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How to Be a Better Neighbor

If you yearn for the days when everyone gathered around a neighbor's grill or called out a greeting to the kids pedaling by on their bikes, don't despair. With some kind words and a few friendly gestures, you can recapture those times. Here are 21 ways to create a more caring community.
Come Together

  • Plan to party. The Flamingo Park neighborhood in West Palm Beach, Florida, takes advantage of year-round sunshine by having quarterly block parties -- complete with band, tent in the street and a row of grills for barbecuing. For more frequent socializing, residents take turns hosting monthly happy-hour gatherings.
  • Think casual. Parties can seem ominous if everyone doesn't already know each other. When K.P. Weseloh first moved to Princeton, New Jersey, she hosted a "bring your own spoon" ice-cream social. She sent out invitations asking neighbors to RSVP with their three favorite ice cream flavors.
  • Be quirky. Out-of-the-ordinary ideas, like a Baltimore neighborhood's annual croquet tournament, often draw people out of their shells. "Afterward, we drink champagne punch, nibble on finger food and chicken kabobs, and schmooze," says Mary Medland. Try this similar idea: Spread a mini-golf game throughout your neighborhood, with a different hole on each person's front lawn.
  • Be silly. In Maplewood, New Jersey, Barbara Heisler Williams and nearly 30 women aged 30 to 75 -- many of whom didn't know each other well -- had a "Ya-Ya Sisterhood" weekend with lots of giddy girl-talk, workshops, cooking and pampering. "The next week, when I went to my house of worship and saw some of the women, there were big hugs," she says. "Now there's a whole different relationship."
  • Need a reason to invite the neighbors over? Gather for the sake of the kids or pets. Plan Halloween parties or Easter egg hunts. Or try a dog party, inviting a few pups as a way to meet their human companions. Provide dog treats from a local pet store and human treats from your pantry. Let the dogs run around your yard while the owners get to know each other.
  • Get organized. "The more structure you have and the more likely everything will work out well," says Linda Cullen, past president of the Flamingo Park Neighborhood Association. She has successfully headed up everything from its newsletter to city hall battles to improve a local park.