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by Jill Evans

Re-Connecting With Neighbors

As the end of summer quickly app

roaches and kids get ready to start back to school, this is a great time to re-connect with your neighbors by throwing a fall block party or back-to-school block party.

Vacations, family reunions, sports camps, games and all the other activities of summer keep many people on the go with not a lot of time for interaction with neighbors. But once school starts, families seem to slow down a bit and stay home a little more. Families play together in their yards and take evening walks to catch up on the day’s events.

Fall is a great time to chat with neighbors, and even if you’re new to the neighborhood and don’t know many people, a block party is a great way to introduce yourself to your neighbors. So, why not get together with a few willing neighbors and plan a block party to bring everyone back together?

Block Party How To:

Survey The Neighbors

Approach a few neighbors to see if they would be willing to help you organize the block party. Print a simple flyer inviting all your neighbors to help plan the party and distributor around the neighborhood. This way no one can say, they “didn’t know” or were “left out.” You can deliver one to each home with the date, time and location of the planning meeting.

Encourage Help – Lure Them With Food

Host a planning meeting at your home with light refreshments. Make sure introductions are made so that those planning the party know each other.

Set a date and time for the block party according to school schedules and holidays.

Assign people various responsibilities related to the party such as advertisement, food, recreation, set-up and clean-up.

Determine how much money you are willing to invest and if the group will divide costs evenly or if certain people will pay for certain expenses. It is important to be very clear about the financial part of the party so that there is no opportunity for misunderstanding and awkward situations that can affect people for years to come.

Pick Your Location

Decide where in the neighborhood the block party will be. Are there certain homes children gravitate to? Is there a house with a large yard and a pool? Is there a clubhouse available? Would a cul-de-sac be the best for safety reasons?

Pick A Party Theme

Determine what kind of block party you’ll have – essentially a theme. Are all your neighbors elderly people? Singles? Families with small children? Consider the tone you want to set—family friendly? An adult only cocktail party? A get-to-know-you relaxing atmosphere? The answer to these question will determine your party's theme.

Plan The Menu – A Party Must Have Food

Cocktails and appetizers? Potluck? Burgers and hot dogs? Grilled steaks and chicken?

Will everyone be asked to bring a dish to share or will food be purchased in bulk and provided so that no one has to bring anything? Do you need a caterer to take care of the food?

Remember, the purpose of the party is to bring neighbors together and bringing something to share gives people a sense of belonging. Don’t assume it will be a burden to have a potluck meal—many conversations get started over a great dish.

Decorating, Mingling and Entertaining

Decide how you’ll decorate. Block parties were a big part of the 50’s era, so why not decorate retro-style with galvanized tubs filled with iced-down beverages, red and white checkered tablecloths, patio furniture, and 50’s music?

Consider the ages of your neighbors and use decorations and music that would bring smiles to their faces. Choose one or two ice-breaker games to play. While sometimes a little silly, ice-breakers really do help to get to know new people or ones you haven’t interacted with much. Use stick-on name tags to help people remember names.

Provide games and activities for children (if needed). Entertaining the children gives adults more time to interact and it helps the children get to know one another, too. For small children consider a moon bounce, inflatable slide or pony rides.

If you have older children and teens, a pool is a great place for them to hang out and play. If you do choose activities such as these, adult supervision is a must so that parents feel confident their children are safe.

Create A Neighborhood Directory

Give your neighbors a Neighborhood Directory. Have someone take digital photos of each family on the block. Have the family fill out a card with address, phone numbers, email addresses, names and birth dates of each family member and compile all information in a Neighborhood Directory complete with family photos. Once compiled, hand deliver copies to each neighbor and thank them for participating in the block party.

This is a great time to get feedback from the party, as well as make another contact with your neighbors. The photo directory helps to cement who people are so that when you see them on the street you can call them by name.

In this day and time of high technology, busy lives, and people living more independently from each other, making the effort to have a block party is a great way to show your neighbors you care. You might be surprised to find that everyone appreciates knowing their neighbors, especially those who may be going through a serious illness, a family problem or are just lonely. An invitation to a block party might be just the opportunity someone needs to slow down and strike up friendships with those who live close by—our neighbors.

A special thanks goes to:

To the Montgomery, AL caterer who let us use the photo of fruit & cheese.  Thanks A Social Event Caterers!

To the Tampa, Fl caterer who let us use the photo of brightly colored chairs.  Thanks G Elliot Catering