During one of my husband’s deployments, I formed a Friday night supper club – five women and 15 kids under the age of eight. For eight months, we got together every Friday night for an informal block party complete with a potluck meal and games. The kids played outside. The adults laughed. And for a minute we felt like we weren’t the middle of a war. More than a year later, after some neighbors had moved on and new ones arrived, we had a Halloween block party. Every kid in the neighborhood was dressed in their best costume, tables and fire pits lined many driveways, and for a few short hours, everyone on our street got along.
Looking back at our two decades in the Marine Corps, we lived in a few neighborhoods that stand out —ones that really helped us bloom where we were planted. They were neighborhoods where we knew who lived next door to us and we all made an effort to “be neighborly.” We built a community with the people around us. Whether you live on or off an installation, organizing a block party can be a great way to get to know the people in your neighborhood. Here are some tips to get you started.
- Set a standing time. Choose an evening on the calendar and stick to it. It’s easier for people to plan to attend when a recurring date is set. Whether you choose the first Friday or the second Saturday of every month, be consistent in your planning.
- Hand out anonymous invitations. When you think block party, think “all-inclusive.” Distributing invitations anonymously adds a sense of inclusion. The goal is not to gain notoriety as the best party planner on the block; it’s to get everyone together in one place.
- Work together. Enlist the help of one or two neighbors. In the beginning, it may only be you and one or two other families participating – and that’s okay! Building a community takes time. Be consistent in your efforts to make everyone feel welcome, and you’ll be surprised by how many people will join in.
- Pick a neutral location. The quickest way to become a community nuisance rather than a community builder is to block streets or driveways. Be sure to consider any homeowners association, apartment complex, or housing regulations that may play a role in how and where you set up your party. Be mindful that after a long day, people want to be able to pull into their driveway with ease.
Living in a community where people know and lean on each other can certainly make life easier when times are difficult. Party on!