The part I liked most about my neighborhood when we first moved in almost 10 years ago was that it was older. Nice sized lots with trees, brick homes, basement ranchers, and overall a quiet place for walks and raising children. A neighborhood that reminded me of my own childhood home where we would play outside all day until the street lights came on and would hang out with the other neighborhood kids. I had always wanted a neighborhood with a sense of community. I had seen people share that their neighborhoods had gatherings and social events and I wanted that too for where I lived. But being in an older neighborhood, we do not have the amenities and resources that most of the newer neighborhoods have. Community playgrounds, a clubhouse, pool, tennis courts, basketball courts, or even an HOA that normally handles the community outreach. I never thought any of what I longed for in a neighborhood community would ever happen since we didn’t have any of those specific things. So when the lockdown happened in the spring of 2020, it spurred something within me that said “now is the time.”
If you live in a neighborhood that doesn’t have any sort of HOA or community outreach, here are some tips on how to get one started and the benefits it has brought to our neighborhood:
Start a Facebook Group
Starting a Facebook group for my neighborhood was the easiest way I could think of to get in contact with everyone, keep people up to date, and plan events. You are probably thinking, “So how am I supposed to create a Facebook group full of people in my neighborhood if I don’t know anyone’s name or even what they look like?” Yes, not everyone is on Facebook and yes, it was challenging to be able to get everyone in the group, but here are a few things you can do to get started:
- Add who you know: You’re bound to know at least one or two neighbors in your neighborhood. Start by adding who you know.
- Word of mouth: Once you add who you know, have them add who they know and to tell people that you might see outside in their yard or taking a walk that there is a new neighborhood Facebook group to join and explain the purpose of it.
- Flyers: Make a flyer with your group information on it and tape it on the outside of mailboxes or newspaper boxes and make sure every house gets one.
- Utilize Facebook: You may have to do a little internet stalking. Check and see if you have a community Facebook page for your part of town. In the search bar of that page, search your neighborhood name so that it would pull up all the posts that pertain to your specific neighborhood. From there you can direct message to confirm or deny if any of those people live in your subdivision.
With all of those combined, you will eventually have a Facebook group filled with your neighbors.
Communication: We are now able to communicate with each other as a community. We inform each other of lost packages, lost dogs, power outages, suspicious activity, or generally anything else that might be specifically happening in our neighborhood or on our street. We are able to notify each other of referrals for businesses and give recommendations for babysitters, pet sitters, or lawn care. Sometimes you hear horror stories of other neighborhood groups that have people who make posts to complain or start drama. It can come with the territory, but as a page administrator, you can monitor misconduct and if you choose to, you can set page rules to omit those types of issues and shut it down if it ever happens. Thankfully, nothing like that has ever happened in ours and our neighbors genuinely seem to care and watch out for one another.
Sense of community: We can now put faces with names, we speak to each other and wave at each other as we walk or drive by. Before the Facebook group was started, I didn’t know that there were many other children that lived here. During the lockdown in 2020, we organized a teddy bear hunt, chalk walks, and even participated in the Knoxville Moms virtual Easter egg hunt. These were simple things that brought smiles to people’s faces and that we loved to share on our group page with one another. At the time, we had never been trick or treating in our own neighborhood. Through the group, we were able to know who was participating and share the excitement of Halloween like there once was years ago.
Neighborhood events: Events have been ranging from community yard sales and firework shows on the 4th, to food trucks during the summer. I always wanted to have food trucks in our subdivision. The idea of walking down the street for a dinner that I didn’t have to cook sounded so nice. So, since we now had the page, we took a poll to see if there was interest. Most people were interested, so with the help of others, we created our first ever neighborhood food truck event last year. We have had amazing participation and we are talking as a group about other fun activities to enjoy and that can give more opportunities for everyone to meet their neighbors.
I am blown away by the participation we’ve had so far in our neighborhood. The sense of community, support, and experiences that my kids will hopefully remember as part of their childhood makes my heart smile. As it turns out, you don’t need to live somewhere with amenities or an HOA to bring your neighborhood together. If you want it, start it. It can be a little overwhelming and scary, but you can just start small. Chances are, there are neighbors out there willing to help who also want the same sense of community.