Tag Archives: ReWork project

Real Women, Real Stories | Kristin’s Story: Creating Community in the Front Yard



Roots: I was born and raised in Dallas, but as they say got to Austin as quick as I could. I moved here in the 80s to go to The University of Texas and aside from a couple of years in Washington, DC and Paris, France ATX has been home.
IMG_1688Family life: Tony and I met at a UT football game but post-college. We got married New Years Eve 1997 and have four kiddos – Will (15), Anna (14), Ellie (13) and Sarah (8).

My favorite quote: I have so many favorite quotes, mostly because I love to read, but my current favorite is “You can’t be what you can’t see,” by a woman I admire greatly named Jo Saxton. The context of Jo’s quote is discipleship and how we need good role models to pave the way. I think of the women who have taught me so much, not by anything they’ve written or even said, but simply by how they live their lives.

Something people may not know about me: I’ve lived in some interesting places — like Siberia where I learned to ice fish! And, a tiny village in France picking olives. I love to experience foreign cultures. For me it’s all about the people and how truly one we really are.

My Story: Creating Community in the Front Yard

JaneKovak, Austin

“There are no strangers here; Only friends you haven’t met.” – William Butler Yeats

A couple years ago, I had a big dream – this vision – of living in a community where neighbors knew and loved each other well. I knew a handful of our neighbors, but for the most part our interaction was limited to friendly waves from the car, brief chats at the grocery store, and our annual Memorial Day block party. The block party is a highlight of the year, but twelve months is a long stretch of time between neighborhood get-togethers.

I felt a tug to open our doors wide and invite neighbors, friends, and even strangers into our lives on a more regular basis. But, as a busy mother with four children and an introverted husband, the how-to was a big question mark.

Then, I read these words by Francis Schaeffer in the book A Meal with Jesus by Tim Chester:

“Don’t start with a big program. Start personally and start in your home. I dare you. I dare you in the name of Jesus Christ. Begin by opening your home for community. . . All you have to do is open your home and begin.”

At first I hesitated. But, I longed for more than an annual block party. I wanted real and meaningful relationships with my neighbors. I wanted to know their stories, hear their sorrows and troubles, and celebrate their joys.

So, I took the dare!

The Turquoise Table


In October 2013, prompted by a last-minute party I was hosting, I ordered an unfinished picnic table from Lowe’s. I didn’t think much of the table when I ordered it online. It was just an ordinary picnic table.

Until I saw it. And, I knew.

The Turquoise Table Invite

The turquoise table is great for planned or spontaneous meals & gatherings

The simple wooden picnic table was destined for our front yard. After the party, I painted the table bright turquoise (Sherwin-Williams Nifty Turquoise, if you’re wondering) and placed it under a magnolia tree, close to the edge of our lively street.

That’s when life changed. The very day I put the table out front, someone who needed to get out of the house – a neighbor I’d never met – walked past and stopped to talk. We sat at the table and started a friendship. Next, curious people from across the street stopped by and stayed for a cup of coffee. By week three, both spontaneous and planned gatherings were happening regularly at The Turquoise Table.

Now a familiar sight, The Turquoise Table has become a meeting place – like the old village well – for neighbors, friends, and even strangers to hang out and do life together. The table spurred a front yard revival in our neighborhood.


The turquoise table is a place to gather & love – friends hosting a Shoe Cutting Party to benefit children in Uganda

When neighbors from a few blocks over learned about The Turquoise Table, they wanted one, too. I remember thinking, “This is crazy! Am I really supposed to encourage people to put turquoise tables in their front yards?”

Now, two years later, The Turquoise Table has turned into a movement of Front Yard People – people just like you and me who want to create community right where they live. There are now countless turquoise tables in front yards across America, even as far away as Uganda.


Blog1__0000_1Want A Turquoise Table? We’ve partnered with ReWork Project  — a non-profit  helping those struggling with homelessness find a path to permanent housing through the dignity of work. These special turquoise tables are hand-made, painted, and delivered! To learn more and order a turquoise table, click here.


What about you? Will you join the Front Yard People movement, too? For more information, visit my blog.




iGnite’s Real Women, Real Stories is a series highlighting the inspiring lives and experiences of women in our community. We hope their stories motivate and inspire you to live your life to the fullest.

Know someone who would be a great candidate for a Real Women, Real Stories feature? Email nominations to hello@igniteyourlifenow.com


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Front Yard Focus

Living in Community, Part V

“We cannot seek achievement for ourselves and forget about progress and prosperity for our community…our ambitions must be broad enough to include the aspirations and needs of others, for their sakes and our own.”
-Cesar Chavez

Point to Ponder:
Do you know your neighbors?

by Neissa Brown Springmann

by Neissa Brown Springmann

On Valentine’s Day the kids and I went to iGnite member and friend Delaine Teeple’s house for a little play date. Upon arrival I noticed her super fun turquoise picnic table sitting in her front yard. I asked her about it and she let me know that another friend of ours, Kristin Schell, intentionally moved her picnic table from her back yard to her front yard, and because her favorite color is turquoise, painted it turquoise. That’s when the magic of community began to occur. Neighbors congregated around the table to eat, drink, share and more. This is when Kristin began to tell her friends and write about it on her blog, KristinSchell.com.

As a result, Kristin’s friends and neighbors also began getting turquoise tables too, including Delaine. I was completely sold on the idea when Delaine told me her own turquoise table testimonial. Pre-turquoise table, her six year old daughter Adele had an unsuccessful lemonade stand in their front yard, BUT post turquoise table they had two hours of non-stop neighbors and community. That’s so cool!

I immediately got in touch with Kristin about getting my own turquoise table, and she directed me to contact Allison Eskew (allison@reworkproject.org) at ReWork Project. Equally as inspiring as the mission of ‘the turquoise table’ is that of ReWork Project, which is helping men and women get off the street by providing friendship, dignity and opportunity. Amazingly, not only is the turquoise table getting people out of their homes and back yards and into their front yards where community is built, but it’s now providing work for men and women! How wonderful is that?!

My turquoise table testimonial is this: My happy table that I purchased for $195.00 and paid $20 cash for delivery, was delivered to my front yard last Monday, March 23. Because the weather has been perfect, I immediately began using it as my outdoor office. The first day I had three neighbors stop, visit and talk about how they’ve heard about the turquoise table and wanted one. One neighbor I had never met, and I was elated to give them Allison’s email address so they could order a table. Then on Wednesday, another neighbor whom I’d never met stopped, introduced herself and said she loved the Turquoise Table Movement. She was actually looking for her dog, so I was able to be on the lookout for it. It was then that I decided that on Wednesday evening we would have a family lemonade sale on the turquoise table benefiting our fundraising efforts for Beyond Batten Disease Foundation/Run to the Sun Team iGnite. The result was three hours of non-stop community, me getting a chance to inform our neighbors about Batten disease, $45 dollars raised for BBDF, and a last minute neighborhood spring social at our house Saturday night. It was insanely awesome!

It’s unfortunate that times have changed and are unlike when I was growing up when we never locked our front door and I could tell you the first and last names of everyone who lived in our community. I suppose life is more dangerous and the result is we are less trusting, more private, and distracted by all of the things that keep us busy — work, kid activities, social media, television, computers, and so much more. Or, could it possibly be that we are exposed to all of the violence in the world which makes us fearful of our own neighbors and people in general? Social worker and Ph.D, Brene Brown actually theorizes that our society became less vulnerable following the tragic events of 911. This of course has to do with the hyper-terrorism focus in the media as well as our natural personal response to a terrifying event, but keeping to ourselves, living inward and not knowing our neighbors’ names, who have been your neighbor for eight years and is only two houses down is outrageous. Embarrassingly, this was my experience on Wednesday when Charleen, my neighbor of eight years purchased lemonade, and I didn’t even know her name. Ironically, for eight years I’ve been focused on growing and impacting the iGnite community, while I’ve missed out on getting to know my own next door neighbors.

What I am loving so much about the turquoise table is that it forces me to get outside of my house or back yard, which is where the kids typically play, and it gives me a fun reason to sit in my front yard where community can easily be cultivated. To me, having my turquoise table is saying “no” to living a fearful, private and distracted life and “yes” to being vulnerable, welcoming neighbors and possibly strangers into mine and my family’s life. It’s living in community and that’s not only how I believe we are created to live, but that’s also what makes life so rich and beautiful!

Action Item:
Challenge yourself to introduce yourself to at least one of your neighbors you’ve never met this week. Maybe even email allison@reworkproject.org about getting your own turquoise table :)

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