On Tuesday evening, neighbors from all over town took an opportunity to throw a giant, collective block party.

On Tuesday evening, neighbors from all over town took an opportunity to throw a giant, collective block party.

Shawnee's inaugural National Night Out event was an effort to encourage residents to get together and simply become friends.

“The idea is one party, many locations,” Zoe Loeser, Pottawatomie County Community Renewal block leader coordinator, said.

National Night Out is a nationwide event designed to bring the community and the police force together.

Shawnee's Community Renewal organization jumped at the chance to join in.

“Most communities have their parties the first Tuesday in August, but Texas and other hot communities hold off until the first Tuesday of October,” she said.

Celebrating National Night Out follows the model set by Community Renewal International in Shreveport, who celebrate National Night Out annually and anticipate 40 parties this year, Loeser said.

At the parties, the local Community Renewal organization also seized the opportunity to conduct its annual neighborhood survey.

The survey helps Community Renewal track all the ways building intentional relationships is impacting the community, she said.

“One of the goals of Community Renewal's Block Leader Program is that neighborhoods will flourish, and this survey, that goes out every year in conjunction with National Night Out, measures that,” she said. “We worked with Amanda Templeton with Measure Up! in Oklahoma City to design it.”

She said the Community Renewal movement emphasizes bringing neighbors together, because today's society is so isolated.

“We don't know each other anymore,” se said, “and history shows us that when our relationships start to crumble, so does society.”

Participants also were entered to win one of four $100 gift cards announced on Community Renewal's Facebook Page throughout the evening.

By early estimates, Loeser said she expected a good turnout.

Averaging around 20 neighbors per party, she said she believed participation could reach more than 400.

“We've got 20 parties happening across Shawnee — including one party in Seminole — put on by 29 block leaders,” she said. “Block Leaders are doing all different things from serving hot dogs to watching movies to eating s'mores to drinking tea on the porch.”

Though parties kicked off at 6 p.m., she said, they could go until whenever neighbors decided to call it a night.

Loeser said relationships are key to a healthy lifestyle.

Living with obesity lowers a person's life expectancy by 20 percent, she said. Excessive drinking lowers a person's life expectancy by 30 percent, and living in isolation lowers a person's life expectancy by 45 percent, she added.

“That's as bad for our health as smoking 15 cigarettes a day,” Loeser said.

If that's not enough, she said the two biggest factors in neighborhood safety are how often you're visible to your neighbors and how many neighbors you can name, she said.

Health and safety are just two noted benefits of the effort.

Not only does gathering neighbors together do great things for the community, but it's also a ton of fun, Loeser said.

“From games to bounce houses, it's a delight to be able to make a difference by having fun together,” Loeser said. “Sometimes we take saving the world too seriously and put have a blast too low on the to do list.”

Part of making a city-wide party successful is cooperation from all involved.

Loeser said the use of eight bounce houses from Extreme Inflatables was donated, as well as cases of water provided to each site by Benchmark Realty.

She also said the City of Shawnee coordinated street closures during the many neighborhood gatherings.

Next year

Loeser said she hopes to make the multi-site block party an annual event in neighborhoods across Pottawatomie County.

“I look forward to forming a team from all different sectors to help plan for next year,” she said.

“We hope that this becomes an event the whole community rallies behind and looks forward to,” Loeser said.

She said she hopes to have the City of Shawnee, faith communities, businesses and interested citizens at the party planning table for next year's event.

Block Leaders are neighbors who are restoring the bonds of community in their neighborhoods through intentional relationships.

For more information about the Block Leader program, email Loeser at zoe@communityrenewal.org.

Also, National Night Out's website is https://natw.org/.