LA GRANGE – Sally Binks moved into her in-laws’ old home in the 500 block of Ashland Avenue shortly after her husband and mother-in-law died in 2009.
The next year, she had hip replacement surgery and was confined to the house for about three months. The farthest she could go was her front porch. There were many times she could have used a hand from a neighbor – or simply someone to talk to – but many people on her block didn’t know she had just had surgery.
“When you’re stuck in a house by yourself, you’re kind of like, ‘Why isn’t anyone calling on me? Why isn’t anyone checking on me?’” Binks said. “It’s kind of crazy, but that’s where your mind goes when you’re isolated.”
Eventually, one of her neighbors gathered a group of women to spend a night at Binks’ home having pizza and drinks.
“And it made such a difference to actually get to know the people around me,” Binks said.
Now, Binks has plenty of good friends on her block. But she’s on a mission to help all her neighbors know each other better. As part of a community project for a self-expression and leadership course she’s taking through Landmark Worldwide, Binks organized a block party last weekend. More than an evening of music and games, Binks’ event also involved taking pictures of all the residents on her block with the intent of publishing a neighborhood directory.
“We’re having a block party, but not just to have a party,” Binks said before the event.
About 80 people attended the party, representing 18 of the 24 homes on the block and 10 homes outside the block. It was such a success that Binks said planning for next year’s party will begin soon.
For her project, Binks researched each home on the block through the La Grange Area Historical Society. She learned that since 2000, 67 percent of the homes on the block have changed hands.
Binks then talked to someone from each of the 24 homes on the block. Her neighbors were extremely receptive to the idea, Binks said, so much so that she was able to delegate all the tasks of throwing the party, like food, activities and music.
The one thing she organized herself was a trivia game. She asked all her neighbors for a fact about themselves that most people don’t know, and the game required participants to match those facts with pictures of their neighbors on a board.
For Binks, 59, the point of the project is to create the type of neighborhood she remembers from her childhood.
“If you need someone to do something for you or you have an emergency, you can pick up the phone and someone will be there for you,” Binks said. “We used to be that way … You knew everyone in your neighborhood. Well, you don’t do that anymore. Because no one knows each other that well.”
Binks will spend the next few weeks putting together the neighborhood directory, with names, addresses, photos and even the block’s own version of a Yellow Book with business recommendations from neighbors.
With the book – and the relationships formed at the block party – Binks hopes her neighbors won’t hesitate to call on each other when they need help.
The project sure gives new meaning to the phrase, being neighborly.