Getting to Know Your Neighbors with National Night Out
United Way of Erie County plays local role in nationwide community building campaign
How well do you know your neighbors?
A Pew Research Center survey conducted in 2018 found overwhelmingly that the answer was not well at all, especially among younger adults. Less than 5 percent of adults under the age of 65 said they knew all of their neighbors and less than 30 percent claimed to know the majority, with around 57 percent admitting they knew some. Even when there was some familiarity, very few respondents felt compelled to hang out — especially among America's lowest-earning households (those reporting an annual income of $30,000 or less).
That's alarming because violence tends to breed where social cohesion between neighbors is at a minimum. Reversing that trend is the impetus behind National Night Out, an annual campaign in which thousands of nonprofit partners across the country orchestrate community-building events on the first Tuesday in August. By doing this, they aim to improve relationships not only neighbor-to-neighbor, but between neighbors and law enforcement.
Locally, National Night Out has been facilitated by the United Way of Erie County since 2004. Over the years, United Way has helped neighborhoods organize block parties, cookouts, parades, emergency personnel meet-and-greets, rallies and marches, exhibits, safety demonstrations, seminars, and more. The coronavirus pandemic disrupted this tradition in 2020, but United Way still did its part to foster safety and health within communities by awarding a number of Neighborhood Mini-Grants, which went toward various projects and socially distanced, limited attendance events.
With vaccination counts up and COVID-19 cases down in 2021, National Night Out will be returning to 16 neighborhoods across the Erie area on Tuesday, Aug. 3. The following organizations will be hosting events throughout the afternoon and evening (in alphabetical order)
- Academy Neighborhood Association, Baker Field at East 32nd & Holland (6 to 7:30 p.m.)
- Bayfront East Side Taskforce, Wallace Park at Wallace & E. Front streets (6 to 8 p.m.)
- Belle Valley Fire Dept., 1514 Norcross Road (6 to 9 p.m.)
- Diehl Elementary School and Mercyhurst University, Diehl Elementary at 2327 Fairmount Pkwy. (6 to 8 p.m.)
- East Middle School at 1001 Atkins St. (2 to 6 p.m.)
- Edison Elementary School and Boys & Girls Club of Erie, Edison Elementary at 1921 E. Lake Rd. (4 to 7 p.m.)
- Elk Valley Elementary School, Elk Creek Recreation & Leisure Board, Rice Avenue Community Public Library, Elk Valley Elementary at 2556 Maple Ave. in Lake City (6 to 7:30 p.m.)
- Erie Free Store, Elmwood Avenue Presbyterian Church at 2816 Elmwood Ave. (4:30 to 7 p.m.)
- Glenwood United Methodist Church at 2931 Myrtle St. (6 to 8 p.m.)
- Greene Township at 9333 Tate Rd. (6 to 8 p.m.)
- Housing Authority City of Erie, Erie Heights Neighborhood and Curry Schell Apartments at the 4200 block of Crestmont Avenue (5 to 8 p.m.)
- Iroquois Elementary School and Lawrence Park Township, Iroquois Elementary parking lot at 4231 Morse St. (6 to 8:30 p.m.)
- McKinley Elementary School at 933 E. 22nd St. (3 to 6 p.m.)
- Our West Bayfront Bay and Harbor Neighborhood Association, Boulevard Park Neighborhood Watch, Gateway Neighborhood Association, Erie MLK Center, Garden County Association, West Bayfront Neighborhood Watch, West Side Saints Neighborhood Watch, Gridley Park at West Sixth and Liberty streets (5 to 8 p.m.)
- Perry Elementary School and Erie Family Center, Perry Elementary at 955 W. 29th St. (4 to 6 p.m.)
- Youth Leadership Institute, Ted Amendola Memorial Field near the foot of Wallace Street on Erie's East Bayfront (4 to 7 p.m.)
Additionally, United Way of Erie County announced funding for two projects supporting community resources for basic needs (e.g. food, health, clothing, shelter)
- Harding Elementary School's Basic Needs Bags
- SNOOPS Neighborhood Watch's Neighborhood Outreach Picnic Boxes
The total value of the mini-grants awarded for National Night Out events and related projects this year totaled $13,200 — enough to provide plenty of incentive to get out and get to know your neighbors.
Matt Swanseger can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org