The Good Neighbor Initiative hosted its annual Neighborhood Night Out and Block Party on Thursday to bring students and local residents together living in Chapel Hill neighborhoods.
The block party featured food from Buns Burgers & Fries and Ben & Jerry’s, a performance by the Bouncing Bulldogs Jump Rope Team and other activities. Over 300 people attended the event, including members of the Chapel Hill Police and Fire Departments and the mayors of both Chapel Hill and Carrboro.
The Good Neighbor Initiative, which began in 2004, was started by the Chapel Hill Police Department after they observed the same houses reported for ordinance related issues, such as loud parties. Originally, police officers visited houses before the start of the school year to have constructive conversations with students and residents about being a good neighbor.
The Good Neighbor Initiative is now sponsored by the Office of Fraternity & Sorority Life and Community Involvement.
“While our office plays a bit of a coordinating role, there are lots of partners in the initiative,” said Aaron Bachenheimer, director of the Office of Fraternity & Sorority Life and Community Involvement.
These partners include the Chapel Hill Downtown Partnership, EmPOWERment Inc., which focuses on housing issues in Chapel Hill’s historic neighborhoods, and the Marian Cheek Jackson Center, which works to preserve the future of historically black neighborhoods in Chapel Hill. These organizations help organize, fund and promote the yearly door-to-door walk and block party.
Over 80 volunteers took part in the door-to-door walk this year, knocking on over 1200 doors the day before classes started. The initiative reaches Northside, Pine Knolls and Cameron-McCauley neighborhoods, as well as North Street, Davie Circle, Dawes Street and the Coolidge Street area.
Senior Sofie DeWulf lives in the Northside neighborhood and helped plan this year’s Good Neighbor Initiative events as a Jackson Center summer fellow, and said the initiative stays involved with the neighborhoods year-round.
Students like DeWulf host pop-up events throughout the year to promote meeting and interacting with their neighbors.
Since Bachenheimer arrived at UNC seven years ago, he said he has noticed improvements in the relationships between permanent residents and students.
“I get far less phone calls today," he said. "Most of the time, even if there are issues, the neighbors and the students have relationships now. Students are more responsive to (their neighbors’) requests.”
A decrease in reports of ordinance issues is not the only benefit that community members are seeing from the initiative. Students are becoming more involved in the neighborhoods in which they live.
“Something that the Good Neighbor Initiative does is making sure students learn to appreciate the local culture and engage with it to make sure that it is preserved,” said Brian Fields, the UNC undergraduate director of state and external affairs. “Working with institutions like the Jackson Center, the Hargraves Center or making sure to support local businesses is incredibly important because it keeps the culture of Chapel Hill alive.”
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