As the air cools off, the leaves change color, and all things pumpkin spice fill our cups, we are reminded of the new season around us. Fall is the perfect time to head outside and connect with neighbors before winter’s chill, and it’s also great for inviting people inside to gather around the table. Here are 5 creative ways to keep building community this fall.
1) Plan a Progressive Dinner
Everyone loves to eat and what better way to do it than sharing the joy and responsibility of hosting among 4-5 families. In our community, the South Atlanta Civic League recently hosted a Progressive Dinner, which was a huge success! One house hosts appetizers and another the salad starter. One house can make a big pot of soup for everyone—this looks like the perfect fall soup! And then someone else gets to host dessert.
In South Atlanta, we asked all attendees to bring a dish to share to one of the courses. We had no shortage of food! We had the wonderful experience of sharing a meal with new and old friends, as well as walking through the community together from house to house.
2) Host a Harvest or Halloween Carnival
Gather together at a local park, parking lot, or community center and get volunteers to run simple games for kids. Maybe ask a local high school theater department to donate no-longer needed costumes for kids who may not have one. Have a costume contest, give-away lots of candy, and host a fun craft. You can even ask a local restaurant to donate food and drinks, if you want! In South Atlanta, we're hosting our annual Treat Street event, which has become a huge a huge community builder in our neighborhood.
3) Take a Neighborhood "Adventure Walk"
For families or neighborhoods with young kids (ages 3-7), an adventure walk is a great way to get outside together and avoid unnecessary whining and complaining. Invite neighbors to meet up and make sure every kid has their own plastic (or reusable) bag to carry. Give all adults a pen and a pre-made list with 7-8 different items kids have to look for. Things like: find one red leaf, find one small pebble, pick one flower, etc. Even if kids don’t find all of the items on their list, just calling it an “adventure walk” will get them out the door and offer parents a time of connection.
4) Plan an Urban S'mores Party
S’mores aren’t just for summer camping trips! If dinner invitations strike fear in your heart, invite neighbors over to roast marshmallows! You can gather around a fire pit or head inside where all you need is your stove top and a stack of graham crackers, your favorite chocolate bar, marshmallows, and some metal roasting sticks. Simply hold your “roasting” stick above your gas or electric stove until your marshmallow gets warm and starts to melt. If that seems like too much work, you can even just use your microwave to melt your marshmallow (20 second on high). It’s the perfect way to facilitate community without all the fuss of a big meal.
5) Serve-a-Neighbor Day
Plan a Saturday where you get together to help one family or home that could use some extra hands around the house. Maybe an elderly couple in your neighborhood who could use help raking leaves? Is there a solo parent who could use a few handy people to help clean gutters or insulate pipes before winter? Is there someone who needs a job you could pay for some of these tasks as well? Keep your eyes out for ways to serve a neighbor this fall.
Opportunities for community abound when we’re paying attention to others around us and being generous with our own time and resources. What are ways you have found to build community in your neighborhood this season?