Good Neighbor assistance is celebrating its 25th anniversary on Sunday by holding an old-fashioned block party — complete with food, music, magic and art.
The public is invited to attend the free, family-friendly party, which will be held from 4 p.m. to 7 p.m. on Clark Avenue between Sixth and Seventh streets.
“It’s a kickoff celebration. We’re planning to do something every month,” said Lori Allen, executive director of Good Neighbor Emergency Assistance executive.
Those plans include asking the city council for a declaration of Good Neighbor month. In September, the organization is planning a back-to-school project and will open for trick-or-treating for Halloween at its office, which is a former parsonage across the street from the downtown Fareway.
“Every month, we want to acknowledge how grateful we are to be here and to be of service to the people who need our assistance,” Allen said.
Good Neighbor Emergency Assistance started in 1997 when members of the Story County Area Religious Council noticed an increase in the number of people seeking food, gas or help with a place to stay.
“It was 21 different faith communities, not only from Ames but also surrounding communities, that pooled their benevolence funds,” Allen said.
The project was run only by volunteers for the first five years, and for the past 20 years it has involved one or two staff people.
“It’s been very nice in terms of making sure the donations and grant funds we receive go mostly to direct assistance for people,” she said. “It’s a big undertaking so having staff hired to handle things is important.”
Good Neighbor is part of the Story County Hunger Collaboration, so staff helps support those partners by making sure clients are aware of those options as well.
Staff at Good Neighbor track every month how many people they assist with emergency food, emergency gasoline, rent assistance and utility assistance.
“We are going to outpace the 2021-22 fiscal year by about $30,000 and by about 100 households,” Allen said. “In the last fiscal year, we provided $245,027. It was a record-breaking year for us, and we’re looking at about $275,000 to $280,000 this year.”
Good Neighbor helped 1,458 households in the last fiscal year. Figuring two or three people per household, Allen said, that’s about 250 to 350 people per month the organization helped last year.
“We call them acts of kindness,” Allen said. “So we had about 1,400 households — we call that 2,150 acts of kindness.”
The kindness continues with Sunday’s block party, where the food, music and activities are free of charge as Good Neighbor celebrates “25 Years in the Neighborhood.”
Clark Avenue will be blocked off, and party guests will be able to park in the Fareway parking lot and on side streets.
Local musician Tom Box will perform a variety of popular music for dancing and singing along. He is the former lead singer of the Box Brothers Band, a popular local band for many years. He will be performing at the end of the block on Seventh Street.
Magician Christian Manahl will present three magic shows at the Good Neighbor house, located at 613 Clark Ave. Manahl has performed at the Ames Farmers Market and Reiman Gardens Winter Wonderscape. He recently won the Midwest Championship of Comedy Magic 2022.
Storytelling is on the party schedule, too. Jerri Hyde is known to many local children as Miss Jerri from her years at the Ames Public Library, where she retired in 2021. Hyde will read and tell stories and help children choose free books to take home, which are provided by Raising Readers in Story County.
The Ames Fire Department also will share a story program.
Susan Norris will lead an art activity, which will be available to party guests of all ages. An arts educator, Norris has initiated art parties in her home, bringing together community members of all ages to express themselves, Allen said.
Henna hand designs and face painters also will share their skills at the block party.
Food at First will serve the cookout meal, grilled with assistance from the Story County Cattlemen’s Association.
“A block party is the perfect way to bring together our neighbors who have been a part of this remarkable organization,” Allen said. “To quote Mr. Rogers, ‘All of us, at some time or other, need help. Whether we’re giving or receiving help, each one of us has something valuable to bring to this world. That’s one of the things that connects us as neighbors — in our own way, each one of us is a giver and a receiver.’”
The block party event, “25 Years in the Neighborhood,” is being supported through donations from neighborhood organizations and individuals. To learn more about Good Neighbor or access its services, go to gnea.com.
This article originally appeared on Ames Tribune: Block party celebrates 25 years of Good Neighbor Emergency Assistance