“In times like these it may be a good idea to pamper ourselves a little and at the same time help support a local business working hard to survive this catastrophic situation.“
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SANTA ROSA BEACH — A group of homeowners threw an elaborate party Thursday but here’s the catch: Everyone stayed home.
Rick Olszewski, who organized the social distancing get-together, said most of the neighbors sat on their front porches and used the FaceTime app or sent photos as a form of communication.
During a time of uncertainty for local businesses, Olszewski said he wanted to support one of his favorite restaurants, Crust Artisan Bakery, an Italian eatery in Santa Rosa Beach.
He asked some of his neighbors, through an email, if anyone would be interested in the idea of a group take-out order.
“In times like these it may be a good idea to pamper ourselves a little and at the same time help support a local business working hard to survive this catastrophic situation,“ Olszewski emailed his neighbors.
He collected money for the food, along with everyone’s order. Almost half of the homeowners, some 20 neighbors, participated.
On Thursday night, he headed to the restaurant to pick up and pay for the pizzas, lasagnas and other Italian delicacies. While he was picking up the food, his wife made chocolate chip cookies.
Olszewski and a fellow neighbor, Dennis Gagnon, took a golf cart through the neighborhood to deliver food. Olszewski drove and Gagnon sat in the back serving as the role of the waiter.
Kent Lillie, president of the Courtyard’s homeowner association, described the two as “goof balls.”
Lillie said this party was an opportunity for fellowship, camaraderie between neighbors, and relationship building.
“I think everybody really enjoyed it,” Lillie said. “It’s kinda hard on everybody so this is a way to bring a little bit of joy.”
After everyone received their food, Olszewski said he cranked up the speakers and played the national anthem.
Agreeing with Lillie, Olszewski said this was an opportunity to not only help out a local business, but also to bond with neighbors in a safe way.
“Everybody in the neighborhood is experiencing the same feelings about this, the concerns about it and the isolation of it, Olszewski said. ”It gave everybody a common thing to enjoy that night.“
The neighborhood party was such a hit, the group of townhouses are planning to schedule another next Thursday.
Lillie said he has a hunch even more of the neighbors will be joining.
The restaurant is undecided as of now, but the group is leaning toward the Perfect Pig in Gulf Place.