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Getting to know their neighbors
Tom Wilson cuts up a smoked pork roast in his driveway for National Night Out on Tuesday. - photo by JASON CAMPBELL
It has been almost a decade since neighbors started gathering in the driveway of Tom and Gayl Wilson’s home for the annual National Night Out celebration and barbecue.

With the sun setting behind their East Manteca home and smoke rising from the grill, the couple welcomed all neighbors to their home for the annual gathering to promote community unity that organizers hope will lead to a reduction in crime.

For Gayl Wilson, the busy day-to-day lives that many residents live today means that contact with her neighbors is usually resigned to a wave as they pass by in a car – making the gathering all the more special as stories are shared and contacts are made.

“We have a lady here tonight that has lived here for more than 10 years and tonight is the first time that we’ve really gotten to talk and know one another,” Wilson said enthusiastically. “Events like this make for a safer neighborhood and ultimately gets people who live near one another acquainted when they otherwise wouldn’t.”

Celebrations on Tuesday varied all across the country from community wide events – similar to the one that Ripon was famous for holding until budgetary concessions forced them to cancel this year’s event – to the small and quaint block parties held in driveways and cordoned-off residential streets.

The night gave Tom Wilson a chance to not only socialize with familiar neighbors, but follow the lead of his wife in getting to know those who they don’t get to speak to very often.

“We exchange phone numbers and e-mail addresses every year, and it helps breed a stronger sense of neighborhood community – you know that if you’re going out of town on vacation you can call one of the neighbors and have them look out for your house,” Wilson said. “We started having it here in our driveway just because the sun sets a little sooner here.

“It’s something that we look forward to as the date approaches every year.”