Holiday Celebration Honors Volunteers

At Greenmeadow, the annual holiday party is time for good food and fun, but it also time to mark what keeps the neighborhood going -- volunteers. Here, Catherine Feira, whose dad is president of the association, doles out her dessert. Photos by Dave Weinstein

The Christmas tree was all aglow and candy canes festooned the table, but the party spilled out into the backyard on a sunny, increasingly chilly Sunday afternoon. Talk turned to swimming, as loyal residents of Greenmeadow celebrated the start of the holidays.

Why swimming? Because swimming defines the community, which was built in 1954 in Palo Alto, and because ground was just broken on the long-awaited reconstruction of the Greenmeadow pool.

And, it must be said, the Holiday Open House, put on by the Greenmeadow Community Association, has an ulterior motive beyond celebrating the season.

The goal, as in so much the association does, is to increase participation in the life of Greenmeadow.

By giving thanks to those who worked hard in 2017, the association is encouraging more of the same in 2018, both from longtime volunteers and newcomers.

Asked why she puts so much time into the 270-home community, which is so beautiful, so historically significant, and so intact it was placed on the National Register of Historic Places, Sonya Bradski says, simply, “I guess it’s because I love the neighborhood. This is one of the best neighborhoods in the world because most of us know everybody.”

Maria Brown, who hosted the annual party at her home, with Mary and Bob Shaw by the tree.

Like many residents of the neighborhood, she and her husband, Gary Bradski, a scientist and entrepreneur, have children who take part in the swim team. Since the community was new, the pool and swim team have brought people together.

Jeff Kmetec, who works in product development for a fiber laser firm while somehow finding time to shepherd to completion the pool renewal and construction of a new clubhouse, says this about the pool:

“What’s special about Greenmeadow is, Eichler built the pool as a selling feature, and the community really wanted the pool. So they formed an organization and bought it from Eichler. That gave an identity to our neighborhood that is not often found.”

Michel Frei, an engineer from Switzerland, sees the pool as the glue that binds the community. In a place like Switzerland, he says, where “you often have people of similar backgrounds … it’s easier to find things in common when you are together. Everyone knows how to swirl cheese in the fondue.

“But when people are from different backgrounds, it takes more effort to find something to bring people together. Here, the pool brings people together.”

Besides rebuilding the pool, which has significant utility problems, Jeff says, “What makes it exciting is creating a clubhouse to have more community for people.”

Surprisingly, Greenmeadow has not had a real clubhouse, “just a 400-square-foot room” in a building also used for other purposes. “Now there’s a room in the back there, and we call it the community room. But it’s very minimal,” Jeff says.

Jeff Kmetec has a full-time job where he earns money to support his family. But overseeing the pool and clubhouse project has been another full-time job for him.

The new building, built to emulate the Eichler look, will be 2,000 square feet with a great room, bathrooms, showers, storage, and a barbecue out front.

The pool is where most people in the neighborhood meet, people at the party said. (Strolling the attractive streets comes in second.) The pool and the swim team, the beloved Marlins, build friendships.

Those friendships continue once kids leave the team and go off to college, Michel says.

But what if the friendships fall away? And how about people who don’t, you know, swim?

That’s where the new clubhouse comes in, says Lisa Steinback, head of the community’s membership committee. “We believe the new clubhouse is going to broaden the scope of our events and lead to more social gatherings beyond just the pool,” she says, thus building even more friendships and getting more people involved with Greenmeadow affairs.

The slogan that adorns the Greenmeadow website suggests the same thing. “More than a Pool. It’s a Community.”

The Greenmeadow association doesn’t hesitate to ask people to volunteer. In fact, it’s one of the first things newcomers to the tract hear. In profiles of new residents in the neighborhood's Meadowlark newsletter, newcomers are encouraged to discuss “where they see their role in Greenmeadow in the future,” Lisa says.

An immense pocket door opens the Brown's recently remodeled Eichler to the backyard, ideal for a neighborhood party.

“We hope to instill the idea that they can volunteer in the community,” she says.

The Greenmeadow Association needs to attract fans from within the neighborhood for fiscal reasons as well as social. It is not a homeowners association of the sort all owners must join and pay dues to. It is a voluntary nonprofit that neighbors can join – or not.

Of 270 households, only 170 are members. People can opt for full membership, which provides use of the pool, or “Fair Share” membership, which does not.

There are additional members who do not live in the tract but pay to use the pool and communal facilities. But only residents of the tract can vote.

The pool-clubhouse project will cost about $2.5 million, with funds coming from savings and a bank loan from First Republic, Jeff Kmetec says.

Much of the thanking during the speech part of the holiday party was aimed at individuals, including Jeff, the project leader, who worked on the pool-clubhouse plan throughout the year. Board members who were recognized include Josh Feira, Jeff Kmetec, Jeff Schultz, Velu Sinha, Richard Ellson, Michel Frei, and Andrew Voltmer.

The lights at Greenmeadow were just going up in early December.

One reason people attend the holiday party is to enjoy the different homes in which the event is set each year. Lisa says they generally choose homes that have been nicely redone.

Maria and Tom Brown hosted in their refurbished Eichler, with an immense set of pocket doors that open the living area completely to the yard.

“We love the neighborhood,” says Maria, a transplant from New York City who moved here a year and a half ago. “We love how involved people get.”

Keep in touch with the Eichler Network. SUBSCRIBE to our free e-newsletter