Block party hopes to create more neighborhood awareness
On Villa Maria and State Street in north Claremont, members of the Keeping the Good in Our Neighborhood (KGNH) community organization prepare for the annual KGNH block party on Saturday, September 8, from 5 to 10 p.m.
What began as a monthly neighborhood potluck has turned into a dedicated community watch group within the borders of the north Claremont neighborhood and beyond.
“In today’s day and age, a lot of neighbors tend to stick inside their homes and engage in community in other places than on their street,” said local Betty Crocker, who first implemented the KGNH block parties. “Keeping a neighborhood safe is all about getting to know one another and empowering each other to take ownership of these streets.”
With the event now in its fifth year running, the north Claremont neighbors look to empower others beyond their little borders to break bread with other residents and local law enforcement, sharing food truck confections and community camaraderie.
“It’s great to live in a place where neighbors know each other and look out for one another,” said event co-organizer Joanne Hoffman. “It’s just amazing how this event has caught on and grown.”
It was at a neighborhood potluck about 5 years ago that locals started talking to one another about a chain of local burglaries happening in the neighborhood, according to Ms. Crocker. Out of that concern, the KGNH block parties began in partnership with the Claremont Police Department, encouraging neighbors to create a relationship with one another and with local safety officers.
“It’s important to always feel comfortable and confident to call police, even when you may be wrong,” Ms. Crocker said.
Claremont Police Chief Paul Cooper was eager to bring back the community watches that used to be common in Claremont neighborhoods 25 years ago, but had since dwindled.
“For us, it’s really a win-win partnership,” Chief Cooper said. “If there is a crime in the area, [Betty] sends out an email to the community members. It really helps us get the message out and keeps their neighborhood safe.”
Since that first block party, the yearly KGNH gatherings have soared to new levels. The whole community has become invested in the event, ranging from the Inland Valley Humane Society to the Claremont Club. Neighbors are equally committed.
“Our neighborhood has become like family,” Ms. Hoffman said. “I grew up in a neighborhood where you hardly knew your next-door neighbor. To live here, where everyone socializes and knows each other’s first names, is amazing.”
Now, KGNH members are looking to spread their cause beyond the streets of their own neighborhood. Ms. Crocker hopes to encourage others to start their own neighborhood action groups.
“We want others to go back to their streets and look at the opportunities they have to be a neighborhood leader,” Ms. Crocker said. “It’s that neighbor-to-neighbor connection that makes the biggest difference.”
In addition to spreading their cause, KGNH members are also looking to continue giving back. Each year, the block party committee focuses on benefiting a local nonprofit organization. Proceeds from the party raffle—which includes giveaways such as tickets to the Candlelight Pavilion, massages and a night at the Doubletree Hotel—are donated to the selected organization.
This year’s proceeds will benefit The Be Perfect Foundation, founded by the Hargrave family, to help victims of spinal cord injuries. Fundraising for such causes is at the core of what the KGNH block party is all about, said resident and co-event organizer John Wallace.
“[Giving back] is the real meat and potatoes here,” said Mr. Wallace, noting that $1500 was raised last year for the Claremont Theater Renovation Project.
Raffle tickets can be purchased at the event at $20 for 25 tickets, $10 for 10 tickets or $5 for 5. Cash or checks payable to The Be Perfect Foundation are accepted. Presale raffle ticket opportunities will take place today, Saturday, September 1, and Monday, September 3, from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. at Vons, 550 E. Baseline Road. Tickets will also be available Sunday, September 2 at the Farmer’s Market from 9 a.m. to noon.
For more information on KGNH, visit www.keepingthegoodinourneighborhood.com.