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Parties bond neighborhoods

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Organizers of the annual neighborhood block parties want participants to have a good time. But beyond that, they aim to strengthen the ties between those who live close to each other in Yellow Springs.

“There’s been a longtime commitment from the HRC to rebuild neighborhood connections and community,” said Joan Chappelle of the Human Relations Commission, or HRC. “We want people to not only meet each other but take care of each other.”

This year’s official neighbood block party time is Sunday, Aug. 21, from 5–8 p.m., although organizers may host their party on Friday or Saturday of that weekend instead. While some neighborhood organizers have responded to the call to host block parties, those who haven’t may still do so by contacting Chappelle at 767-7056 or Patti Dallas at 767-7884.

Parties are already planned for the neighborhoods of West Center College/West South College; Omar Circle; Friends Care Community/Herman/Marshall; Kingsfield/Thistle Creek; Livermore/Kurt; Rice Road; Stafford Street; Limestone Street; Pleasant/Walnut; Whitehall/Northwood; the cul de sac on High Street, and East Fairfield/Cemetery/Cliff Streets.

This is the third year that the HRC has sponsored the events, having first been inspired by block parties on Stafford and Limestone Streets that villagers organized, Chappelle said. Last year, 19 neighborhoods took part, and Chappelle and Dallas visited most of them.

“At each party we heard people say, ‘I never would have met this person, and I’m so excited to know them,” Chappelle said.

Janeal Ravndal, who last year attended two parties at sites near her Friends Care Community Independent Living home, echoed those observations.

“I met people I didn’t know,” she said. “There was a lot of good food and good talk.”

This year, she and neighbor Jean Nealon are hosting their neighborhood’s party at Cedar Court at FCC. Nealon, who’s a relative newcomer to town, is especially excited to meet more people. She and Ravndal are not only planning a potluck for the event, but also soliciting local businesses for gift certificates that will be used for prizes for those who attend.

Other neighborhood parties last year also included extras, such as Skip Leeds’ live band at the Kingsfield party, the children’s parade at Stafford Street, and the neighborhood history presentation by Jalyn Roe at the Herman Street gathering.

But block party organizers don’t need to do anything beyond inviting their neighbors, and making sure tables, chairs, and potluck offerings appear at the party, Chappelle emphasized. Each neighborhood organizer gets a $20 voucher for supplies from Tom’s Market; a box of chalk for sidewalk drawing; name­tags; and a form to fill out to alert police as to which street to block off, and when.

Strengthening neighborhoods is one of the HRC’s three goals, with the others being promoting community in the village, and working to build youth leadership.

The need for more neighborhood connections is apparent across the country, according to Chappelle, as people move more frequently for work than in recent generations and families end up scattered. And in Yellow Springs, that trend seems especially apparent, as many of the town’s young people grow up and leave town, and many people move in and out of neighborhoods.

“The idea of having extended family here is kind of rare,” Chappelle said.

What extended families provide is care for its members, and the HRC aims to strengthen that function of neighborhoods, she said. At last year’s parties, some villagers signed up to be their neighborhood’s representative in case of emergencies. And during weather emergencies this year, such as the February ice storm and the summer heat wave, those representatives were out knocking on doors, making sure all were safe.

“What we wanted to happen is what’s happening,” Chappelle said. “Hopefully it becomes second nature for people to gather, have fun together and check in on each other.”


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