When city workers clean up the alley behind the 200 block of S Street NW, Louise Holman, of 212 S, makes a mental note.
When the District sends street cleaning equipment down the 1700 and 1800 block of 2nd Street NW, Edna Owens, of 1724 2nd, marks the event on her calendar.
And if either crew doesn't show up on schedule, someone at the D.C. Department of Environmental Services hears about it.
Holman and Owens are members of a neighborhood vigilance committee known as the S Street Block Club. Its foe is urban blight and the slightest sign of neglect is reason for action.
"The purpose of the block club is to improve the neighborhood, not to let it decline," said Florence H. Pendleton, of 147 S St. NW, the club president.
The club draws members from only a two-block area, but it is one of the most active neighborhood groups in this part of the city. Formed in 1969 for the 100 and 200 blocks of S Street NW in the section called Bloomingdale, the club now also allows members from two blocks of 2nd Street where it intersects and from the 100 blocks of neighboring Seaton Place and Randolph Place.
Almost anything that affects the quality of life on these streets is fair game for the club's attention.
This year the club prodded the city to make the area a residential parking zone, limiting out-of-neighborhood cars to two-hour parking.
In previous years, the club persuaded the District government to remove old, dim street lights and replace them with taller, brighter ones.
If a neighboring park has no tulips when other city parks have tulips, a member is designated to find out why and whom to contact at the District Building about getting tulips for the park.
Years ago, the club drove out a recreation center that residents felt brought in too many outsiders, and last year it nixed plans for a nursery school that neighbors also felt would impinge on the quiet residential character of the area.
The community, bound into a tight triangle by Rhode Island Avenue, North Capitol Street and Florida Avenue, consists primarily of single-family row and townhouses built before 1915, most of them resident-owned and lining shaded, cobbled streets. Yards are trimmed with rose bushes, ivy and hedges.
The community is considered stable and middle-class. Yet residents fear that the influence of the poorer and more transient lower Shaw area to the south may cross Florida Avenue and penetrate their community.
Most are worried enough to take an active interest in the block club.
"It's hard to tell you about the block club," said Owens, a tiny woman with a beaded net covering her gray curls. "It's just little things."
From her home on the southwest corner of 2nd and S Streets, where she has lived for 46 years, Owens watches for "strange persons or cars to see if they have something devilish in mind." She also watches the street cleaners.
The club has thrived to celebrate its 10th anniversary this year by doing "little things." It is in some ways more like a church fellowship than a civic association. It meets on the third Saturday of each month from September to June at the Greater Little Ark Baptist Church, 150 S St. NW. The meeting opens and closes with a prayer.
Its roster contains 55 names, but all member residents of the designated streets are welcome for 50 cents dues per meeting. The list was recently retyped to delete the names of deceased residents.
Beside each name on the roster is the resident's birthdate. Until she died last September, club member Lillian Speight, who lived at 135 S St. NW, sent birthday cards to each club member.
If there is a death in a member's family the club sends flowers, a card or sometimes prepares a meal.
"We did that in order to weld a bond between neighbors and to show them that we thought about them and we cared," Pendleton said.
Each one-block area has its own captain. Complaints from that block are relayed to the captain, who tries to settle the dispute or brings it up at the next block club meeting. Once a thoughtless neighbor parked her car in front of a driveway. In half an hour the block captain had identified the car and was on the phone asking the driver to move it.
At monthly meetings, members bring up concerns of their own and of their neighbours. Crimes against property and persons are reviewed in detail. Neighbors are encouraged to watch each others' houses and cars for suspicious activity.
In March, a murder on Randolph Place was discovered when a resident noticed her neighbor had left his porch light on overnight.
Representatives from the police department or city government programs are asked to speak and are grilled on delivery of services to this two-block area.
Pendleton, a vice principal at Hine Junior High, 7th and C streets SE, and Ward 5 chairwoman of the D.C. Democratic Committee, both blames and credits the Urban League for the origins of the block club.
An Urban League community center opened a recreation center for neighborhood youth at 101 S St. NW in 1967. For two years Pendleton and others S Street residents battled to have it closed.
"When you take a neighborhood which is all residential and stick a club house in it and have residents from all over the city come to it, you're destroying that neighborhood," she said.
Residents soon discovered that although the area's zoning allows private clubs, the recreation center used public funds and thus violated the zoning regulation.Eventually its funding was not renewed and 101 S St. NW now houses a couple who are members of the block club.
Still, when the Urban League Neighborhood Development Center director saw the determination and energy of S Street citizens, he assigned a community worker to help them pursue other community problems. It was the first of 16 block clubs that the center established.
"We would just like to have a good neighborhood," Pendleton explained. "We don't have to live in expensive houses to have a good neighborhood." CAPTION: Picture, Members of the S Street Block Club. By Kenneth Stancil for The Washington Post