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Homeowner Helps Create a Strong Sense of Community in Portola Springs Village
Portola Springs homeowner Matt Weidner grew up in Indiana, with picnics, pool parties, egg tosses, and a strong sense of community.
So when the 45-year-old moved to the Paloma neighborhood in Portola Springs Village with his family, he became nostalgic for a neighborhood social scene.
Although Portola Springs Village had a movie picnic night, Weidner envisioned the opportunity to do much, much more.
He approached the Portola Springs Homeowners Association, explained his big ideas, and, as he puts it, “they kind of let me run with the ball.” And run he did!
Residents soon enjoyed a Winter Social with a train and cookies; a Summer Pool Party with snow cones, DJ and inflatable slides; a Fall Fest where neighbors could park their cars at the pool for ‘Trunk-o-Treat’ – with kids going from trunk to trunk to collect candy instead of house to house – with a movie playing on an inflatable screen.
And just like that, Portola Springs Village had a new Social Committee Chairman.
Weidner says that the village’s most popular event is the Spring Fling, which started with about 600 plastic eggs and a couple of ponies. “We’re up to two camels now!” he adds. Camel rides, petting zoo and about 2,000 eggs filled with tickets for prizes like kites and jump ropes now are a part of the bi-annual Spring Fling.
“There’s something very gratifying about throwing an event that people talk about,” said Weidner. He noted that there is a pride among residents about their neighborhoods, and events provide a great sense of community for all involved.
Weidner was an aircraft mechanic until he and his wife, a corporate auditor, adopted a baby boy from Iowa five years ago. The couple also have a daughter in seventh grade, and Weidner decided to become a stay-at-home dad – which provides the opportunity for plenty of idea planning.
He “works with a bunch of parents” who get together and “throw ideas around, usually in the gym or at a playground.”
The “Tweenkies” are one of the ideas born out of those brainstorming sessions – Portola Springs Tweens who work the community’s social events. They are rewarded for jobs like handing out popcorn, hiding eggs or setting up tents with movie tickets or iTunes gift cards. Plus, they earn community service hours for their school.
“We have a waiting list” for kids that are interested in participating, notes Weidner.
The Tour de Portola is the latest event added to the village’s social calendar. Last May, residents walked, biked, skateboarded and pushed strollers along a 1.7-mile route, collecting raffle tickets at three checkpoints along the way. Winners went home with yellow T-shirts (think Tour de France lead rider) and prizes, including paddle games.
In the planning stage is some sort of annual adult event like a wine and jazz event, or Texas Hold ‘Em night.
“We see each other every day at the supermarket or at the gym,” Weidner says of his neighbors. “It’s just nice when you get to know them. What I like about our neighborhood is that it is diverse – but a lot of us are the same – families with school kids. It’s just a well-balanced community.”
Three years ago, Weidner co-founded the Portola Springs Summer Swim Team with another dad. Portola kids compete against 19 other Irvine neighborhoods at swim meets. “It’s super cool”, he says.
Word about the great events in Portola Springs Village has spread around North Irvine. Weidner has begun to meet with other Irvine neighborhood leaders who are interested in hosting their own social events.
“Bringing neat experiences,” is what it’s all about, he says. “It’s fun to create things to do in your community without having to go to San Diego or something. Like a stay-cation!”
For more information about new homes in Portola Springs Village, visit www.VillagesofIrvine.com, or call a New Home Consultant at (949) 393-5077.