Last week I shared my celebration with you about taking the risk to organize a block party with just one week’s notice, the result of which was getting the opportunity to meet five neighbors I didn’t yet know. Along with several neighbors I do know, we all enjoyed a casual evening of new connections. It really was awesome.
I was inspired to try this after hearing about three National Night Out block parties via friends and blog followers who were willing to share their stories with me. A couple of weeks ago, I connected with Kristine, a Bellingham transplant who now resides in North Seattle. She has been organizing a NNO block party in her neighborhood for the past seven years. What started out as a simple potluck, grew this year to include a parade and a roasted pig. How did this all come together?
New in the neighborhood
When Kristine first moved into her Seattle neighborhood, she did something I WISH I would have done when I moved into mine: rather than waiting for everyone else to knock on her door and roll out the welcome wagon, she made a point to bake and deliver cookies to everyone on her block in order to introduce herself. Nicely done, Kristine!
“I’m actually quite introverted,” Kristine said, “but my parents taught me to be friendly and to make a point to get know our neighbors.” As she began to form neighborly connections, she and her neighbor across the street, Gina, attended a North Seattle neighborhood organizational meeting where they encouraged Seattleites to organize block parties for National Night Out.
“We thought it was a great idea, so we registered our event with the city (http://www.seattle.gov/) and I hand delivered a flyer to everyone on our street,” Kristine said. “If I knew them by name already, I put their name on the flyer as a more personalized invitation.
“The first year was a simple potluck. We blocked off the street and someone from the police and fire department stopped by to talk about safety.”
And, her motivation for investing the time? “One reason we pursued (the NNO) was at the very least we think it’s a good idea to know and recognize the people who live in your own neighborhood so that you can recognize the people who don’t. So you know if someone or something looks suspicious, otherwise how would you know?”
[For more on neighborhood block parties, read Becky’s post “Top 3 reasons why fall is a GREAT time to host a block party”]
Kicking it up a notch
After six years of various iterations of the NNO, this last summer her neighborhood decided to create a bigger event.
“A couple of years ago a couple moved in (the block) that knew more about the city’s grant system,” she said. “The city really encourages NNO and wants to help make it happen and encourage neighborhood improvements. So, I got online and got connected to one of the program coordinators who was SUPER helpful. I filled out the paperwork, got a ‘fiscal sponsor’ and then I made up my budget.”
What activities did they add?
“Well, we had a roasted pig!” Kristine laughed. “And, one of the young people, Charlie, who grew up on our block is in a band now, so he and his band came and played.”
As a previous Sunday School teacher, Kristine knew how to organize kids events and activities so she pulled together a kids’ bike parade. “We now have eight kids under the age of eight on our block, so we really wanted to do something fun for them. I thought, ‘all you need to do is get some craft supplies and let the kids do the rest.’ ”
They wrapped up the evening together by tossing a large sheet on the side of a truck and watching a movie together.
Ninety percent of Kristine’s block participated in this year’s NNO. They also encouraged everyone to bring their close friends and extended family to share in the event. ”It’s nice to recognize and know the people that are important to my neighbor’s lives,” she said. “Increasing our connection with one another increases our comfort with communicating if there’s a concern. It just makes you feel safer.
“I think organizing a block party around the National Night Out encourages people to participate because there’s a type of “good-community-should” attached to it,” she summed up. “In other words, it’s a good thing to do for the community as well as ourselves, almost like a public service. Being a part of a larger movement, it does really motivate people to participate.”
Her thoughts on the Seattle Freeze?
I’m an in-home care nurse so I guess I’m already comfortable going into people’s homes, but I think, in general, Seattleites don’t seem to be comfortable coming into each other’s houses.
I think we (Seattleites) tend to have a barrier when it comes to our time. We are busy and I think sometimes we evaluate getting to know people because we’re a little hesitant to commit our time. We are a little afraid to invest in people because we seem to be afraid of ‘what kind of time commitment might be expected of me.’ I sense that that feeling makes us shrink back a bit.
For example: I do water aerobics and I really couldn’t tell you anyone’s name until they’ve been there for a year because people pop in and drop out so often. I think to myself, ‘why would I make the effort to introduce myself when I have no idea if it’ll be 3 months before I see them again.’
My parents used to always go out to dinner with friends. The old dinner parties in the 50’s and 60’s – you just don’t see anymore. Sometimes I wonder if Facebook has replaced that.
Tuesday, August 4, 2015
Next year’s National Night Out is Tuesday, Aug. 4. Think about putting a mental place holder on that calendar date. Think about maybe being the catalyst in your neighborhood to formally register your ‘neck of the woods’ and organize an NNO block party. Think about setting a goal of, between now and Aug. 4 next summer, knowing every face & name on your block or street, giving you the ability to make a personal invitation to each neighbor to attend.
Think about what an inspiring night out that could be for your community.