Isn’t it funny that we’re “friends” with people we haven’t seen since high school, but many of us have no idea who lives across the street? I lived in apartments for years and rarely knew who lived next door. When we moved into our first home a few years ago, I was shocked when the neighbors came by to introduce themselves. They even brought cookies!
Yet many people have never shared a handshake, let alone a cookie with a neighbor. A recent Pew Research Poll found that one out of three people do not know the name of any of our neighbors. That’s pretty crazy considering we see these people nearly every day. As tech editor of GalTime.com, Jenn Jolly, observes, “If you think about it, neighborhoods are the original social network.” So what happened?
As the community relations officer with the Lake Mary Police Department, Officer Zach Hudson offers some insight: “This state is very much a transient state by nature. You have a lot of folks who come from all over the country to live here. Because of that diversity people have a tendency to come and go. You don’t get that neighborhood feel here like you do in other parts of the country.”
Officer Hudson recommends a couple ways to start getting connected. He says you should attend your Homeowner’s Association meetings and join your Neighborhood Watch.
Officer Hudson also advocates utilizing technology. “You can get a group of people together and create a Facebook page for your specific neighborhood,” he points out. Facebook allows you to create a “closed group,” meaning that only approved people can see the page. By creating one for your neighborhood or community, you can share information and alerts with your neighbors. Think of it as a modern day newsletter.
Jolly, is a fan of a website called NextDoor.com. She says you should check to see if your neighborhood already exists on the website. If it does, you just need to answer a few questions to prove you actually live there and you’re in. If your neighborhood isn’t on the site, you can add yours. Then invite your neighbors to join, too.
Technology is even keeping the residents of The Forest Club in Lake Mary connected. This is surprising in this 55-plus community where one-third of those living there are over 80.
“Out of 313 homes, we have a 152 signed up to get email,” says Jim Bell, president of the homeowners’ association. “Even in this older community, we have half of the people who are connected online. I was shocked at that number.” He says more people are signing up for the e-blasts all the time.
If all else fails, there’s always food. “Food is a great way to get people moving in the right direction,” says Officer Hudson. “Throw a yearly block party. Invite everyone to come over.”
At The Forest Club, potlucks are a popular way to get people together. The benefit extends well beyond a one-time meal. “I used to see people walking past each other to go to the mailboxes,” says Jim. “Now it’s more like a conversation time. People are stopping and chatting, taking time to talk to each other. It’s a much happier community.”
Knowing your neighbors provides some security, too. “If you know your neighbors, the comfort level goes up quite a bit. You want people to look out for their neighbors,” says Officer Hudson. “You want people to be proud of their neighborhood.”
This article was originally published in the May/June issue of Lake Mary Life Magazine. Lake Mary Life Magazine is the premier lifestyle publication in the Lake Mary area, dedicated to publishing positive and uplifting stories about our community. Lake Mary Life is a partner of GalTime Orlando.