Story by David Wesley | Photos courtesy of Ann Perry, Pleasant Ridge City Commission
FERNDALE FRIENDS: When and how did the idea of city block clubs come about?
Ann Perry: The whole City Commission started talking about block clubs a while ago. Some streets in Pleasant Ridge already had strong block clubs organized, and we recognized how those clubs lead to a greater sense of connection within the smaller community of their street.
This connection with the neighbors and community around them is something that many people who move to Pleasant Ridge tend to enthusiastically embrace. We are a community of front porches, sidewalks and neighbors who like to get out and talk to their neighbors.
FF: What’s the overall aim of the block clubs?
AP: The overall aim is Block parties! It sounds superficial, but as one of the block captains on Kenberton told me, “The biannual parties get us talking with one another. They serve as an immediate welcome to new neighbors.” We have had many new residents move into the neighborhood over the past few years, and having a gathering with neighbors is a great way to help introduce people so later, they can strike up a conversation on the street. When you know your neighbors and their family by name, you feel more connected which can lead to friendships and sometimes helping each other out. Block clubs also do things like have book clubs, celebrate new babies and set out luminarias.
The Commission also sees that block clubs help communicate when emergencies like the flood happened last summer, or the catastrophic tree storms that left us without power for a week, or if a Neighborhood Watch alert goes out. These are times when communication with residents is key. Also when there are small things like a neighbor needs help with snow removal, or take soup to each other when they are under the weather.
Many times the discussion of aging in place has come up in our City. The neighbors on Oakdale helped a long-time resident, who had raised her children in Pleasant Ridge, stay in her home for many years longer than if she had not had the connection of her street. They did this by just helping with simple chores and sharing some meals. It was also a great experience for the kids. They learned how to reach out and help their neighbor.
This connection leads to a lot of fun as well. The Devonshire block club and PRPC joined together with beer shop 8 Degrees Plato, donated money and gave two beer wagons to the PR Foundation Auction this spring. These wagons raised over $300 for the Foundation! Wellesley is one of the stronger block clubs. They have monthly events through the summer, and then slightly less frequent winter events. Their May event is called Gainsboro Games, and the group will spend their Saturday in the park with fun competitions for kids and adults! The Oxford summer block party has a bounce house and slushy machine. They also frequently win the bidding at the Auction to have the Ferndale Fire Department show up at their party. Fairwood and Oakdale invite the entire city to their block parties.
Block clubs have a dedicated Facebook page or email list to help keep everyone informed about the next event or other information. They also know their neighbors who are not online and know to connect with them at their door or by phone. The Amherst club even does a newsletter that gets delivered to every home on the street.
I have heard from folks who have lived in their homes for 40 years, and they are excited to hear that new neighbors are going to restart the block clubs like they did years ago. Many neighbors want to help get the club started. With the busy lives everyone leads, we are working to get three to five Block Captains on every street so that they can all share in the tasks.
FF: How do you get block clubs started?
AP: There are many ways to kick off a block club. Wellesley restarted their club this year and they used a simple approach. They had a party to plan their parties! They put out a flyer on the door of every home on the street inviting them to a gathering. They could bring a dish or not, but encouraged people to join in on the planning.
Another idea is putting out a flyer to each home on your street collecting contact information so you can build a directory for your street. This way you can create an email list or Facebook page that will help you share information. You can check out some ideas on our PR Block Clubs Facebook page at www.facebook.com/groups/prblockclubs/, or email me at APerry@cityofpleasantridge.org and I can send you some information.
FF: What’s the future of the clubs looking, or is it too soon to tell?
AP: We should be able to have block clubs on each of the streets within the year. People have raised their hands to lead the effort on almost every street! As people see different block clubs coming together, it will inspire people to connect their own blocks. There will be starts and stops, but that is how things get built.
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