When Debra and Jesse Bowman moved into Ansley Place subdivision in Harlem, their neighbors rolled out the welcome mat.
The day before the Bowmans were supposed to move, Debra became ill, and they decided to postpone the move. On moving day, their new neighbors at Ansley Place noticed they hadn't arrived yet, so they called and asked why they hadn't started moving in, because they wanted to help unload the trucks.
When they learned that Debra was sick, their neighbors drove over to the Bowmans' home, loaded up some trailers and pickup trucks and helped the family settle into their new house.
"In 2 1/2 hours, we were in here," Jesse said.
This was just a glimpse of the neighborly atmosphere at Ansley Place. One morning, the Bowmans were out in their backyard laying sod. Their next-door neighbor came over to help, Debra said.
"We are very fortunate to find this. It's 1950 in 2011. The people here make you feel welcome. It's just a close-knit community. You just feel home," Debra said.
The Bowmans moved to Ansley Place in June 2009 because they wanted to downsize from their two-story home on Hereford Farm Road. Soon after his retirement from Savannah River Site, Jesse accepted the job as the public safety director in Harlem.
He calls Ansley Place "the best-kept secret in Columbia County."
"It's a great neighborhood. It's family-friendly. Everybody watches out for the kids. We love it here," he said.
Their one-level home with three bedrooms and two baths has an open floor plan. They downsized from a 3,000-square-foot home to 1,800 square feet.
"But I have plenty of living space. For Christmas, I had my whole family, about 20 of us. We just set up tables. The feel of the house, the openness, that's really what sold me on the house. The house flows really well," Debra said.
She has decorated her home with a safari theme and purchased many of the accessories at Harlem businesses.
The large backyard was another selling point. There's enough room for a swing and trampoline for her grandchildren, and she also has a back porch for outdoor living, she said.
Jesse loves sitting on the porch on Sunday mornings and listening to the church bells and organ playing at a nearby church.
People don't realize how much Harlem has to offer, Debra said. The town has a variety of restaurants and businesses and activities such as the Mayor's Chili Cookoff and the Oliver Hardy Festival, which draws 35,000 to 40,000 people to downtown Harlem each year. Harlem will soon have a new public safety building and theater, Jesse said.
Neighbors in Ansley Place look out for one another. Recently, a neighbor was deployed overseas, and several others volunteered to take care of the yard while he was away. When a moving specialist was at the home packing his belongings, neighbors called to make sure his wife was OK, because they saw an unfamiliar car in the neighborhood, Jesse said.
"It seems like everybody who moves in here is just a match. We have block parties. Everybody knows everybody. Everybody is willing to help everybody. I can guarantee you, if you're a stranger in here, we find out who you are," Jesse said.