Philly neighbors connect with engaging ‘block party in a box’

Communities / Article

Kevin Musselman is the manager of neighborhood and resource planning for the People’s Emergency Center in Philadelphia, a Knight Foundation grantee.

Darlene Faulkner, a resident of the West Powelton neighborhood in West Philadelphia, was shocked to see the giant present with the oversized bow headed for her front door. Her daughters seemed surprised too, a Christmas-morning look in their eyes. Having been selected as the first official winner of the “Block Party in a Box” program, Darlene was already aware that People’s Emergency Center would be sponsoring her July 4th block party, which undoubtedly would animate the 4000 block of Green Street with music, conversation and laughter.

Residents engaging with the block party

But she had no idea her award would be presented so fantastically: a 6-foot-square package that, when opened, unleashes balloons, plays music and collapses into a 3-D block party diorama, including houses, streets and even a plush SEPTA bus.

It’s literally a block party in a box.

“Block Party in a Box” is full of everything necessary to host a great block party. The contents include a $150 gift card for food, a gift card for a free moon bounce, free popcorn machine rental, balloons, sidewalk chalk, bubbles, tote bags and a choice between having a disc jockey, a clown or a photo booth scheduled for the event.

We developed this project to provide additional opportunities for neighbors to interact and exchange ideas on the vision they have for their community. It’s a simple and easily replicable way to plan events and engage with neighbors through the long-established and much-loved neighborhood block party.

 We also hope it will enable us to identify motivated community leaders and tie them into existing programming. We see the potential for it to elevate enthusiasm for community events and possibly persuade neighbors to participate in events that they may have never attended. This increased level of resident involvement helps build stronger, more empowered communities.

Through these block parties the staff here at People’s Emergency Center will also tie neighbors into a long list of assistance programs available through our organization, the city and many other nonprofits. With the kits, we include information about services the agency provides and other resources available to neighbors.

We’ve awarded seven Block Parties in a Box, and the winners are already securing permits for the events. It’s not too late to win your own box; we’re still accepting applications. If you’re interested, email a brief letter of no more than three paragraphs to [email protected] explaining why your block deserves a party. You must live in the People’s Emergency Center service area (37th to 48th Street, Market Street north to Mantua Avenue / Girard Avenue). And good luck to your block.