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Tips to turning your neighborhood into a community, part 2

Tips to turning your neighborhood into a community, part 2

Oct 28 2016

One of the main perks of owning a home is being part of a tight-knit neighborhood. In a previous post, we highlighted some of the benefits of creating a community in your area. Of course, improved security is a major benefit, with having someone to keep an eye on your home while you're away. Convenience is another advantage, as you need only walk across the street to borrow a cup of sugar. Perhaps most important, though, is the improvement in quality of life. Turning your neighbors into friends can make your home happier, and we have even more tips for doing just that:

Add Little Free Libraries
You've likely seen homes with those now-recognizable half-mailbox half-birdhouse structures containing books. The idea is that your neighbors - or anyone waltzing by our house - can take a book, and you trust that they will return it or replace it with a different novel.

This history of this trend is just as interesting as the concept. The idea came from Wisconsin native Todd Bol in 2009 when he built a one-room schoolhouse model, perched it on a post and filled it with books. It was a tribute to his mom, who was a teacher and lover of literature. The whole neighborhood enjoyed the creation. By 2011, his idea made national news. Because of the invention's booming popularity, Bol formed an independent organization called Little Free Library in 2011 dedicated to expanding this initiative across the country. As of June 2016, there are 40,000 little libraries.

As a homeowner, you have a unique opportunity to connect with both your local neighborhood and the country-wide community created through Little Free Library. You can build your own stand or buy one from the website, and then register it on the organization's world map. You might even have a neighbor who already started the free library movement in your area! Whether you're the first to start it or you're just joining in on the fun, the book exchange concept is a great way to connect with those who live around you.

Girl holding carrot in community garden.Get the neighborhood involved in a community garden.

Build a community garden
Gardening is one of America's favorite hobbies, so what better way to connect with community members than by growing flowers and vegetables together? Having the whole neighborhood in your backyard would cause quite the frenzy, so pick an easily accessible site that's not directly in your yard. A local business might have extra space on a grassy, fertile lot that you can use. Otherwise, reach out to your park district for more options. Whatever you choose, be sure to contact the landowner before doing any digging.

Michelle Obama's Let's Move! campaign website offered a few tips on deciding what to grow. For one, do some research on local plants to ensure what you pick will survive in the climate and soil. Additionally, consider the unique culture of your neighborhood. If your town has decided to live healthier lifestyles - maybe new bike paths and playgrounds are popping up - growing fruits and vegetables might be a good decision.

Friends eating on outdoor picnic table.Sharing a meal together is a great way to connect with neighbors.

Throw a block party
While this idea doesn't involve ongoing connections like the library or garden, you'd be surprised by the power one party can have. Consider picking a neighbor you're already friendly with as your planning partner, but keep an open invitation for this step, too.

Select activities that coincide with your community culture. For instance, if there are lots of kids around, organize family-friendly fun by playing a game of kickball, setting up a bouncy house or asking local firemen to bring a truck. Settings with more couples and less kids might enjoy raffles, backyard games like bocce ball or corn hole and, of course, some adult beverages.

When it comes to food, get the whole neighborhood involved with a potluck-style feast. You might get a taste of different cultures as well as give everyone a chance to contribute to the festivities. Most importantly, though, speak with your city about shutting down the street for the day. You certainly don't want cars zooming through your set-up, especially with kids around.

These are only three of many options available for turning your neighborhood into a community. It doesn't matter which strategy you take - just be sure to put some effort into building those important connections. You'll be rewarded with a happier, safer home.

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