In This Issue: 15th Anniversary & Appreciation Event
Thoughts from Veteran Block Leaders
New Closed Facebook Group
Sheriff's Presentation Online, Community Session Set
Planning Applications, Building Permits On New Interactive Map
The Block Leader Program is 15 years strong and we’d like to honor your important and valuable work in the neighborhoods on Thursday, April 27 from 6 to 8 p.m. at Community Hall, 10350 Torre Ave. Your time, efforts, and willingness to connect neighbors and build community over the years is immeasurable and so appreciated. Please help us plan for the occasion and RSVP to Laura by April 20.
We especially want to recognize the block leaders who joined us our very first year: Fari Aberg, Sharon Blaine, Nancy Burnett, Susan Camilleri, Lynne Capener, Jay Cena, Hillary Farkas, Stan Farkas, Gail Marzolf, Anne Miller, Taghi Saadati, Thorisa Yap, and Ying Yin. Thank you for helping us grow and making a difference in our community!
Introducing: the Closed Block Leader Facebook Group
Since the Block Leader Facebook page was launched a few years ago, the page was primarily used to announce meetings and wrap-up information for existing block leaders rather than market the program to a general audience, as typical Facebook pages do. To better serve you, we created a Closed Block Leader Facebook Group that enables us to communicate with peers and exchange neighborhood organization tips, experiences, and practices specifically to building connections in your neighborhood – Just in time for planning our summer gatherings. (Hallelujah! Laura’s taken another leap into high-tech.)
What’s the difference between a regular Facebook Group and a Closed Group? A Closed Group is by invitation and participants must have approval to join. We ask for your cooperation to help us communicate effectively and respectfully. Like our prior Facebook page, we will continue to post Block Leader Program news and events, calendar items, and meeting summaries.
Here are the guidelines:
Post discussion items that are relevant to Cupertino Neighborhoods
Respect posts and discussions by peers
If discussing sensitive issues, respect the privacy of neighbors
Offensive comments will be addressed and may lead to removal from the Group
Be on the lookout for an email invitation to join, or requestto be added.
Sheriff’s Presentation Online*
Captain Rich Urena’s slide presentation from the January Block Leader meeting can be accessed on the Block Leader page. According to Capt. Urena, burglaries decreased in 2016, in part because residents were looking out for neighbors and reporting suspicious activities. (Exactly what our Neighborhood Watch Program trains us to do!) Contact Steffanie Turini, Cupertino’s Neighborhood Watch Coordinator, to help your neighborhood become an active Watch group. In addition to presenting crime statistics, the Captain showed profiles of secure homes, discussed how to be a good witness, common phone scams, and personal safety tips. He also said the Sheriff’s Office offers Residential Security Surveys. Email: WVAdmin@Sheriff@sccgov.org, or call 408-868-6600, for info.
We appreciate your feedback and suggestions for future sessions and forwarded your thanks to the Captain.
*Capt. Urena will lead a similar Safety Forum for the Community on April 24 from 6:30 to 8:30 p.m. at Quinlan Community Center. We will be sure to send you details once we receive them.
Thoughts from Veteran Block Leaders (15+ Years Experience)
Fari Aberg (above left) When Laura asked me to write a few words about the Block Leaders Program, I started thinking about what it really means to me personally, why I think it is very important program, and why it is so close to my heart.
I came to USA many years ago to attend college. The thing I missed the most when I landed here was the sense of neighborhood. I grew up in a small community away from a big city, where everyone knew everyone; families in that community were friends; every kid could go to any neighbor’s house and be treated as if it was their own. We were all just like a very big happy family and the doors were always open and the people welcoming. Children went to school and the movies together, biked and swam, and played after school, during school breaks and through the summer. Moms got together during the day for any reason: to have a cup of tea and a piece of cake, or to borrow some eggs and a cup of sugar because they ran out. Dads got together after work to wind down and play cards or backgammon. People had time to chat, walk to the market together, and get to know new people in town. Even the bus drivers knew everyone by name and where they lived so on cold rainy days, they would detour to drop off all the kids at their door steps.
During my college years, I tried to get to know people in our apartment complex and start conversations. The best luck I had was to get to know a couple of people, and of course, the gardeners, the postman, and workers at the gas station around the corner. I hoped that neighbors would come and knock on my door and invite themselves in for a cup of coffee, or to chat, like back home. Only once, my next door neighbor knocked on my door --and it was in the middle of the night when there was a fire in our complex. He was a fireman and that was his night off!
Later in life, I moved to Cupertino and had children. My mission was to know the neighbors and turn my immediate neighborhood into something that I had while growing up. The 1989 earthquake motivated me to reach out to the larger neighborhood and to get to know as many people as I could who lived close by. I soon started to form a small group of volunteers in my neighborhood to be prepared for earthquakes.
Then the Block Leader Program began and I immediately signed up for it. This Program is what I dreamt about since I moved to the USA and the closest thing to what I had back home. This was my opportunity to make more friends and do more with the neighbors. I must admit, this has not been an easy task in my particular neighborhood, and confess I have not given up. I have seen the Block Leader Program grow so nicely over the years and have met so many good people and block leaders from around the city and made so many friends. The information shared during our Block Leader meetings is so valuable and every time I attend a meeting, in addition to a wonderful meal, I learn so much from other leaders who share their stories and experiences.
We are so fortunate to live in a multi-cultural city, and even though we have our differences, we have so many things in common when it comes to our neighborhoods.
Get to know your neighbors, invite them to your home, or ask them to take a walk with you in the neighborhood. If you see your neighbor, do not turn around, take the time to say “hi” and ask how they are doing. Make an effort to meet a new person in your immediate neighborhood at least once a month until you get to know all of them. And, if you are in my neighborhood, please knock on my door. And if I am home, I will welcome you and offer you a cup of tea. You do not need an invitation to come to my house, you are always welcome!
Hillary Farkas We were a young couple with a small child in 1975 when we moved into our home on Hollanderry Place in San Jose. By that time we had lived in eight different places while in college and graduate school on our way to the South Bay. A few years later, without even moving, we became residents of Cupertino—thank heavens!
One of the first things we did after moving in was introduce ourselves to our next door neighbors, just as we had done in every place we lived. On one side we got a warm reception from one of the more ‘senior’ neighbors on the block. On the other side, they barely looked up from the TV and we were firmly told, “Don’t come over here to borrow anything!” For the next several years those same neighbors let us know that they disliked our house, trees and bushes, and everything else we had inherited from the former owners, who they truly disliked.
Despite one set of unpleasant next door neighbors, we really needed to get to know more people on our block. Most everyone stayed to themselves, but that gradually changed, especially during 4th of July evenings when families gathered in the street to shoot off fireworks.
In 1982, we decided to hold a potluck barbeque in our small backyard and invited several of the neighbors to join us. They were absolutely delighted with the invitation and had a GREAT time! We did it again for a few more years and because it became so crowded, someone suggested we “take this party out to the street!” the following year. I visited everyone on the block who I didn’t already know and invited them to join our first block party on Labor Day in 1985. My neighbors loved the idea and gave me their contact information and pitched in to help plan the day.
Our block party was a huge success. We had a piñata and ‘Treasure Hunt’ for children to learn the location of BIG dogs and homes with Block Parent signs. We blocked off the street so all the kids could ride or skate in the street for “ONE DAY A YEAR!” There were games, relays, volleyball, and a great spread of food. It was a charmed event that lasted way into the evening. A few years later, we cut out the BBQ portion and opted for potluck when I caught a two-year-old about to see what a can of starter fluid tasted like.
By 1988, we routinely requested permission from the city to close our street for block parties. But in 1997, our request was denied unless we could come up with one million dollars in liability insurance, an out-of-pocket cost of nearly $1,000. The agencies that insured Cupertino advised the City against issuing permits because of lawsuits resulting from serious incidents at block parties in other Bay Area cities. We opted to hold our block party that year nearby at Three Oaks Park (no cost), but decided to fight to get it back to our street and plead to the City Council to allow residents to hold block parties without costs by detailing the benefits of neighbors meeting each other to make our neighborhood safe. It worked! Along with the similar appeals from other neighborhoods, the city decided to absorb the costs to cover block parties and started to promote them to ENHANCE neighborhoods.
Enter Laura D Lee, the new community communications coordinator. She contacted several members of the community to engage them for their input and advance the Block Party program. She was joined by Steffanie Turini who organizes the Neighborhood Watch program and gives presentations in all our neighborhoods, including the five streets in our Highlander Neighborhood. We are connected by neighborhood lists, email, and most recently, NextDoor. Our neighborhood has held disaster and safety drills, a Community Emergency Response Team (CERT) program, and was featured in the Mercury News when we celebrated the 50th anniversary of our homes during our 2012 block party.
Our block parties have changed over the years, as has much of the population and demographics of our neighborhood. Our potluck tables are laden with foods from around the world with labels for vegetarian, gluten-free, allergen-free, or containing soy, nuts or dairy. It’s a different world to be sure, but continues to be filled with wonderful, caring neighbors. Large binders filled with pictures and neighborhood lists from past years delight everyone. Families hug, share tables, introduce new neighbors, greet former neighbors, and without fail, refuse to leave until after dark!
Former residents and kids who grew in our neighborhood return each year with their own children to attend our annual block party. Whenever they see me, the neighborhood kids ask, “Mrs. Farkas, when’s the day we can ride our bikes in the street?” And now, to my great delight, my own grandsons frequently ask me, “Grandma, when’s the next block party?”
Planning Applications & Building Permits Searchable Online
Block leaders no longer have to wait for emails, or contact the Community Development Department to help neighbors learn details on building permits issued in the neighborhood. This week, the city launched an interactive software system (called buildingeye) that enables the public to access City records dating back to 2005.
Users can also request notifications when building and planning permits or applications are posted in specific neighborhoods. Check it out!
April 27 -Block Leader Appreciation & 15th Anniversary
August 1 -National Night Out
Mid-September (TBD) Conflict Resolution Training
Thank you for helping your neighbors stay informed & connected.