“Loving your neighbor” is kind of hard to do if you’ve never met your neighbors (or haven’t seen them since you moved in). That’s why you should plan a neighborhood party; here’s how.
by Jerry Windley-Daoust
“Love your neighbor,” the Bible says—but that’s kind of hard to do if you haven’t met your neighbor, or seen them since before winter. Organizing a neighborhood party is one way to start remedying that situation. It’s not as complicated as you think (if you keep it simple), and there are lots of benefits: building connections with your neighbors makes your home a safer (and richer) place for your kids to grow up, plus you’re modeling leadership and community-building.
We’ve been helping to organize a neighborhood block party for five years now; as old pros, the handful of neighbors involved in organizing the event pretty much know what to do to make it happen without any meetings. Here are the basic steps:
- Someone calls the city to apply for a permit to close the street.
- Someone calls the parks and recreation department to rent games and have them send staff (trained college students) to organize games for the kids.
- Someone makes up flyers to distribute to neighbors a month before the event.
- We put up signs, which we made at a local print shop.
- We hire a local musician and take up a collection at the event (about $100 for two hours).
- It’s pot luck, so everyone brings their own dish to pass, as well as utensils and place settings and seating. The three or four of us on the committee always buy a bunch of paper plates and haul out some extra chairs and tables.
- We print off Human Bingo game cards as an easy ice breaker. (Google “Human Bingo” for lots of examples.)
- We call the police, fire station, and local politicians, and invite them to attend.
- Some years we offer door prizes from local businesses.
The first couple years will be more work, but if it becomes a tradition, and if you recruit a few neighbors to help, it’s not that much work…and your kids will enjoy it, and meet the neighbors, who can watch out for them as they are out and about in the neighborhood over the summer.
Need more guidance? Check out this Neighborhood Block Party Kit.