salute essay contest.

The prize was unveiled Saturday evening, when she gathered more than 50 friends and relatives for an ice cream social at the Lodge at Timber Pines. Edy's provided the ice cream, along with plates, napkins and Edy's coupons - in case the party ran out of the ice cream that had been delivered.

The Oakland, Calif., manufacturer of cold dairy treats promised enough to feed up to 100. Berger said she easily has 100 friends in her village alone.

"That's really why I was inspired. This village is made up of people who care about each other, who write about each other."

Some are snowbirds who are up North for the summer, so she didn't manage quite 100.

Berger, a native New Yorker who has lived at Timber Pines for just more than three years, learned of the contest through a mention in the community newsletter in March. The rules were simple: Write an essay or submit a video explaining why your neighborhood deserves an Edy's ice cream party.

The garrulous Berger sat down and began composing her essay.

"I wrote a gazillion words. Then I had to whittle it down to 350. That was the hard part," she said.

She sent the epistle - which told of the generous, tight-knit Pinegrove Village - off to Edy's and promptly forgot about it, going on with her job as a child caregiver at the Hernando County Family YMCA.

Berger was wildly reminded of her essay when notified this summer that she had penned a winner.

So, on Saturday, Berger gathered her friends, and her husband, Alan, filled regular and waffle cones of several sizes, dishing up cups of ice cream and offering such toppings as sprinkles, hot fudge sauce, marshmallow fluff, vanilla and Reese's coatings.

Partygoers chose from ice cream flavors including vanilla bean, chocolate, double fudge brownie, cookies and cream, red-white-and-blue swirl, caramel delight, mint chocolate chip and butter pecan.

Absent was Berger's favorite, vanilla fudge. But, grinning, she declared, "I can make do with cookies and cream or double fudge brownie."

The Bergers also served up lavishly frosted cakes to celebrate September birthdays of their friends. Baskets of crackers and a variety of chips were added.

Bev Berger reigned over the festivities, wearing a royal blue apron that arrived with the goodies. White lettering spelled out, "I Won an Edy's Ice Cream Block Party." Friends heaped praise on her for her writing ability and her kindnesses to neighbors.

The couple's daughter, Bari, drove up from her home in Dunedin for the event. Son Daniel and his wife, Jennifer, of Spring Hill joined the crowd.

Daniel was pressed into service as disc jockey for the celebratory evening.

Beth Gray can be contacted at graybethn@earthlink.net.

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Bev Berger's essay

Here is the essay that Bev Berger wrote about her neighborhood that won her an ice cream party in the Edy's Slow Churned Neighborhood Salute contest.

It was a lucky accident that we downsized into Pinegrove Village, a community of outgoing, friendly people.

Before our first box was unpacked, neighbors appeared to introduce themselves and offer help. Soon after that, a bag of grapefruits mysteriously materialized on our porch. Leaves fallen from gorgeous old trees disappeared thanks to a neighbor and his blower. Newspapers, randomly delivered, wound up at our front door. Garbage cans rescued from the street were routinely lined up neatly where they belong. Smiles greeted us whenever we walked trough the village. It felt like HOME!

Displays of caring that are even more meaningful occur daily. Neighbors routinely shop and cook for those who are ill, rides are provided regularly for those with doctor appointments, calls are made to those who are housebound, contact forms were created so relatives can be easily notified in case of emergencies.

We participate in walks for various charities, we stock a village storage shed with hurricane supplies that get donated to shelters if we're fortunate enough not to need them, villagers visit people in hospitals, nursing homes and rehab centers on a daily basis, we're involved in voter registration drives, neighborhood beautification projects, church and school programs. Some of us teach classes in quilting, fitness and computers.

Does it sound tedious? Au contraire! The fun we have! This community abounds with good humor and high spirits!

There are regular outdoor parties where as many as 80 villagers show up to eat and sing and joke. There are hot dog parties, pizza parties, holiday parties and sunset picnics at the beach. We enjoy luncheons and dances and golf outings.

Every month we do "theater and fine dining." Theater is the $2.50 movie across the road and fine dining is Taco Bell or Wendy's, etc., where we actually bring candles for the tables.

We sing carols as part of our tree lighting ceremony at Christmas.

All these events nurture a strong camaraderie that makes Pinegrove Village a very special place to live. One thing lacking so far? An ice cream social! And, if we don't win, we'll probably stage one ourselves! (Thank you for your consideration!)

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