Editor’s note: Organizers have changed the date and location of the convention. This story has been updated.
NORTH LAWNDALE — A convention to rejuvenate block clubs on the West Side will be held later this month as neighbors try to make their communities more safe and welcoming.
The 24th Ward Block Club Convention will be hosted 10 a.m.-noon July 17 at the Douglass Park Fieldhouse, 1401 S. Sacramento Drive. The convention will give residents a chance to learn more about how they can form a block club and revive one that has gone defunct, and it will equip neighbors with city resources to organize a club and host events.
“To create a better model of public safety, we have to have communities and blocks engaged. We want to show folks who might not have a block club, how you can get involved … and the resources you may find to help cultivate a block club,” said Ald. Michael Scott (24th), who sponsored the event.
The convention was organized with the North Lawndale Community Coordinating Council, Chicago Public Schools and the Local Chicago Alternative Policing Strategy district, which often supports block clubs and the events they host. Open Books will also be at the convention to share literacy resources as part of the North Lawndale Reads initiative.
Being part of a block club makes the neighborhood a nicer place to live and allows residents to band together to make improvements, said Carol White, secretary for the block club at 12th Street and Spaulding Avenue.
“They’re like a support group for me. They help the families when there’s a death in the family. We organize things like block days and dinners. We help keep the neighborhood clean,” White said.
The block club also keep residents connected and informed about the events, resources and opportunities that are available, especially for older people and those who don’t have internet access, White said.
“Some people might not know all the things the alderman has in his office. If you’re looking for help, jobs or anything like that … we get paperwork from the office and distribute it through the neighborhood, like the jobs, the energy programs, self-help things, or if you need a handyman,” White said.
Working together as a block club makes it easier for residents to get certain services and resources from the city, White said. When the group hosts block parties, the city helps provide things like food, bouncy houses and police, she said. In the winter, the block club gets help from workers from the city’s Department of Streets and Sanitation to shovel snow and keep pathways clear for older people, she said.
Families living on the 1800 block of Ridgeway Avenue work together as a block club to make sure the garbage gets collected, the snow gets shoveled and the area stays clear of litter, said club President Carl Johnson. And since the families have relationships with one another, they watch each other’s backs and keep an eye out on what happens on the block.
“Just in case anything happens, we can call each other. If somebody’ sitting on your porch that don’t belong there … we’ll ask them to move. … We don’t allow any drug selling,” he said.
White’s block club helps her feel safer, as well. Residents who aren’t part of a block club should consider forming one since it is a way to take action on some of the challenges the area has, she said.
“A lot of people feel like crime is creeping into the neighborhood. … They feel like, ‘Should we move?’ Instead of moving, try to band together with the block club and get the police to work with us, like we do,” White said. “We watch out for each other in the neighborhood.”
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