Halloween is a special time for children living on the 1600 block of E Street in Northeast Washington.
Neighbor Rena Goldman, affectionately known as “Cousin ReeRee” by the community, has organized the annual Tricks and Treats on E Street block party since moving to the area in 2013.
Goldman, 30, founded the community group E Street Adventures that sponsors events for children in the neighborhood, including the Halloween festivities that feature performances by Goldman’s fire-dancing friend and a superhero-costumed appearance by her actor boyfriend, Aaron Bryant.
Earning a B.S. in English from Towson University in 2008, the Baltimore County native started her career in office and residential furniture sales before transitioning to freelance writing and social media management. For the past four years, she has been writing in the health and lifestyle space, most recently for the website healthline.com. She is also a contributing writer to commercial and residential construction media firm Hanley Wood.
We recently caught up with Goldman to talk about the pride she has for her ‘hood, creating opportunities for low-income kids and her love of gardening.
How did you come up with the idea for E Street Adventures?
I have a friend that I’ve known since elementary school, and she relocated to the D.C. area. She has an entertainment business where she does fire dancing. I reconnected with her since finding out that we were both living in the same area shortly after I moved here, and I thought it would be really cool for the neighborhood here to see a fire performance; I figured that is something [the residents] hadn’t seen before. My boyfriend and I were like, ‘Why don’t we do a whole Halloween thing?’ since it happened to be around Halloween time.
Tell us about your relationship with the neighborhood kids.
I walk outside and the kids say, ‘Hi ReeRee, what are you doing?’ They’ll come up and hug me and ask, ‘What are we doing today?’ I have some kids trailing me whatever I’m doing around here. I’m a freelancer, so I’m home a lot. The kids get off school and they might come and visit with me and I give them different chores. I let them help me do the garden, just to give them something to do. Then I’ll give them treats for doing some work for me.
Do you teach the kids how to tend to the community garden?
I’m working with our [advisory neighborhood] commissioner to get a big community garden. What I have is just a backyard container garden. The kids come, and then I teach them how to plant things. They know how to harvest and we’ll make healthy food together.
What do you see as the biggest need that children from low-income communities have?
Here, it’s probably structured activities and more opportunities. A lot of kids have nothing to do once they get out of these programs, like an after-school program. They have some things in the community center, but there are still a lot of gaps where there’s too much free time. Especially with the teens, they just really need some positive focus and other kinds of activities that they can take part in or things that they can learn.
What is your favorite thing about living in Northeast Washington?
The community here. They’ve been extremely good to me here and accepting and friendly. It’s kind of almost like a small-town environment when you’re in the city. Everybody knows each other’s names, and we share food and help each other out. It’s a really close-knit community, which wasn’t something that I had ever experienced before.
Do neighborhoods like yours get an unfair reputation as being associated with violence and crime?
Definitely. One of the biggest things that has stopped crime is to give these kids the attention and the opportunity that they need because they don’t have a lot of the same advantages that kids in the suburbs might have. These kids are sweet. They are intelligent. They are fantastic kids. There are a lot of really great members of this community and they absolutely get a bad rap. It’s a small portion that take part in the violence, and we’re all just kind of caught in the crossfire.