Sinaloa Estates in Simi Valley, CA

"The best neighbors live here"

Local residents reap the rewards of their neighborhood’s free ice cream party hosted by Dreyer’s ice cream company. (Credit: Shelly Hale)

Our neighborhood has always been a nice one. Several years ago, a couple of neighbors began a tradition of weekly summer potlucks that evolved into baby showers, birthday parties, holiday gatherings, etc. This tradition continued for many years. For five years in a row, we won first place in a “Neighborhood Salute” essay contest sponsored by a national ice cream company. The winning ice cream parties were attended by our neighbors, friends, and a local church congregation. As the children have grown, and some neighbors have moved or passed away, our neighborhood continues to be one of friendliness, peace, and goodwill. We are old-fashioned, and literally borrow cups of sugar or a couple of eggs from generous friends, but there isn’t an ounce of animosity or gossip on our street. It is natural to be helpful with a meal, a repair, or to house-sit when someone is on vacation.

This was our first entry for the ice cream contest in 2005: Our neighborhood is called the “Gutter Gang,” a name coined a year or two ago by a few families who organized a neighborhood barbecue. The festivities were held in the front yards in order to keep an eye on children who were playing games or riding bikes on our quiet street. Last summer, every Friday evening became the Fourth of July on our block as neighbor after neighbor gathered for barbecues and potlucks. A different neighbor hosted each week. The gatherings continued into the fall and winter with a few birthday and holiday parties. Most recently we all did our spring cleaning and held a neighborhood-wide yard sale. Our gatherings are well attended, even by children (you wouldn’t believe how well-behaved they are) and teenagers, who come for the food and actually stay to visit. And in between the parties? Well, we look out for one another when emergencies arise or a home needs watching for someone on vacation.

Residents enjoy tasty homemade meals prepared by their neighbors at a potluck block party. (Credit: Shelly Hale)

We support the school projects and the charity drives. Every child in the neighborhood has a dozen aunts and uncles watching over him.  My husband and I have lived in this area for 27 years. Early on the morning of January 17, 1994, we were awakened by a violent earthquake. Immediately, we gathered family, met neighbors outside, and waited until dawn to fully assess any damage. Throughout the day we were checking on one another, sharing food (brownies and whatever we could gather from the kitchen before the next aftershock) and offering comfort. My husband and a couple of other men made the rounds to the homes of neighbors who were on vacation. Their attention prevented fires, gas leaks, or other potential problems. We are involved in an emergency preparedness group, not only at our church, but with most of our neighbors. We frequently share tips with one another on emergency food and gear, water, gardening, community events and programs, and potential disasters. This is especially viable because we not only live in earthquake country, but in an area that is very susceptible to wild fires. We share fruit from our trees, fire wood, building supplies, etc. We are indeed the nicest place to live.