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Getting the Neighborhood Together

From: Diana Morley <>
Date: Thu, 11 Feb 1999 20:00:49 EST
Subject: getting the neighborhood together

Just had our first neighborhood meeting and wanted to pass on some details in
case others are interested and want to build on our experience. It went
beautifully and was worth the effort put into getting it together.

Worded the invitation carefully ("A Neighborhood Gathering") to set up a
positive association. Held meeting at the local church, scheduled it for an
hour on a weekday evening so as not to break into times people usually reserve
for chores or entertainment. Emphasized neighbors getting to know one another,
then mentioned that there would also be y2k handouts for those who were
interested. Acknowledged that government officials have admitted that there
will be some system failures. Ended on a positive note, saying that if we have
a best-case scenario, we still will have created a closer, more secure
neighborhood and if we have some difficult times, we'll be able to ride them
out together.

Hand delivered 110 invitations along our street and some side streets. About
25 came, all motivated to socialize and listen. Most expressed real delight in
getting to know neighbors. Had light refreshments to create atmosphere of
sharing. After more than half an hour, chairs were arranged in a circle. We
brief intros (name and street only), then brief description of the y2k problem
and of the handouts, then of Red Cross packets, which were also available.
Showed solar-powered flashlight and radio and had catalogs with the products
listed, for reference. Asked people to sign sheet with name, address, phone,
and e-mail address and promised to send copies to all (with added names of
absent but interested people). Ended on positive note about our supporting one
another. During the discussion that followed, when talk moved to storing food,
water, and medicine, pointed out that was one reason public officials must
become involved--that we cannot store enough on our own for everyone.
(Afterward, realized that the church pastor is interested in helping in this
regard; gave him an Utne Reader Citizen's Guide--we find support sometimes
where we hadn't thought to seek it.) A two-way radio would be useful during a
prolonged power outage--one every couple of miles for relaying info; neighbors
can share cost. Radio Shack has one for $100.

Thick handouts were ignored; one pagers went over very well. One pagers:
preparation for power outages and more (info from local electric utility &
Internet), brief statements and related list of questions to ask public
officials. Half took a Red Cross kit, which contained a leaflet on y2k

Afterward, many people said let's get together again soon, have a block party,
etc. Neighbors waved with more enthusiasm the next day and seemed enervated.
(This is a neighborhood where one youth was killed recently and one hurt--both
gang-related events. The Crimewatch meeting that followed the killing didn't
lead to further get-togethers--it was not satisfying to some. More negative
gathering--lots of fear and blame rather than openness.)

Having already worked out lots of wording problems (how to approach and best
angle to use), I will happily share e-mail text or hardcopy handouts for
photocopying (on colored paper best) if anyone is interested in trying the
same in their neighborhood. I recommend it! It's a great feeling to come home
from a gathering of people who want to work together.

Diana Morley


1. The Red Cross will send a rep, with kits, to talk at a meeting--free. For
some neighborhoods, that may be a good way to draw in neighbors. We simply
picked up kits, which are also free. But you need to give them some warning to
get things together either way. Not all branches have materials on hand.

2. The January 1999 Scientific American has an article on y2k by Peter de
Jager. The tables are useful for conveying to neighbors what we might expect
from the problem in terms of best-case and worst-case scenarios. This was
effective at our meeting in helping people grasp the seriousness of the
problem. Better than describing the tables, as we did, would be getting a copy
of the article and enlarging the tables for copying and handing out.

3. One neighbor said her husband has been a pessimist for years, feeling that
we're on a downhill spiral, people don't care, etc. He usually doesn't sleep
well either. After our meeting, he talked with some hope for the first time,
saying that maybe people do care after all and are willing to work
constructively toward something good. The next morning he overslept for the
first time in many years. The neighbor thinks maybe he actually relaxed enough
to sleep well and enjoyed that so much that he just kept on sleeping.

If you would like to receive a pdf file of handouts for your own meetings,
send a line to Diana at This includes bar charts based on
data from Scientific American. If you need hard copy instead, that can be
arranged too.