Oftentimes, it’s the little things that make a house feel like a home, or a couple of blocks feel like a neighborhood. But mostly, it’s the people that really give a place its heart. People like sanitation workers Angelo Bruno and Eddie Nieves, who spent almost a decade working together on the same garbage route in Manhattan. While they were hauling trash in the West Village, their personalities became indispensable to the community around them. 

Photo: Angelo Bruno and Eddie Nieves at their StoryCorps interview in 2010. By Michael Garofalo for StoryCorps

Next, we meet another dynamic duo—Sharon and Larry Adams. In 1997, Sharon moved back to her hometown of Milwaukee, Wisconsin and into the house where she grew up. It had good bones, but also needed some T.L.C. That’s when Larry Adams, an electrician (and the man who became Sharon’s husband), entered the picture.

After completing several projects around the house, the couple’s biggest undertaking came when they turned their attention to other homes in the Lindsay Heights area of Milwaukee. 

Inspired by Sharon’s memories of her once close-knit community, they established Walnut Way, a nonprofit dedicated to renovating and revitalizing their neighborhood. Since 2000, they’ve built and restored more than 100 homes and transformed over 20 lots into gardens and orchards.

Photo: Sharon and Larry Adams in the house where their nonprofit, Walnut Way, is based. Photo by Adam Carr.

Leverett, Massachusetts is a rural town of about 1,800 people. When the pandemic hit in early 2020, Leverett— like most places— went into lockdown. Jinny Savolainen, a longtime resident, wanted to do something meaningful with her time. Quarantine was especially isolating for her. In 2019, Jinny lost her daughter. And when the pandemic hit, she lost her job.

So she sent an email to the town listserv asking if anyone wanted to record remote StoryCorps interviews about their life during COVID. What started with a simple question ended in a collection of more than a dozen recorded interviews, and a little portrait of the people and places that make Leverett unique. 

Photo: Jinny Savolainen standing in the garden of her home in Leverett, MA. Courtesy of Jinny Savolainen.

And finally, we spend some time with Scott Macaulay. Back in 1985, Scott’s parents were going through a difficult divorce, and he found himself alone on Thanksgiving. That year, he decided to cook dinner for other people who had nowhere else to go; a tradition that’s continued for the last 35 years.  

But in 2020, the COVID-19 pandemic forced him to find new ways of connecting with folks near and far. Instead of hosting his usual gathering, he partnered with a local restaurant to offer free meals, and handed out groceries from the window of his vacuum repair shop—Macaulay’s House of Vacuums.

He also sat down with his friend Loretta Saint-Louis over StoryCorps Connect to talk about how they first met, and his advice for folks who—especially during the holidays—may be struggling with distance.

Photo: Scott Macaulay and Loretta Saint-Louis after their StoryCorps interview in Melrose, MA on November 6, 2020. By Alanna Kouri and Loretta Saint-Louis for StoryCorps.
Top photo: Artwork by Lindsay Mound.