10 Ways to Build Community

Kids doing a lemonade stand

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Small steps can make a big difference in your neighborhood

We all thrive from connection—whether it’s with family, friends or neighbors. Creating a network of friendly relationships in your neighborhood can give you a greater feeling of belonging and wellbeing. Working together to create a tighter-knit community makes you feel like you are part of something bigger than yourself. Here are nine simple ideas to get you started:

1. Step outside your front door. Sometimes, you have to leave your house to make things happen, but you don’t have to go far. Casual encounters are sometimes the best kind. Meet neighbors while getting your mail, planting flowers or weeding out front. Tinker in your garage with the door open, or just hang out on your front porch or lawn. Try walking to a nearby business instead of driving, when possible, and you're more likely to run into others on the way.

2. Front yard fun. Pretend your front yard is your backyard, and focus your leisure and play activities out there. Put your picnic table or lawn chairs out front and hang out; as you read or watch the world go by, people will stop to chat and introduce themselves. If you have kids, host a lemonade stand on a hot day. Not only will you meet more neighbors, your kids will also earn a few bucks.

3. Host a block party or neighborhood potluck. Pick a date and time and distribute a flier for a neighborhood cookout, potluck or party. Everyone can participate and share in the hosting. Have your cookout at a common area like a nearby park or a clubhouse—or on your own front lawn, if that works. It’s not a new idea, but it’s still one of the nicest way to meet your neighbors on a positive footing.

4. Plant a community garden. If you have a common grassy area or someone who is willing to donate part of their land, you can create a community garden where lots of hands, big and little, can create something beautiful together. Often a neighbor with some gardening knowledge can take charge, or you might hire someone from the local nursery to come tutor you and get things started.

5. Establish a book-lending cupboard. Imagine a tiny little library in a neighborhood park. A library cupboard typically looks like a big mailbox with a clear glass door and books inside. Leave a book, take a book. Check out LittleFreeLibrary.org to get started.

6. Start a tool lending library. See if your community library can donate a space that you can turn it into a tool sharing center. Neighbors can donate used tools, and if possible, get donations from local hardware and home stores. Need a tiller, a chainsaw, a snow-blower or a tall ladder? Instead of every household stocking its own stash of power tools, make it a shared community resource.  

7. Create a neighborhood social media page. Private neighborhood Facebook pages were becoming so popular that the idea spawned its own company, Nextdoor.com. This electronic bulletin board allows people to share recommendations for everything from preschool to refrigerator repair; find the home of a lost dog, or share information about your upcoming garage sale. According to the company, 70 new neighborhoods launch a neighborhood website every day in the US. Volunteer to start it up or be the facilitator.

8. Organize a neighborhood garage sale. Pick out a time and place, announce it on your neighborhood social media and on cardboard signs, and get together to bond with neighbors over old lamps and baby strollers.

9. Give a warm welcome. See a new neighbor move in? Pop by with a fruit basket, cookies or bottle of wine and a welcoming note. It’s a great way to actually meet, instead of waving blankly across the driveway. As a bonus, it puts you in a better position, should you ever need to borrow a cup of sugar or have someone water your plants while you’re away.

10. Ask yourself how you can be a better neighbor. If you set out to be a fabulous neighbor you can set a positive tone for your community and others will follow. Look out for elderly neighbors by checking in on them occasionally or bringing them something from the store. Pick up the mail or newspaper for a neighbor who is traveling, or shovel a neighbor’s driveway in the winter if they are unable to do it themselves. Even just smiling and waving when you pass someone in the street has the cumulative effect of warming up the neighborhood.

For more about community, see the August issue of Live Happy magazine.

 

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