Neighborhood block party provides fun and learning

Published 6:44 pm Friday, July 21, 2023

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During the dog days of summer, Austin Aspires is doing what it does best by facilitating a neighborhood block party each week to keep the fun rolling.

Held on Thursdays from 4:30-6:30 p.m., the parties are a collaboration between Austin Aspires and local organizations. At its heart the experience is used to create fun, but it’s also doing something with loftier goals.

“The neighborhood block party came from work we were doing at Meadow West Apartment Complexes — some of the things we were seeing in that apartment complex,” said Austin Aspires Parent Engagement Coordinator and Mentorship Coordinator Jessica Anderson. “We wanted to bring out something that was fun for this area specifically. We were kind of working toward our lower income apartment complexes.”

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“Just provide a fun summer atmosphere where they could learn about the resources in the community,” she added.

This is the second year of the block party. In the event’s first year the goal was to reach those lower income residents at some of Austin’s apartments in an effort to ensure summer fun as well as a meal.

But Austin Aspires also saw an opportunity to expand through partnerships within the community.

“Last summer it was an Austin Aspires fully driven program,” Anderson said. “That became difficult when we wanted to make sure we were feeding the amount of people coming here.”

At any given party, anywhere from 50 to 60 people can take part. Sometimes, that number can increase to over 100, which can balloon even more with special events like last year’s backpack distribution, which brought in over 500 people.

However, it’s more than just getting more financial backing. It’s also about getting resources out into the community in an efficient way, rather than through specific channels.

“We knew we needed support to be able to continue this summer,” Anderson said. “We reached out to community partners and they were all on board. They know that community outreach is super important and a great way to build relationships.”

“Pulling everyone’s resources together,” she continued. “When we can do it together, we are able to make a bigger impact.”

This past Thursday night’s event featured a summer safety theme and included in the events was a relay race that had competitors putting on sunscreen, bug spray, a life jacket and drinking water.

The three partners involved in this particular night were the Parenting Resource Center, Public Health and Readers Cafe.

Each Thursday’s event breaks down to fun and games between 4:30-5:30 p.m., followed by the meal and then cleaning up, which Anderson said gets help from everybody taking part. All of the parties take place at Shirley Theel Park in southwest Austin.

Neighborhood Block Party’s run through the summer and are held every week except on the Fourth of July and the Mower County Fair.

The last party this year will be on Aug. 24.

“Overall, I think the biggest plus we’ve noticed is the relationships we’ve built with families that have come,” Anderson said. “We’ve seen the level of respect to the party around this area.”