Volunteering in your neighborhood makes being neighbors a bit less ominous.
Some of my fondest memories from childhood revolve around the stoop of our apartment building on 140th Street in Harlem. Ours was one of the few tenements at the end of our side of the street (the buildings on the other side of the street had been burned out or abandoned years before). Some of the families that lived there had lived on the block the longest—since the 1950's and 60's. Because of that, our stoop became the de facto center of the neighborhood—at times a meeting place, sometimes the kitchen for a summer party, and when it was just us boys, the bridge of a battle ship.
The stoop linked all of the families and people on the block together. It made us a community with everybody looking out for everyone. If I was doing something I wasn't suppose to, which was often, my grandmother knew because another grandmother or mother on the block was watching out for me. People made sure we went home directly from school instead of wandering onto another block. And it wasn't unusual to hear a scream of, "Is your homework done?" if one of my friends ventured onto the stoop too early after school.