When Kelly Stephans floated the idea of a block party to neighbor Sally Martin, she didn’t know the idea would soon go viral. Word of mouth spread and soon more neighbors caught Kelly’s enthusiasm. From the professional graphics on the flyer to the professional chef who volunteered to oversee a pig roast, the party seemed to be an idea whose time had come.
The enthusiasm of the planning team was contagious and everyone had something fun to do, regardless of age or ability. Games, contests, and prizes were offered. A Malkin Penn’s jersey was one of several auction prizes and services donated by neighbors.
A storm passed over just before dinner, quickly drenching everyone who didn’t get to shelter. Folks went home to change into dry clothes and came back to party on. The rain created a temporary mud puddle in one yard which instantly attracted a youngster like flies to the porch light. Those who held back from the party because of the rain did venture out to mingle and help devour the potluck of salads, hot casseroles, desserts, burgers ‘n dogs, and pulled pork.
Many of the sixty-some neighbors found themselves in conversations with people who lived only a few doors down for decades, but had never officially met. Halloween seems to be the one time of year neighbors get around to meet and greet. The kids make sure visits are kept short that night, however, and until now most of the neighbors had a fairly small circle of people they could greet by name. If you were shy about meeting new people, there were several well-behaved dogs to admire and that always helps break the ice.
The homes in the McCandless neighborhood, locally referred to as the “Indian Village” for it’s street names, is a mix of 1970’s split entry homes with generous yards and older brick houses. There is a wide age-range of residents, with the kids spread out from infants to older teens. As established families age and downsize, younger families are beginning to move in.
The demographics of the North Allegheny School District is also changing as more families from other cultures move into the highly desirable district. The Indian Village began to see this shift about five years ago when a young professional family moved here from China. They have been warmly embraced by their neighbors.
The event will undoubtedly have a positive impact on the community’s already strong feeling of safety; when neighbors know one another the community is more secure. Before the party, many residents would not have recognized each other if they were standing in line at the grocery store. The organizers of the “first annual” party have helped change that, and are already talking about how next year’s event will be even more amazing.
Featured picture includes the ladies of the planning commitee. Back row L-R: Mary Leitch, Debbie Goral, Kelly Stephans, front row L-R: Maureen Iannessa, Sally Martin, Carol Barth, Jennifer Clutter.
Full credit for the party goes to all of the neighbors on the planning committee. They are Kelly and Mike Stephans, Debbie and Tom Goral, Carol and Wayne Barthe, Maureen and Vince Iannessa, Sally and Jim Martin, Jennifer Clutter, Charlie Fox, Mary and Roy Leitch, and Heather Henkel.