Organizing a block party is one of the best ways to connect with your neighbors. National Night Out – the brain child of National Association of Town Watch – is just 3 weeks away. NNO is an annual community-building campaign that promotes neighborhood camaraderie and safety. Will you consider organizing A Night Out for your neighborhood?
Many communities have free flyers and helpful tips available; simply look up your city’s municipal website and you’ll probably find an NNO link with registration and information (City of Seattle page here).
As inspiration, today I’m re-posting my story from last fall about Kristine from Seattle who, for the past several years, has taken her NNO to the next level.
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 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?”
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?
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.
“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.”