Writer / Christy Heitger-Ewing
Photographer / Tony Gude
“I wasn’t sure if we had picked the right house or the right neighborhood,” Khan says. “In those first few days, as we unpacked, it didn’t seem like things were falling into place the way I had hoped, and my worry intensified.”
Then school started and her fears eased on her first trip to the bus stop. After standing on the corner with her two youngest kids for just a few moments, several parents walked up and warmly introduced themselves. The children were super friendly, too, offering bright smiles and contagious giggles.
“Right then and there, I felt anchored,” Khan says. “I relaxed into our new life here in Avon, confident that we had made the right decision.”
As she continued meeting neighbors and other members of the community, Khan was relieved and even giddy about where they had put down roots.
“My heart didn’t connect to the house until I met the people of the community,” says Khan, noting that when their family initially searched online for possible towns to live in, all signs pointed to Carmel and Fishers as the happening places to be. But Khan’s husband suggested they at least come over to Avon and check it out. When they did, they were greeted by a kind, welcoming, lively community.
And they’re not the only ones. Nancy Yoon and her husband, John, have lived in Avon for seven years. She’s most pleased with the great friends her two sons, ages 7 and 10, have made. She also likes the caring, supportive environment of the schools.
“Teachers and leaders place a great emphasis on being helpful and considerate to others, which is great,” Yoon says.
Tom Downard, the Executive Director of the Avon Chamber of Commerce, believes that diversity starts with our school systems. Not only does Avon boast a very diverse demographic, but he also notes that the town is doing a great job of adding cultural events and opportunities for the residents of the community.
“People may drive to Indianapolis five days a week to go to work, but when they come home in the evenings and on weekends, they want things to do with their families,” Downard says. “I think
that all the towns, chambers and non-profits are trying to create that culture to where it’s available and affordable for them to do so.”
Born in Mexico but an Indiana resident since 2011, Cynthia Alcazar moved to Avon two and a half years ago and has taken full advantage of all the town has to offer. She appreciates both the diverse mix in the community and the fact that those community members have one another’s best interests at heart.
“Avon is perfect in a lot of ways. I love the weather, job opportunities, education, entertainment, and just the town’s beauty,” Alcazar says. “But it’s the people that really make it home. They are nice, helpful and engaging.”
Aaron Tevebaugh, Avon Town Council President, believes that diversity is one of the town’s greatest strengths.
“We have a good amount of not only gender and racial diversity, but we are also strong in cultural and spiritual diversity as well as in diversity of thought,” Tevebaugh says.
He notes that although many criticize social media and its explosion over the last several years as being an outlet for negativity, he welcomes all the input about the town through this medium.
“It’s helpful for me as a member of the town council to ensure I am looking at an issue from all possible angles before I make a final decision that will impact our community,” Tevebaugh says. “I believe it is important for all of us to constantly wonder what it may be like to be those individuals who we find ourselves in disagreement with from time to time. These moments are where true growth and development occur.”
Khan wondered if her family may feel out of place here because in the past they have lived in large Muslim communities. She says, however, that she feels more at home here in Avon due to the welcoming nature of the people she meets, and interestingly, it’s the differences that invite conversation. For instance, she has had multiple people approach her in public to ask her about her hijab (scarf) because they’re interested and want to learn about its purpose. Other times folks have simply admired her taste in fashion.
“One windy day when I was headed into the grocery store, a total stranger smiled at me and said sincerely, ‘I really like your scarf. I wish I had one!’” Khan says.
Every evening Namrata Patel, an Avon resident for nine years, takes a walk around her neighborhood, and she’s thrilled with the diversity she sees daily.
“We’re of Indian descent and of Hindu faith and everyone we have met has been accepting and welcoming of us,” Patel says. “Not only that, but people help one another out and look out for each other’s kids. It’s a close-knit community.”
“People will sometimes step into our Hindu temple and ask questions about our faith just out of curiosity,” adds Aktta Patel, mother of two young children, That’s how both tolerance and knowledge grow — from simply engaging in conversation and asking questions.”
Khan agrees. This past spring, she began volunteering once a week as a greeter at Hendricks Regional Hospital in Danville where she can warmly invite others into the community the way she was greeted when she first arrived.
“In other places I’ve lived, I never really connected with the people around me, but that’s not the case here,” Khan says. “In Avon, no matter who I met, I felt at home, and that’s because it’s the community and the people in a community that make a place feel like home.”