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Maria Scudella-Beltran

Neighborhood Journals: Spreading Joy Through Words Around Oakland Park


Just a few weeks ago, Oakland Park resident Layla Hinson had the novel idea of creating Neighborhood Journals for Oakland Park and its surrounding areas. The concept is simple: Layla purchased a variety of pens/pencils/markers, smile stickers, and plastic zip bags for this initiative. With materials in hand, Layla set about creating the journals with the purpose of brining neighbors together through writing. She discussed this idea with her loved ones, and they all agreed this would be a wonderful gesture for the neighborhood.

Neighborhood Journals: Why Oakland Park and Neighboring Parks?

There are many potential areas in Oakland Park and it’s the surrounding areas that could have hosted these neighborhood journals, and Layla explains that she chose parks because “it’s a place where people can take a relaxing break”. She researched Oakland Park parks and included our neighbors in Wilton Manors. She also had a friend take a journal to a park in the City of Fort Lauderdale.

A total of 14 journals were in circulation in areas throughout Oakland Park and neighboring districts. She also had a network of family and friends that helped her execute this idea. They helped her QA/QC the packets as well as assemble and distribute them.

The journals were left in the following areas for residents to enjoy.

  • North Andrew Gardens Volunteer Park
  • Twin Lakes North Park
  • Stunson Nature Trail
  • Royal Palm Park
  • Easterlin Park (2 journals)
  • Veteran’s Park
  • Donn Eisele Park
  • Jaco Pastorius Park
  • Due to Greenleaf Park being closed 1 journal was left at 37th St/Dixie, on a bench by a fountain
  • Colohatchee Park,
  • M.E. De Palma Park
  • Hagen Park
  • And one in Hugh Taylor Birch State Park in Ft. Lauderdale.

Teamwork Made the Dream Work

After the journals were all placed in their respective locations, Layla shared her news through neighborhood platforms such as NextDoor and our Living in Oakland Park Facebook page. When asked why the idea of neighborhood journals, Layla’s response was: “2020 has been very difficult in many ways to a lot of people. I wanted to do something to bring some joy into our daily lives. This gave me so much joy doing, from creating the Journals, to placing the Journals and at the thought of hopefully making people smile and bringing us together. All of that brought happiness to my heart”.

All 14 journals were placed out Sunday, December 6th. She went to visit one of the parks last week afternoon to check it out and there were a few entries in the journal, which were all positive. “Happy Holidays to all our neighbors! Thanks for bringing us together!”, one entry read. “I’ve also received encouraging posts on social media platforms regarding this accomplishment”, she says.

What’s in the Neighborhood Journal Packet?

If you’re fortunate to find one of these neighborhood journals, here’s a glimpse of what you may discover inside the packet. Layla wrote an introduction page explaining the purpose of her initiative and a special message she wanted to convey to those receiving the journals. She shared that there were lots of apps for doing the same thing as the journal but that it was nice to “get back to basics”.

She also underscored the importance of being able to share without judgement: “Most important, please don’t judge anyone… Let’s turn off the comment button…”. Layla also included a label that reads “NEIGHBORHOOD JOURNAL – Please do not discard”, with hopes that residents will take the journal and not discard it.

Smiles for Oakland Park Residents and More

Oakland Park was a natural choice for Layla’s journals. Layla, who was born and raised in South Florida, recently became a homeowner in Oakland Park. Before she lived here, she was familiar with the City because of a lifelong friend who also lives here. “Oakland Park is so beautiful it was an easy choice (to choose to live here)”, she shared.

The total cost was per Journal was approximately $2.00, and Layla explains that she was happy to sponsor the effort. Her only hope is that the journals bring joy to those that it reaches and that they do not get discarded. She ends by stating, “I will continue to go out weekly to keep them up if I see the communities enjoying them”.


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