In this WLLB blog post we had the privilege to interview SoCO neighbor Darlene Martin, who hosted her very first neighbor event in her front driveway last Friday for the South of Conant neighborhood’s weekly-monthly Front Yard Friday celebration. Thank you Darlene for being a leader on your block. I hope you get to experience the fruit and joy that comes from the abundant life of neighborliness.
We Love Long Beach: What is Front Yard Fridays?
Darlene Martin: The goal of Front Yard Fridays is to encourage neighbors to spend time in their yards on Friday evening, doing whatever they’d like to do: sit and read, work in the yard, play with the kids, invite neighbors over. The idea is to encourage an atmosphere and opportunities for neighbors to meet and get to know each other, and have a visible presence which leads to a friendly, safe neighborhood.
WLLB: Why did you decide to host your neighbors in your front yard?
Darlene: I had wanted to host something since last year when I first got involved with SoCo connectors at Christine Gibson’s home and learned about the core groups ideas and what they had done. I tend to be shy, but have always felt that you get out of something what you put into it. This gave me a vehicle to meet more of my neighbors. I wasn’t sure how to get started. I was excited to get the WLLB Breakfast invitation to the Betancourt’s home on my street. I felt more confident that with our combined efforts, I could host a successful event. We all attended the SoCo Connectors meeting that you hosted with Christine. I did not know them before they hosted the breakfast. I work long days and they live about 4 houses down from me on the opposite side of the street. Connections on our block have been moving fast once we made a connection at the breakfast.
WLLB: How was the turnout at your first Front Yard Friday?
Darlene: About 17 adults came (after only receiving 4 RSVPs!). There were additional kids that came and went. They could easily be watched from the edge of my driveway.
WLLB: What did you provide your neighbors?
Darlene: I enjoy throwing outdoor parties for other groups I’m in, so I was pretty well equipped. I provided the chairs, tables, tablecloths, lighting, water to drink (herbal infused water in a dispenser), small amounts of food (fruit, veggies, deviled eggs). I didn’t want the buffet table to look empty. Food service is my business and it made me comfortable to have a few things on the buffet table when people arrived. I also provided name badges and a sign in sheet for neighbors to sign up to host an activity on our block.
WLLB: What did neighbors bring?
Darlene: Neighbors brought finger foods and beverages: appetizer foods, fruit, hummus, wine.
WLLB: Did you meet any new neighbors?
Darlene: Yes I did. I met Linda and Steve from 3 houses down. They want to use their driveway to host a BBQ next time.
WLLB: Any neat stories from your time with your neighbors?
Darlene: Yes, I got to reconnect with my neighbor Rock, who live two doors down from me. He and his wife greeted us 15 years ago when we moved into our home. I met his grandson for the first time at the event. We haven’t talked a lot over the years, but wave as we drive by. It was nice to catch up and just relax together. I enjoyed seeing Al for the second time–I met him at the We Love LB Citywide Breakfast that was on our block in February. He lives on the corner and during his working years, he had a very short commute. He is a retired fireman and he just walked across the street to the fire station to go to work.
WLLB: What’s next with your neighbors?
Darlene: The Betancourt’s will host the WLLB Citywide Barbecue. One household wants to host a wine tasting party and Steve and Linda will work on plans for another Block BBQ. I told them all that I can loan my tables, chairs, if they need them.
WLLB: What advise would you give someone that wants to get to know their neighbors, but might be nervous or intimidated to host?
Darlene: First talk with someone who has hosted a block event before to get some fresh inspiration and ideas of how to promote and plan. You can also visit an event, in another neighborhood if needed, if you want to get ideas from them. Lastly, ask one or two neighbors that you know to work together to host a party. It’s more fun to host parties with neighbors than as a lone ranger. My neighbors the Betancourt’s had our neighbor’s emails from their We Love LB Breakfast event and they emailed those who had attended while I made a half-page flyer and walked the neighborhood to introduce myself and hand out flyers. Don’t be afraid to ask for help.