To most, pools and parks are just places to visit when the weather is nice. But for Sherry Helms, Nextdoor’s Good Neighbor Award winner from Tulsa, Oklahoma, they are so much more.
Sherry moved to Tulsa’s Forest Creek neighborhood 40 years ago and fell in love with her community the day she attended her first HOA meeting. Since then, she has dedicated her life to making Forest Creek an even greater place to live by uniting the community through the local pool and park.
She took her responsibility of the pool to heart. Sherry grew up in the pool, teaching swim lessons at age 14 and competing as a swimmer in high school and college. For that reason, she knew something as simple as a pool could be transformed into a gathering place, the center of her community, where families could create great friendships, build camaraderie, and share memories of their neighborhood together.
To ensure that happened, Sherry organized hundreds of events over the years at the pool and park, including pizza nights for the local teens, Easter Egg hunts, 4th of July celebrations, and even winter festivities where neighbors gathered with hot cocoa and listened to the local high school band play holiday music.
Volunteering to run the pool was a big commitment, but that wasn’t enough for Sherry. Next to the pool was a decrepit, vacant lot in desperate need of a facelift. Sherry and the Forest Creek Garden Club rallied neighbors to transform the lot into another beautiful gathering space. Sherry took it upon herself to apply for a grant from the City and after mounds of paperwork, she was able to garner $16,000 worth of playground equipment. In honor of Sherry’s efforts, the neighborhood named the park after her: Helms Park.
Over the years, Sherry’s love for her community never waned, but her ability to dedicate the time to the pool and park were cut short when she was diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis (MS). Sherry’s MS has involved seven back operations, a shattered ankle disc, and the inability to stay out in the heat for extended periods of time. While she can no longer be as hands-on as she would like, Sherry continues to do all she can for the pool and park – including rigging up a fan in the bushes of the park so she can still plant and water the area without breaking a sweat.
Sherry’s neighbor and good friend, Ginger Taylor, nominated Sherry for this award. “Sherry has, for years, been the backbone of Forest Creek,” Ginger says. “She has worked tirelessly promoting our neighborhood pool and park. She has an illness that would limit anyone else, but not Sherry. She epitomizes what a great neighbor is all about.”
Sherry says that she will continue to work as much as she can at the pool and park, but is confident in the next generation that has taken over her duties. Sherry already has a pizza party planned for the neighborhood kids that will also be a park clean up. For every 10 bags of leaves, they will get a pizza.
“I have so many memories of the park and pool,” says Sherry. “I did as good of a job I could do. It made my life like nothing I thought it would ever be. I have made so many great friends along the way.”
Congratulations, Sherry, on winning Nextdoor’s Good Neighbor Award and making something very special out of just a community pool and park!