Neighborhoods used to be like extended families. We knew the people who lived around us, and even in neighboring blocks. When I was growing up, my parents knew all the other parents in our neighborhood. Moms were at home, and they knew all the kids.
The neighborhood dynamics have changed quite a bit since I was a child (back in the Stone Age), but one thing I know for certain is that there are benefits in knowing your neighbors.
Neighborhoods tend to be safer where people on the same block or street know each other. That is why the Neighborhood Watch system is so effective. Criminals tend to stay away from areas where people may be watching them.
We moved to our block in 1991. It was a new street, and people got to know each other as their houses were being built. As soon as most of the houses were occupied, we decided to have a block party. It was lots of fun. We were bonded by a few common threads. First of all, we lived on the same street, and secondly our houses were built by the same contractor.
Since that time, we have had many more block parties. The occupants of the houses have changed. Some of them are now renters, but we still have a few things in common. We live on the same street, and we want our street to be safe. The best way to assure that safety is for us to know each other.
Having block parties is not as difficult as one might think, but it does require that someone start the process. When we first began having block parties in 1993, we just put together a flyer to inform all the neighbors. Then someone went to the City of Madera to get permission to close off the street. Each year, the process of getting the permit was different, and that was somewhat frustrating. The city had a bit of a problem with the concept of a bunch of neighbors getting together in the street. One year, the city decided we needed an insurance policy to indemnify the city. This would cost our neighbors about $385.
We couldn’t believe it. Our parties were just a bunch of neighbors getting together on their own street. Robert Poythress, who was a city councilman at the time, came to our rescue. He paid the insurance for us that year. The following year, Rob and some employees from the City of Madera attended our block party to see what we were doing.
We never had a problem with permits again. The city recognized the benefits of neighborhood gatherings, and now the process has changed again. All I have to do is call Christina Herrera at the City of Madera, and she puts our block party on the city calendar. The city blocks off the street for us.
The support of neighborhood gatherings has increased greatly in Madera over the years. There is a new awareness for the need for neighbors to know neighbors. The City of Madera began participating in National Night Out in 2014. This is a time designated for neighbors to hang out in their front yards or in a neighbor’s front yard, and visit with each other. The event is scheduled in Madera on the first Tuesday of August.
If you are interested in tips for a good block party, or just want to know what our neighborhood has done, please don’t hesitate to email me at firstname.lastname@example.org. I will be happy to share with you what we have done. We have always tried to keep our parties “low budget.” I am a master at that, and I have found that with a little creativity, we can have a wonderful block party at practically no cost.
Love your neighbors, and get to know them.
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Keep on loving one another as brothers and sisters. Do not forget to show hospitality to strangers, for by so doing some people have shown hospitality to angels without knowing it.
— Hebrews 13:1-2