Before the Griffin family moved from Upper Marlboro to Round Bay in Severna Park last June, they had one condition: they wanted to meet the neighbors. Coming from a community with a predominantly Black population to one with mostly white residents, they wanted to avoid any tension.
“We moved in around time of the George Floyd situation and the marches,” said Kim Griffin, the family mom. “My husband, Charles, suggested that we meet the neighbors and that they might want to meet us.”
The family had a simple reason for moving: all three Griffin kids play sports and attend school in Anne Arundel County — with the eldest child, Tiana, at Severn School and sons CJ and Ryan at Annapolis Area Christian School — so they were spending too much time commuting. While waiting for their new Davidsonville home to be built, they struck a deal to stay in Ann Hagerott’s Round Bay home and to bring their Labrador, Favor.
“When we came over the very first time, just the warmth that we felt was amazing,” Kim said. “The neighbors came outside. They had sodas and we were just talking, and they were asking us questions and we asked them questions as well. That was the start of something beautiful.”
From June to December 2020, the Griffins built special friendships in Round Bay. Thanks to neighbors Deke and Kim Johnson, the kids quickly made friends. CJ was one architect behind the entry that won the annual cardboard boat race. He also developed a passion for fishing.
“We had some amenities [in Upper Marlboro], we had some nice trails, but we didn’t have a dock and water,” Kim said. “CJ, every morning, he will wake me up around 5:00 and say, ‘Mom, can you come with me to the Naval Academy? I heard it’s a spot.’”
When the Griffins’ temporary home flooded, Deke and other neighbors rushed to their side to help.
Deke called the Griffins “an absolute joy to have as neighbors.”
“They are a real all-American family, always out doing stuff, playing sports together or barbequing,” Deke said. “They certainly knew how to enjoy the amenities that the community offered; CJ and Ryan loved to go down to the pier to fish. We are really going to miss having them next door, but I am hoping we have made a friendship that will continue long after they have gone.”
Kim said that one resident, after admitting previous prejudices, changed his perspective. He offered to lend the family kayaks and make them feel welcome.
“It was a random act of kindness and I felt his heart,” Kim said.
When Hagerott returned home for Thanksgiving, the Griffins needed to find another home for five days. Kim was stressing over the situation, but Jen and Sean Degnan then offered their home.
“It was a perfect solution as they have a dog and we needed someone to watch our two pups!” Jen said. “It was a wonderful exchange and we have loved getting to know them better.”
The Griffins have enjoyed Round Bay so much that they organized a photo shoot to capture the special moment.
“Round Bay has changed my life,” Kim said. “I hope to keep the relationships that we’ve made.”
Although the Griffin family expects to move into their new home before Christmas, their time in Round Bay has left a positive impact, Hagerott said.
“This was an opportunity for people in the community to be a bridge, to show they are not prejudiced,” Hagerott said. “It was a beautiful situation that I believe God provided.”
Tiana plays lacrosse, basketball and field hockey, but the neighbors in the community probably know her from lacrosse, Kim said.
“She spent countless hours in the front yard on the bounce-back, and so they see her and hear her all the time, and they see those yellow balls going up and down the street,” Kim said.
CJ plays basketball, soccer and baseball. After living in Round Bay, he discovered a love for fishing, and he was part of the team that won Round Bay’s annual cardboard boat race.
Ryan’s parents describe him as a go-getter. “He is a very friendly guy,” Kim said. “He loves new things, so when we said, ‘Hey, we’re going to move to a new community,’ he was totally for it. He is such a trooper.”
Ryan plays soccer, lacrosse and basketball.