STAFF WRITER JENNIFER FIERRO
GRANITE SHOALS — What happens when you combine a turquoise picnic table, Chick-fil-A sandwiches, and a book called “Art of Neighboring?”
The beginning stages of Know Your Neighbor, innovative block parties starting in August that are designed to draw neighbors together.
The Granite Shoals City Council cleared the path for the first such block party to take place Aug. 10, after it approved allowing certain neighborhoods to block off streets for the events. Afterward, organizers will evaluate the event with plans to hold neighborhood block parties in the fall.
Alan Williams, the owner of the Marble Falls Chick-fil-A, came up with the concept of Know Your Neighbor after reading “Art of Neighboring: Building Genuine Relationships Right Outside Your Door” by Jay Pathak and Dave Runyon. He read the book before settling in the Highland Lakes and opening the Marble Falls franchise, though he did own the Westlake Chick-fil-A franchise at the time.
The book’s message was essentially “love where you live” and asked “what does that look like?”
For Williams, it was people gathering in a fun and festive atmosphere and bonding. The first party happened because three families took it upon themselves to be neighborly.
Williams and the Westlake Chick-fil-A donated sandwiches to help encourage the neighbors to come together.
“It got neighbors who didn’t know each other to start building a relationship and folks to trust each other,” Williams said. “The first one we did, the three families only knew each other. They invited everybody on the street together. We had 75 people.”
Once Williams moved to Granite Shoals as a permanent resident, he began getting to know other residents, including the city’s Faith Alliance, which includes ministers from several local churches. He told them about how the program transformed many neighborhoods in Westlake and his desire to see the same thing happen in Granite Shoals.
The ministers jumped on board and began planning the program for several weeks. All emphasize it’s not a religious-based or politics-based initiative.
“We saw this program as an opportunity to help bring the community together in a very simple, proactive, and friendly way,” said Jackie English, senior pastor at Christ Redeemer Church and moderator of the Faith Alliance. “Our society is so busy these days; people don’t have time to get to know their neighbors. You may wave to them or know the car they drive, but you may not know them or have a relationship with them.”
Pastor Ray Kessler of Abundant Church in Granite Shoals divided the city into 26 quadrants thanks to the input of Granite Shoals Fire Chief Austin Stanphill and Code Enforcement Officer Preston Williams.
Lowe’s Home Improvement has donated 26 tables that will to go to one household in each quadrant that serves as a visual reminder of what a good neighbor looks like. The tables will be painted turquoise in honor of another favorite Williams book, “The Turquoise Table,” by Kristin Schell. The author has a turquoise table around which her neighbors gathered to feast, share, and become friends.
“Sometimes, you have to trust God to lead you and see who shows up,” English said.
Once Granite Shoals holds the pilot Know Your Neighbor block party, organizers hope each neighborhood will “catch the vision” of what the program is and want to host a turquoise table and build from there.
“We need volunteers to turn out and help us,” English said.
Granite Shoals City Manager Ken Nickel said he hopes families will provide side dishes and desserts to go with the Chick-fil-A sandwiches.
“I’m most excited about bringing old-time values back and giving them tables that symbolize being neighborly,” he said. “I’m excited about it. I think when you get to know your neighbors, you feel a part of your neighborhood. I think it’s a worthwhile program.”
Organizers are keeping the order of how neighborhoods will be sectioned off to themselves for now, but all are looking forward to the launch.
“I think Granite Shoals is a great community,” English said. “We want to see Granite Shoals develop a unified spirit. It’s about building relationships and helping people have the neighborhood they want. We’re happy to help with that.”
“I would love for this to be a model for communities to get to know each other,” Williams said. “That would transform, not only within a city, but other parts of a county and country. This has the power to transform relationships in neighborhoods. I’ve seen it happen.”