SPRINGFIELD, Mo. – Chris Rodell, author of "Growing Up in Mr. Rogers' REAL Neighborhood: Life Lessons from the Heart of Latrobe, PA," will be the live guest in University of Missouri Extension's free monthly zoom class, Neighboring 101, starting at noon (CST) on Thursday, March 17.

His book has previously untold stories of Fred Rogers being a life-saving superhero and being perfectly human. In a world that cries out for civility and healing, it's the only book about Mister Rogers' Neighborhood by an author who calls the place home.

"The book is about the influence Latrobe had on young Fred, the influence the adult Fred had on Latrobe, and the influence both exerted on the author," said Rodell.

Rodell is the author of eight books, including a popular on Arnold Palmer. In Rodell's career as a freelance writer, he has wrestled alligators, raced Ferraris, gone skydiving, lain on beds of nails, and gained 20 pounds in one week eating like Elvis. 

His presentation is entitled "Fred Rogers and the Urgent Benefits of Being Defiantly Kind."

More information about the speaker is available on this website


According to David Burton, community development specialist, University of Missouri Extension, March 20 is "Won't You Be My Neighbor Day," which is Mister Fred Rogers's birthday.

"The timing of the class gives us a great opportunity to learn more about Mister Rogers and consider some neighboring ideas through the lens of his real neighborhood," said Burton. "I think you will find the program to be worth your time."

To attend the class live or get access to the class videos, you must register for Neighboring 101 at

Over 500 people from across the United States are enrolled in Neighboring 101. Since the class began in late 2019, courses and videos have had over 10,000 views or attendees.


Burton says he is committed to doing the Neighboring 101 class at least through the end of 2022, even longer if interest remains. Currently, scheduled speakers for Neighboring 101 sessions in 2022 include:

April 21, 2022 – This session will focus on throwing a block party with a panel of experts from six city's nationwide that offer residents block party trailers or kits. There will also be an update on LAWN (Lawn Art With Neighbors) from April 28 to May 12 in Greene County, Missouri.

May 19, 2022 – Our first guest speaker will be DeaMon Harges of Indiana. DeaMon is a community listener in a poor, urban neighborhood. There will also be an update from the Neighborhoods USA conference and the We Are Neighbors initiative in Springfield, Mo.

The June class is focuses on connector training for Missouri Good Neighbor Week and in July, Judy Larson, a communityist from Lemmon, South Dakota, will be speak about multigenerational community solutions.


According to Burton, neighboring is defined as the art and skill of building relationships with the people who live in closest proximity to you. Neighboring begins by learning and using names, it grows through associations, and ultimately it bears fruit with engaged neighbors who can positively impact their neighborhood and community.

"Developing relationships with our neighbors may provide a solution to our national epidemic of loneliness, isolation, and depression," said Burton. "But engaged neighboring also helps people, organizations, and communities expand the participation of voices while respecting differences and embracing the diversity that makes communities vibrant places to live, work, and play."

University of Missouri Extension is at the forefront of a national movement recognizing the importance of neighboring in community development. More about the impact of neighboring can be found online at or by contacting David Burton by email at or by telephone (417) 881-8909.

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