Neighbors Assisting Neighbors (NAN) is the next generation of existing Neighborhood Watch programs. It is a community-building model that works in any community. It was developed by a group of citizens who participated in The Neighborhood Watch Program sponsored by the St. Louis County Police Department in St. Louis, Missouri. These volunteers wanted to take Neighborhood Watch to a level where neighbors not only watched out for one another, but they also interacted with each other through community service. No one at NAN is salaried or receives a stipend.
In July 2000, volunteers started working on service projects in their neighborhoods; thus NAN was born. The very first project was taking a swimming pool apart and then having a scrap hauler pick up the metal pieces. This was done in one day.
NAN recruits volunteers from all walks of life. Volunteers are all ages and include senior citizens, church groups, high school and college students, and other caring people. Debbie Kricensky is the President of NAN. She has been the backbone of the organization since the beginning. She coordinates all projects, getting the volunteers, tools and making the phone calls that are necessary to perform the project. She also keeps lists of all these resources because similar projects arise and they are needed again. Ms. Kricensky has a caring and “wanting to help” attitude that comes across to all the people she meets on every project.
NAN offers help to organize and perform work projects for individuals and communities. NAN emphasizes work projects in low to median income areas of St. Louis County. Many NAN projects target neighborhood cleanups. The entry of the mosquito-borne West Nile Virus into St. Louis County in 2002 created a natural focus for NAN to eliminate mosquito-breeding sites through cleanup projects. In September 2002, NAN began discussions about waste tire and bulk cleanups with Mid-County Partners for Progress (MCPP), a nonprofit that represents the interests of the Mid-St. Louis area.
NAN worked cooperatively with MCPP. Funding for this project was available from the Missouri Department of Natural Resources Waste Tire Cleanup Program (DNR). Surveys of some of the communities represented by MCPP revealed illegal waste tire dumps sited with 25 to 1,600 tires. NAN submitted and was approved by DNR to receive reimbursement grants to cover the cost of waste tire removal in the 24 communities represented by MCPP. Coverage of the NAN Waste Tire Project by the news media has attracted the interest of other St. Louis County communities and additional DNR grants have been approved and projects scheduled.