Now that you’ve bought your new home and moved into your community, it’s time to get involved and meet your neighbors. It’s easy to think that this is someone a task for the community association or the HOA. The truth is that it is everyone’s responsibility to contribute to making the neighborhood a community.
Image Credit - Carnes Crossroads
Certainly, many large developments have community managers or a board of directors who have social committees which plan, organize and stage all kinds of events. But why wait for them? There are so many things you can do in conjunction with your neighbors.
Check in with your HOA or community manager to be sure you’re not running afoul of any covenants for any of the gatherings we’re suggesting. When you do, they might just provide extra resources and assistance to make your efforts stronger!
Ideas for community-wide events in your community
We’ve gathered a group of ideas perfect for life in the Lowcountry. Our focus in on getting out of doors to enjoy the beauty of the community in which you live. We recommend these low-cost, entertaining ideas as genuine community builders.
Promote your events by either using a commuity email list to distribute invitations or make simple flyers to take door to door. If your HOA has a regular newsletter, have them include your schedule of events in it. And be sure to welcome everyone. If you’re the organizer of an event, you may bear a bit of the responsibility until you get a solid group participating, but make things fun, welcoming and before you know it, you’ll be so glad you put in the effort.
- Quarterly get to know you pot-luck dinners are a tried and true way to have fun, enjoy some tasty food, and share responsibility for the gathering. If you are the first host, provide the indoor or outdoor space, and plates, utensils and drinkware. If you want to allow wine and beer, ask your neighbors to BYOB. At your event, have a calendar of dates for future events and invite others to act as host.
- Star-gazing events are fun. Telescopes are not always required. High-powered binoculars are perfect for viewing most major constellations. Get an app like Star Chart, available for both Apple/iOS devices and Android devices so you are able to identify constellations. Schedule your event for a night when the moon is dark or late rising so it’s dark enough to see the stars. Throw quilts out on the grass in your backyard or in one of the community common areas. Then kick back and see how many constellations you can name. Watch for shooting stars too. They are far more common than you think.
- Kickball for a Cause is a great way to have an athletic event that grown-ups, teens and kids can enjoy. The sport doesn’t require too much skill, just a good field or large open space, a kickball and a couple of teams. Pass the hat and collect donations to give to a local charitable organization that benefits a cause everyone agrees on. You’ll get your exercise, do good, and have fun — all at the same time.
- Community garden tour and plant exchange is a gardener’s delight. Every so often, gardeners need to divide the iris, or the monkey grass or other perennials. Swapping plants is the perfect way to get new species for your garden. Gardeners can gather to tour each other’s gardens, sharing tips about planting, maintenance and take home a slip of a rose to root, or a pot of chrysanthemums.
- Backyard birding is one of the most popular hobbies in the US. According to BackYardBirdingParadise.com, “At last count (2011), there were 47 million birders in the US, about 20% of the population.” Start a community log of birds sighted and how frequently. Gather during the spring and fall migrations at dawn and dusk to look for new species flying through on their way to their home grounds. Build bluebird houses and disperse them through the community to attract these delightful, colorful avians. You might also want to put up gourd houses for Purple Martins. These hungry birds eat lots of insects every day.
- Organize a walking group. This a very simple way to have a regular gathering that supports everyone’s exercise plans. People can “drop in” or join based on their schedule. Plan your walk to start at a specified time and location in the community. Before you know it, you’ll be socializing and getting some exercise at the same time. By the way, the American Heart Association is a great resource for ideas and tips on organizing a walking group.
- Host a Fourth of July parade and celebration! If your community doesn’t have a Fourth of July Celebration, make one happen! Kids on bikes with streamers and pinwheels, decorated golf carts and crazy red white and blue hats are all fun ways to organize “units” in the parade. This may take a bit of work to get going, but with some effort, you can develop a fun event that grows every year. Award prizes for the goofiest, of the most patriotic, or most original entry. Have everyone vote and then celebrate the winners with slices of ice-cold watermelon all around!
- Community jam nights bring out the strummers, the singers and the kazoo players. Who knows, you might end up with a community garage band. From kids playing bongos to former guitarists who play Freebird, you’ll discover that you have more musicians in your community than you think. Buy a few books of popular song charts for inspiration. Welcome everyone whether they sing or simply shake a tambourine. Ask people to bring their own instruments and music stands if they have them.
- Work on a Habitat for Humanity House. Hammering nails, setting tiles or pouring concrete so others will with a new home provides a sense of fulfillment that cannot be bought. Contact Habitat for Humanity in your area of the Lowcountry to find out how to volunteer as a group.
- Schedule a front porch night. Porches are about as Lowcountry as is sweet tea. Speaking to the neighbors from your porch and inviting them to share a cool glass of sweet tea is true neighborly hospitality. Plan an evening when everyone is invited to sit out on their porch and welcome a neighbor. If you’re out on the porch, with lights on, it’s an invitation to stop up on the porch. Score extra points if you bring something scrumptious like a good cheese, or fresh, in season fruit to to share when you call on your neighbors.
If you organize one of these events and at first you don’t have the participation you want, don’t despair. People need to be encouraged. Word builds and participation will grow over time. Keep your eye on the goal of making friends and having fun all right where you live.
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