Grow Grand Island received an AARP Quick Action Challenge Grant in 2022 for a neighborhood strengthening project called “The Art of Neighboring.” The grant provided the funding to supply free kits to equip people with tools and guidance to hold a gathering in their neighborhood.
Kits were distributed last year during the Global Leadership Summit held at Third City Christian Church. Kits are available this year at the public library (remaining Mondays in July 3-6pm or Saturday July 22 11am-2pm), or by request via the Contact page on growgrandisland.com.
Grow Grand Island’s project is patterned after National Night Out, which was introduced in August of 1984 through an already established network of law enforcement agencies, neighborhood watch groups, civic groups and regional crime prevention associations and volunteers across the nation. The first annual National Night Out involved 2.5 million neighbors across 400 communities in 23 states.
This year’s National Night out is August 1—it is always the first Tuesday in August. Although this date is targeted nationally for neighborhood events, local neighborhood events are encouraged anytime it works. Spring, summer or fall are great opportunities for gathering outside.
It is important to note that events do not need to be elaborate or complex to be effective. Asking neighbors to gather in your driveway for some ice cream or a cold beverage is a great way to connect. Or, how about bag chairs and a corn hole game! It is more about creating an opportunity to gather together and get to know one another (better).
According to Police Captain Elliott, we had a few neighborhoods participating pre-pandemic in the National Night Out, including his own. Since the pandemic, however, there has not been much activity. He feels this project could ignite and grow neighborhood engagement, which he supports and encourages.
As stated in the book The Art of Neighboring (included in the kit), "the individuals we live next to have a big impact on the quality of our lives. In the grand scheme of things, relationships are much more important than bricks and mortar, and our neighborhoods are much more than collections of houses."
Also, this quote from the book sums up the challenge many of us have as humans: "It's so easy to draw negative conclusions about the neighbors we've only glimpsed." So, get a kit and have some fun getting to know your neighbors! Strong neighborhoods make strong communities.