I met George Young at the Springfield Promise Neighborhood Kickoff and Community Celebration, the first community event planned alongside residents, nearly one year ago. It turns out that George is a long-time resident of the Lincoln Neighborhood. As part of the listening process, I met with George for a one-on-one learning conversation.
It quickly became evident that George was interested in seeing the ethic of responsible fatherhood integrated into the fabric of his neighborhood. He also had a clear passion for developing the character of the youth of his community. However, George did not have an opportunity to exercise his gifts and passions.
I therefore invited George to attend a leadership training series on the principles of Asset-Based Community Development. Through the training, George’s vision crystalized. Another of the attendees, as it turned out, had a similar interest. So following the training, George invited a select group of his neighbors, also long-time residents of the neighborhood, as well as his colleague from the training, to a meeting.
The neighbors quickly decided that they could accomplish the corporate desire that they all had to impact others if they formed into an organized group. The initial meeting has led to the birth of the Lincoln Neighborhood POPS Club. The Club has been connected to Urban Light Ministries, the responsible fatherhood initiative in Springfield, to provide stability as needed.
As their first project, the Club leaders have worked to establish a safety patrol program at Lincoln Elementary. Though very much needed, Lincoln Elementary has not had a safety patrol program for many years.
What is inspiring and transformational about this story is that fact that now a core group of neighbors is more alive because they are able to give of their gifts and experience to influence the next generation. Even as they are becoming more alive and aware, they are instilling pride in the 16 youth that are part of the safety patrol. The patrol is quickly becoming an opportunity to nurture good character, self-regulation, and aspirational thinking in the lives of a select group of youth.
What was lacking before was merely the vision to see the gifts and dreams that connected the neighbors to each other and the Club to the youth. Imagine now what other opportunities exist just around the corner in a neighborhood of over 4,500 neighbors and youth!