community

Local Residents Congregate at Neighborfest Block Party

By Jan Robbins

Residents who live on 32nd Avenue between Lawton and Moraga streets look

out for each other. They have a Neighborhood Watch Group, and on a recent

gorgeous day in the Sunset, they gathered for a “Neighborfest” block party.

 

Under a clear blue sky with temperatures in the low 70s, a group of some 100

adults and children shared food, enjoyed music, chatted with neighbors and met

their local police and firefighters.

 

NeighborFest copy

Neighbors building community at Neighborfest block party on 32nd Avenue, between Lawton and Moraga streets. 

 

The Neighborfest Block Party program was advanced by Daniel Homsey, director of the

Neighborhood Empowerment Network (NEN), a San Francisco agency whose mission is

to help residents build healthier, safer and more connected communities.

 

“Although one of the primary goals of NEN is to help seniors and adults with

disabilities, among the most vulnerable of our population, programs like

Neighborfest help everyone,” Homsey said.

 

Looking out for one another was a feeling that permeated the 32nd Avenue

Neighborfest. Judy Pelzner, 68, said the block party creates a channel for people to

continue to get to know each other.

 

“When you get to know someone you build up a sense of trust, which creates

feelings of well-being,” she said. Pelzner said that when her family goes on vacation, she

asks her neighbors to keep an eye on her house and car. “I can contact people when I

need a hand, which is very important as we grow older,” she said.

 

Food at the Neighborfest was abundant. It required three five-foot-long tables

to hold main dishes, such as spaghetti and meat balls, fried rice and an array

of salads and vegetables, as well as a large display of cakes, cupcakes and cookies.

 

“Food is the hallmark of a great party,” said Homsey.

 

Upbeat children’s music trumpeted from Little Wonders Montessori School

as costumed princesses, super heroes and knights ran around as the children’s parents

talked with one another.

 

“We consider everyone who comes on our block a neighbor,” said Sarah Pelzner,

26, Judy Pelzner’s daughter, a co-organizer of the event. A bouncy house was provided

for kids over five years of age and a never-ending supply of energy.

 

During the event, police officer Shawn Imhoff rolled up in a spiffy police cruiser.

Imhoff said he is always glad to participate in these events.

 

“I love community engagement where I can help to demystify the police,”

Imhoff said.

 

The kids who wanted to go into the police cruiser were thrilled, especially when

Imhoff let them call out to their parents on the loud speaker. The kids also got star

police badge stickers.

 

The local fire brigade also showed up, five strong with a fire-truck, and members

of the Neighborhood Emergency Response Team (NERT) provided a table

of informational brochures on the basics of personal disaster preparedness.

 

Annie Wong, 67 , was the person who got the ball rolling on the block party two

years ago, according to Sarah Pelzner. Wong wanted to create a Neighborhood Watch

Group for her 32nd Avenue neighborhood, and took it upon herself to research the

procedures, fill out the application and market the idea to neighbors. “I put notices in all

the mailboxes,” Wong s aid.

 

Enough membership was generated to qualify the block to become an official

neighborhood watch group.

 

“We have signed up 22 households out of 46 houses, ”Wong said. “Members have

attended at least one meeting in the last year.” An official neighborhood watch group

gets Neighborhood Watch signs installed at either end of their block to proclaim

neighbors are looking out for each other.

 

“The block party gives us a chance to meet more neighbors and interest them in

the group,” said Wong.

 

A roster of members of the watch group helps people connect when necessary.

The Neighborfest program helps restore both local connectivity and the ability

to work together at the block level during an emergency, Homsey said, “so that

during times of stress it doesn’t matter if you’ve lived in the area for 30 weeks or

30 years – you’ll have the support and

care you’ll need to survive.”

 

NEN develops strategic partnerships with community organizations, city agencies,

non-profits and academic institutions to develop programs, tools and technical

resources to build thriving neighborhood communities. It can be contacted at the

website at http://www.empowersf.org or (415)554- 7114.

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