Block by Block Neighborhood Organizing

Christy Lodder Shows How to Bring Neighbors Together with Ease

Christy Lodder and Curtis Designer on Mt. Pleasant's summit overlooking Lancaster, Ohio.Christy Lodder and Curtis Dysinger’s first visit to Lancaster was the day they closed on the purchase of their house on East Wheeling Street in February 2022.  Previously, they were living in Columbus and thinking of having a house built but realized rising costs were not in their favor.  So they widened their search and landed on the home here.  “We saw the house online and fell in love,” Christy explained.

They also quickly fell in love with Lancaster, with our historic homes and buildings and so much to do, but it was when their neighbors Laura and Andy Specht visited with eggs from their backyard chickens that Christy knew she had made the right choice.  Next came meeting Enrique Jimenez and Joseph Taylor across the street and finding out Laura and Joseph grew up in Lancaster together but didn’t know they lived one block away from each other.  “How is it they hadn’t made that connection?” Christy wondered.

By the time she met (Bryan Everitt’s) Aunt Nancy (Engeman) at the Farmers’ Market, who then introduced her to everyone on Mulberry Street, Christy was ready to work her magic.  “It seemed like such a tight knit community, why not have a block party?” Christy thought, and she proceeded to distribute notes to every house on the blocks of King Street to Chestnut from Broad to High Street.

“The fun part is introducing people to each other and watching their relationships grow,” Christy says.  She comes by community organizing naturally having grown up in Columbus with parents who welcomed newcomers to their neighborhood.  “Every time someone moved in, we’d go down with homemade cinnamon rolls my dad made and introduce ourselves.  My parents were always helping neighbors, always doing whatever they could.”

Christy Lodder dressed as "The Witch of Wheeling Street" in front of her Wheeling Street home in Lancaster, Ohio.“There are so many traditions here,” Christy explained, “It can be overwhelming.  We had people who helped us get acclimated, and we want to do that for others.”  In that spirit, Christy is on the Destination Downtown Lancaster Board and is helping to form a Downtown Residents affiliation group.  “I want to give voice to and offer the perspective of the residents.”

While organizing neighbors comes easily to the very extroverted Christy Lodder, block-by-block organizing is not as daunting as it might seem, and it is best when it happens as organically as it has downtown.  Here are some easy steps:

1)    Do you know even one of your neighbors? Talk with them about what you want to see for your block.

2)    Plan a time to knock on the doors of the other neighbors on your block (preferred method) or distribute notes.

3)    Meet your neighbors!  (Homemade cinnamon rolls not required)  If there is property that doesn’t seem inviting (i.e. No Solicitors sign), write them a letter and send it in the mail.  They might have no solicitation signs up to keep door-to-door salespeople away but would welcome meeting their neighbors.

4)    Plan a Block Party!  Contact the City’s Community Development Department at (740) 687-6663 to talk about when, where, how to get your neighbors involved, and the process of getting a permit to block off the street.

5)    Schedule regular gatherings of your neighbors with fun things to do.  You can also use these gatherings to address improvements you want to make on your block.  The Community Development Department can connect you to other City departments like the Department of Transportation, Parks & Recreation, and Code Enforcement and other community resources like OSU-Extension (community gardens), Meals on Wheels (services for senior citizens), and Big Brothers & Big Sisters (youth mentoring).

Large group of neighbors standing around a wheelbarrow with shovel during a downtown neighborhood clean-up day.Knowing your neighbors decreases your level of stress because it increases your feeling of connection and belonging, and you know you can reach out to them if needed.  Neighborhoods are safer when residents know each other because you can identify suspicious behavior and report it.  You will also know if one of your neighbors needs help and can assist them together.

Also, the more neighbors you know, the more people you’ll know who have something about them that is different from you.  When you have a neighbor who has a child with special needs or who was born in another county or who has a different perspective than you do, and you’re working together on a common cause like improving your neighborhood, you have an understanding for their experience and can put differences aside for the greater good.

Likening Lancaster to a Hallmark movie with its historic downtown, festivals, hot chocolate and sing-a-longs, Christy adds, “I’m excited about the growing signs of diversity that I’ve seen.” After attending the Allen Chapel historic plaque dedication, Christy noted, “We have diverse roots here, and we need to celebrate that more.”

For more on organizing your block, contact the City’s Community Development office at (740) 687-6663.

Filed under: Community, Life, Meet Your Neighbors, News
Lynda Berge Disser

By Lynda Berge Disser

Lynda Berge Disser started her community development career in 1991 as director of a non-profit housing organization in an historic neighborhood. She has led training workshops for community-driven housing and commercial development across the country and has written grants that have brought in over $100 million for community development. Lynda currently serves as Director of the City of Lancaster's Community Development Department.