Stacy Thomas increasingly sees her lifelong neighborhood of Point Breeze in local news stories about houses getting more expensive and neighbors not getting along. Stacy is a fifth generation Point Breeze resident who loves her neighborhood and welcomes the new residents to it.
Stacy earns trust by old and new residents alike by taking action to beautify to the place she holds most dear: her block of 1900 McClellan Street. She has been a Block Captain through Philadelphia More Beautiful Committee for 30 years, a position she holds with great pride, working to keep her block litter-free and all its houses in good repair, even if they are vacant.
She catches them while they’re coming in and out of their homes, or knocks on their doors. If they own their house, she talks to them about the importance of keeping the whole block clean. If they rent, she helps them write letters asking for better property maintenance to their landlords.
On reaching landlords, she preaches a philosophy of persistence: "I tell people to just keep calling."
Stacy has new people moving onto her block as well, and she does her part to make sure, in a loving and respectful way, that they understand the ways of the neighborhood. She welcomes everyone personally, introducing herself and handing out a newsletter of block information that she writes at least once a year.
Her newsletter provides answers to frequently asked questions about the neighborhood, includes useful resources Stacy has learned about, outlines some basic “do’s and dont’s,” and gives suggestions on other neighbors to talk to. For example: if people have gardening questions, Stacy sends them to one particular neighbor, "we call her our horticultural center."
She realizes that people are coming from all over and may not understand what it means to live on a dense block of rowhouses like hers:
Even just waving to your neighbor, [it helps to] be hospitable.
To welcome new people onto the block, Stacy hosts a meet-and-greet open house every summer and helps out when people come to her in need. She will also use tough love when she needs to (though she doesn't need to that often) to keep the block harmonious.
Stacy talks to her neighbors directly when she feels they are causing problems, and when there is an issue she feels strongly about, she walks the neighborhood and talks to people about it. On reaching people the old fashioned way, she said:
We live in a technological world, but not everyone has access to that.
For example, on election days, she often pays neighborhood teens to help place voting reminder slips on people’s doors, as the last generation of block leaders that she fondly remembers used to do back in the day.
Get to know your neighbors and earn their trust
Use face-to-face communication to reach out to neighbors
Being a responsive and well-connected block leader starts with talking with neighbors and learning how to answer their questions.
Get neighbors talking to each other through a block gathering, such as a clean-up, potluck meet-and-greet, or both! Stacy holds a gathering for her block at her house once a year.
Connect neighbors to each other by letting them know what other neighbor’s can help them with. Someone on Stacy's block is a gardening expert and helps other neighbors with their trees and planter boxes.
A simple, hand-delivered newsletter can be an effective way to let new neighbors know about the norms of the block and community events or City services.