Last summer during a road trip, I came across an activity designed to get kids and their families out in the local shops: a passport scavenger hunt. Local shopkeepers had hidden cardboard cutouts in the shape of “Where’s Waldo” inside their stores; when the kids found the cutout, they’d would get a stamp in their passport.The game not only provided families with a fun activity for long summer days, it also boosted local business. I thought, “Why not reproduce this game in Hillman City?”
I posed the idea to my community development team and a few months later we launched our own version. In place of Waldo, we had the youth from Rainier Avenue Church color children of the world cutouts.
At first, we thought it may be difficult to convey to some shopkeepers who do not speak English as a first language the objective of this activity. In fact, the first shopkeeper I posed the idea to was hesitant.
“I’ll have to check with the owner,” she told me.
However, when we returned with a model Hillman City passport and colored cardboard cutout, they were excited to participate. We printed the passports with a list of 3 questions to trigger conversations with shopkeepers because one of our main purposes for the activity was to facilitate interactions among people who may otherwise live very separate lives (a goal of community development!). We kept the questions simple:
- What is the most popular item in your store?
- What’s your favorite thing from this store?
- How long has this store been here?
On the day of the event, about 40 people participated in visiting 8 shops. Afterwards, we reconvened and gave away 3 prizes:
First one back: $10 gift card to local restaurant
Most unique item: $20 gift card to local restaurant
Best story: Hillman City tote filled with local goodies
I recommend this activity for others doing community development as well as business associations. Being the third challenge of the year that engaged with our local businesses (following “Eat in Hillman City” and “Shop Hillman City”), it added another point of contact with the shopkeepers and workers in our community.From the shopkeepers to the children, everyone seemed to dig it. Even a week later when I stopped by one of the Somalian groceries to buy a spice pack, the cashier asked me, “How was the game?”
“Great,” I replied. “Did you all enjoy it?”
His grin was telling. Yes!