By Katie Hughes
This month’s neighbor spotlight is on Heidi Unger, who also happens to be an IDO board member and Communications Committee Chair. This communications professional and freelance writer and editor is no stranger to Indiana, having grown up in Noblesville before going to Franklin College and finding her way to Irvington, after a few years of neighborhood-hopping around Indy. Perhaps you have spotted her name and work online over the past few years as she tweets about Irvington news, updates web content, and manages the IDO monthly newsletter.
Upon finally settling here in Irvington with her partner and two adorably vocal cats, Heidi immediately engaged in the community and found different activities to get involved in right away, including helping out with neighborhood crime watch, picking up litter on cleanup days, and taking photos at block parties.
“I was so happy to finally find a neighborhood where I could get involved in community projects,” Heidi exclaimed enthusiastically while describing her instant connection to Irvington. “I met a lot of smart, motivated, fun people who were doing many different things to improve the quality of life in the neighborhood, so it was easy to find ways to get involved. In the seven short years I’ve been in Irvington, I’ve had the opportunity to join neighbors in caring for a large, beautiful community garden that was on both the garden tour and the Neighborhoods USA tour, helped students learn a little bit about gardening, and produced lots of fresh food for gardeners, neighbors, and the food pantry. I helped with communications for Irvington Terrace crime watch, planted and watered trees, did photography and social media for the luminaria, and led the Irvington re-Signed public art project. I’ve learned a lot in the short time I’ve been here, and I’m grateful to have been welcomed into a place where neighbors have the knowledge and motivation to take on community-improvement projects. I’ve since learned that this kind of work, which Irvingtonians have been doing for decades, is key to Irvington’s success as a strong, resilient, and safe community.”
How long have you lived and/or worked here?
I’ve lived in Irvington for 6 years, in two different houses.
How did you first hear of Irvington and why did you move here?
I started dating an Irvingtonian in 2010 and very quickly joined his neighbors in the modestly named Irvington Terrace Crime Watch group, which took on many neighborhood improvement projects beyond your typical crime watch meetings. After having lived in neighborhoods where volunteer activity was low to nonexistent, I was delighted to join in on neighborhood cleanup days, tree plantings, tree watering, a community garden, block parties, and more. Plus, it was fantastic to be able to walk to shops and restaurants from home. We soon decided that even though my partner’s 100-year-old house was wonderful, we needed a home with a bigger garage for him and more yard space for my gardens. I worried that we would have to move out of the neighborhood to find it. We were so extremely lucky to find what we needed (and more!), only a mile away from his original residence, and be able to stay in the neighborhood.
What do you do for fun?
Listening to live music and meeting friends for beers is a great way to unwind. Also, I’m sort of a serial hobbyist. About ten years ago, I started learning photography, and soon after that I took up kitchen gardening. As I learned about organic gardening, I found out about the importance of native plants. I was fortunate enough to buy my first house around the same time I began the long process of learning about removing invasive plants and landscaping with natives. Coincidentally, the landscaping at our new house needed lots of care in that regard, so I’ve spent five years (on and off) transforming my yard into a place that supports native wildlife. So any combination of any of those things is fun for me. Luckily, lots of my east side friends share these interests.
What’s your favorite walk, bike ride, block, or view in the neighborhood?
There’s something about riding my bike through south Irvington’s curved streets, under those beautiful old trees, that seems charmingly old fashioned. And of course I have to stop by the Kile Oak, walk through the gate, and put my hand on that ancient tree’s bark. We owe such a debt of gratitude to Mae Kile, who loved that old oak so much that she made sure it would be here many years beyond her death.
If you were Mayor of Irvington for a day, what would you do first?
I suppose I would cover every square inch of unused lawn grass with wildflowers and native shrubs. That’s doable, right?
What’s your connection to IDO or what do you love about IDO?
I started doing communications for IDO (Twitter and the monthly newsletter and blog) around three-and-a-half years ago and joined the board a year ago. I love that IDO members and supporters take it upon themselves to preserve the character of the neighborhood and also keep moving forward in a positive direction.