The Neighbor Challenge: Week 4

By V. Reber

Week 3′s challenge is known as “Head, Hands, Heart” among many who follow Asset-Based Community Development.  The idea is that every person has something to offer, to “gift” to those around him…to his neighbors.  I did this activity a few months ago, and it was strange how difficult it seemed.  When faced with writing down the things I know about, the things I can do, and that I care about…”Eeeeek.”  (And this seemed to be the general consensus in the room.)  So, if you passed on this challenge, take a few minutes and put yourself out there.  Here’s my list:

What does this have to do with getting to know your neighbors?  I had an opportunity to hear Peter Block speak recently, and he noted that we live in a culture that identifies people by their deficiencies and not by their gifts.  I have lived in places where I referred to my neighbors this way, “The ones that play Rock Band at midnight.”  “The ones that never make eye contact.”  “The ones with the dog that won’t shut up!”   What if I had gotten to know those neighbors, their dreams.  What if I had gotten to know their head, hands, and heart?

Last week, one of my neighbors let me know that if we ever needed pants hemmed, or something mended she would be happy to help.  She also asked me if I play the piano, because she would like to learn…it’s a dream of hers.  Another neighbor offered to identify the plants growing in our yard.  After doing this exercise, I also know what I can share.  I’m excited to learn more about the people I meet, and find out where our interests and passions intersect.  Learning names is a great start, but it certainly isn’t the end.  I’m looking for common ground.

Week 4

Question:  Do you know your neighbors by their deficiencies or their gifts?

Challenge: Talk to one neighbor about what they know about, what they can do, and/or what they care about.

V. Reber is a wife, mother, and assistant with CFA who aspires to be a great neighbor.

The Neighbor Challenge  1 – posted 6/27

The Neighbor Challenge 2  – posted 7/6

WE NEED MORE SPACE

Monika Grasley–Lifeline CDC of Merced County

That is what I keep hearing when I coach folks at a community center… and I love the nagging. :-)   Over the last few months the community is coming together to make things happen… all out of a small (1300sf) community center.

Outside it is sweltering hot with over 100 degrees and not safe due to gang and drug violence (at least for now), but inside is another story.  People from all races, ages and economic groups come together to create a better neighborhood.

In this town there are no playgrounds, no swimming pools, no camps … so they do it themselves!  Community members created a leadership team and together they planned out the summer:  tie dye shirts out of donated packages of Easter egg coloring and old t-shirts,  signing up for library cards and participating in the “Dream Big: Read” program, making crafts projects, having water balloon games, and reading are just some of the ways they are enjoying each other’s ‘gifts.’  The participants are learning to eat healthier snacks through a partnership with the County Human Service Agency, they have Boswick the Clown come visit through a partnership with the library, they are planting a small garden taught by a community member, and they go to the movies.

This community center is transforming! There is not only the “Kid’s Time”, but there are computer classes for seniors, ESL classes, and people using the computers to look for jobs and update their resumes. People are sharing their knowledge and referring each other to organizations to take care of some needs. A Spanish Church calls it their home, a NA group meets twice a week, and a Community Bible Study is there during lunch. There are partnerships with groups, and groups using the facility. The community center is a common place, a place of conversation, a place of sharing, a place of belonging.  What started out 5 years ago as a weekly food give-away is becoming a place where people listen to each other, hear one another’s stories, and help each other out.

More exciting for me though are the deeper questions that are starting to be asked: Who is the new chain store employing? Are these local people? Do they sell fresh local fruits and vegetables? Why do we not have a bank in town and how do we get one? How do we work with the police to get rid of the gangs? These are the questions that tell me that a community is changing. The questions are not about personal comfort, not about ‘what do I get out of it’, not about individual issues only, but about justice issues: local employment opportunities, fresh local groceries, equal access to resources. It is about the systemic issues that need to be addressed.

When we talk about community transformation in the Asset Based Community Development framework  we need to talk about systemic change. I don’t think that it is possible to have individuals change without it affecting the whole community.  But if you get enough people to make small choices acting on the things they care about you will notice change within the community. When individuals change and have access to more resources (by building relationships, exchanging gifts and skills with each other) then they are more likely to look at the bigger issues: Why do they not have access to healthier foods? Why is the library not open more hours? Why do the police not respond to calls? Why is there no employment in town?

So when people want more space… we will look for more space… because people are dreaming big: a place to exercise, have classes (GED, literacy, Bible, ESL), designated reading areas for kids, and so much more. As we work in partnerships with schools, groups, churches and other non-profits we know we are all struggling for funds to make it happen… but a recent $20,000 gift for a stipend for a community member to keep the center open longer is a good start.  :-)

The Neighbor Challenge: Week 3

By V. Reber

After last week’s challenge to meet a neighbor, I’ve been a little nervous.  I was out-of-town all weekend, and that left only a few short days before my deadline.  What if I didn’t meet someone?  So, I’ve been waiting and watching expectantly.  I peeked out the front window at every pass to no avail.  Then, this morning, as I was getting ready to leave I spotted someone.

Now came the moment I had been waiting for, or maybe not.  After all, it was clearly not a good time.  The lady I was planning to meet (unbeknownst to her) was obviously in a hurry.  She was trying to round-up her kids to leave, and was giving orders that were being largely ignored.  I panicked momentarily….  I’m a mom.  I’ve had those moments.  Did I really want to walk in on that with a “Hi, I’m your new neighbor.”  Hmmmm….AND my hands were full.  I needed to get to the grocery store.

It was in that moment of indecision that I realized that if I waited for a “good time” I might never meet my neighbors.  So, I walked into the fray, and it was delightful.  The woman said she was glad that I had stopped her, and our chat (which lasted less than three minutes) created an open door to more conversations in the future.

There are many obstacles to meeting neighbors.  Some are harder to navigate than others, but the fact is they are obstacles not barriers.  Busyness, not wanting to intrude, fear of looking and feeling silly, language…all of these are things that may make getting to know our neighbors more difficult, but what’s the flip side?  What are we missing out on if we choose to stay isolated?  What is our neighborhood missing out on if we aren’t using our gifts to make it a better place?

Week #3

Question: What are you good at?  What are you passionate about?

Challenge:

1.  Write down three things that you know about.

2.Write down three things that you can do with your hands.

3.Write down three things that you are passionate about/care about.

V. Reber is a wife, mother, and assistant with CFA who aspires to be a great neighbor.

The Neighbor Challenge  1 – posted 6/27

The Neighbor Challenge 2  – posted 7/6

Image credit: marish / 123RF Stock Photo

The Neighbor Challenge–Week 2

By V. Reber

Last week I challenged you (and myself) to name our neighbors.  Knowing someone’s name is fundamental to relationship building.  It’s the start of our story, and when you take time to learn someone’s name you show you value them.  I have lived on my street for two weeks.  However, our family has lived in the broader neighborhood (an area that encompasses several blocks) for over a year.  So, let’s see how I did with week one’s challenge….

First, I’d like to say that even as I type this I am fighting a strong urge to list all of the reasons that I don’t know more neighbor’s names.  However, it may be more useful (and less pathetic) for me to explain how I met the neighbors that I do know.

Prior to moving into our house a family on the block that we already knew had a “Welcome to the Block” party (it was also a farewell to the couple that was moving away.)  Several neighbors attended, and we were able to spend a few hours learning names and hearing people’s stories (how long they had lived there, changes over the years, etc.).  The family that organized the party gave us the best housewarming gift, the opportunity to start building relationships with our neighbors.

So, now comes the real evaluation…how have I done meeting people on my own?

Does waving from across the street count?  It.has.been.so.hot!!  We’ve been in the house unpacking….Ok, there are the excuses!  The fact is I haven’t made much of an effort.  I’ve started to walk across the street a couple of times, and have let that moment of awkwardness that seems inevitable turn me back home.  However, I’m not giving up.  I want to know my neighbors.

So, the challenge for next week, should you choose to accept it…meet a neighbor you haven’t met.

Week #2

Question:  What excuses do we make for not meeting our neighbors?

Challenge:  Introduce yourself to a neighbor you haven’t met.

V. Reber is a wife, mother, and assistant with CFA who aspires to be a great neighbor.

The Neighbor Challenge 1 – posted 6/27

The Neighbor Challenge 3 – posted 7/11

Monday Rewind: Best Practices–Church as a Gift for Neighborhood Transformation

Originally posted  here in January 2012.

Jay Van Groningen, CFA Executive Director

Over the years, I have noticed that most Christians who get serious about Community Development – serious enough to work at it – try to start the work of neighborhood transformation from a church platform. They hope and expect that a congregation will engage in God’s redemption story in the neighborhood as a lead agent for positive change. They expect that the church will care enough about their neighbors and neighborhood to want to be a lead “player” in the neighborhood redemption story.  They are soon disappointed with Church as agent for neighborhood transformation.  Those who have launched neighborhood transformation from a church platform (be it new church or established church) feel isolated, alone, under-resourced, and disillusioned with church participation. While church is loaded with gifts for neighborhood transformation, their focus and energies seem directed to “healthy church” issues, not “healthy community” issues.

Church can be a good neighbor bringing gifts/contributions to the neighborhood transformation story.  It can be great neighbor – taking responsibility for the neighborhood transformation story. CFA has learned that a best practices approach is to lead neighborhood transformation from outside the church (a non-profit) and to call on the church to bring their gifts (as much as they are willing) in the same way any other institution is invited to bring their gifts to the neighborhood transformation process.  “Healthy church” and “healthy community” is not a problem to be solved. It is a polarity to be managed.  A community is healthier when church gifts are a shaping force; a Church is healthier when as servant/witness it stretches itself in giving gifts for the redemption of the neighborhood it occupies.

Click here to see the original post from January 2012.

Working Together as God’s One Body

Kevin Kieschnick–LINCNewOrleans

Often Christian churches are hesitant or unwilling to cross denominational lines. We praise God that’s not the case in urban New Orleans. On Saturday May 19th, some 75 people gathered from three neighborhoods and three congregations to join together in a time of fun, games, and relationship! People from Journey 9th Ward on Alvar Street in the St. Claude neighborhood were there, as well as folks from Grace Baptist on Rampart in the Bywater, and St. Paul in the Marigny.

People from all three churches brought food and drinks to share. Some St. Paul folks organized games for the kids that were there, and the neighborhood enjoyed the smell of freshly grilled burgers and hot dogs. There was fried chicken, red beans & rice, German potato salad, and lots more!

Leaders from the three churches say that they hope we can make this a regular event, so that relationships can be initiated and grow, and we can work together as God’s one body to share the love of Jesus with the people in our adjacent neighborhoods. Thanks to all who put time and effort to make this such a special event, as well as all of who came to support the event! See you next time!

A Fishing Analogy

What are the ministries or activities that you and/or your church have done in response to poverty in your community? 

Take time to list the activities and/or ministries that come to mind, and then consider the analogy below.  The purpose of this analogy is to answer the question:  What is Community Development?

We suggest it is a rich mix of activities and programs in EACH/ALL of the six categories.  The right mix is the mix that a community decides is best for them. 

Friday Food for Thought: Taking Time

How will you spend your long weekend?  Remembering, visiting, relaxing….?  As you enjoy the unofficial start of summer, take time to consider how you will be intentional about connecting with  neighbors over the next few months.  September is just around the corner!

Communities First Association Invited to Join Panel Discussion

Jay Van Groningen

Jay Van Groningen

May 9, 2012 – CFA Executive Director, Jay Van Groningen has been invited to participate in the first annual meeting of the Global Leadership Network in Atlanta, GA. The GLN was launched by the Chalmers Center and CEO Dr. Brian Fikkert, Professor of Economics and Community Development at Covenant College and author of When Helping Hurts. The focus of GLN’s inaugural event will center on unpacking the question: What are the implications of When Helping Hurts’ school of thought for Christian philanthropy?

The panel discussion is titled: “Reflect and Effect of the Implications” and is scheduled for May 19th. It will be moderated by Dr. Michael Abrahams, Founder and Portfolio Manager of New Markets Financial Fund & a Global Leadership Network Member. Panelists include:

          Dr. Robert Lupton, author of Toxic Charity,
Jay Van Groningen of Communities First Association,
Steve Perry of Sacred Harvest Foundation,
Paul Park of First Fruit, Inc.,
Josh Kwan of David Weekley Family Foundation,
Norris Hill of Provision Foundation, &
Cole Costanzo of The Maclellan Foundation

Global Leadership NetworkThe Global Leadership Network (GLN) is a community of resource partners committed to informed generosity in poverty alleviation and supporting and advocating for church-centered, gospel-focused, microeconomic development strategies. Members of the GLN empower the Chalmers Center’s mission through contributing a minimum of $5,000 annually. Members of the Director’s Council commit to giving $25,000 annually. More information about the Global Leadership Network can be found here.

Ms. Samuels, Peterson Ave, and God’s Glory

Bethany Dudley–Requip

Written by Steve Blom–Imag(in)e, Sauk Village

When I joined the Beautification Committee of Sauk Village this past Summer I saw it as a unique opportunity to be a part of something positive that the community was already doing.  It would be a chance to use my head/heart/hand gift of landscaping, and to develop some relationships.  Little did I know…

As a committee, we re-instated the Hootsie Awards.  This is an annual award given to those nominated by their neighbors for the work they put into maintaining and improving their properties.  As committee members, we were asked to judge the nominated properties in various categories.  Unable to go out with the rest of the committee on a Saturday, I went by myself on a Monday afternoon.  Almost through with the list I turned onto Peterson Ave.

What’s important to note is that Peterson Ave. is “that” street in the Village with the reputation.  It is labeled and avoided.  Comprised of a series of duplexes connected by mismatched siding, boarded windows, and uneven roof-lines people from outside of Sauk Village stereotype the rest of the community using Peterson Ave. as the standard.  My greatest concern was that being parked on the side of the street taking pictures would be viewed by some of the neighbors as another bank photographing a foreclosed home or worse.

“What could anyone possibly do with this tiny piece of property in this neighborhood to be nominated for an award?” was my judgmental thought-of-the-day as I pulled up to Ms. Samuels’ house.  I sat there, somewhat stunned, thinking to myself “THIS is what someone can do.”  A couple of minutes into my note-taking the garage door opened and out walked a woman who is looked at me suspiciously.  I rolled down my window and introduced myself.  Immediately her demeanor changed.  I told her that I loved her yard:  her use of fountains, the pavers and planters, the various ornamental trees and shrubs…”It’s beautiful!”  Ms. Samuels began to cry, looked to the sky and said, “Thank you, God. You have no idea what that means to me today.”  She told me that she understood the reputation of the street she lives on, and that she felt called by God to bring some beauty and peace to this neighborhood.  She shared that she is a breast-cancer survivor, and that she wants to live every day for God’s glory.  This landscape, this simple act of creating beauty, is one of the ways she is connecting with her neighbors.  We talked for a while that afternoon, and before leaving she blessed me with one of those hugs that makes you feel like you are a child being embraced by the Savior himself.

A month later, the winners were announced at the Village Board Meeting.  When Ms. Samuels’ name was read for 2nd place, she jumped over her husband’s legs, danced her way to the front, hugged every person on the committee and the Mayor.  She thanked God not for allowing her to score a touchdown, but for giving her the joy and ability to share his love in this way.  Ms. Samuels’ joy was being 2nd place.  In a room often filled with anger and arguments, this woman from Peterson Ave. filled it with love and peace.

We’re still learning about and developing trust within this community, and we probably always will be, but one of the greatest affirmations up to this point is that God is here in ways I hadn’t imagined.  Despite the labels we are so quick to assign others and ourselves, the evidence of redemption at work is irrefutable.

 

Who Doesn’t Like a BBQ?–Scott and Sammi’s Story

Rebecca Lujan Loveless–POLIS Institute

Scott and Sammi, residents of The Palms Trailer Park in the Holden Heights Neighborhood of Orlando, care about their neighborhood.  When asked what they think would make The Palms a better place to live, they said, “A place where friends and family can gather to barbecue, socialize and have kids play safely.”

They believe that having this community space will bring people together to get to know one another, which will lead to more trust between neighbors and even diminish petty theft and fighting.

“When you know your neighbor and they know you’ve got their back, they’re less likely to pick a fight with you over stupid stuff,” Scott said.

And after all, who doesn’t like barbecue?

There is a grassy area at the front of the neighborhood between the Trailer One Community Center and the Palms Chapel that is not used or fenced in.  The area borders one of the busiest streets in Orlando.  Kids wait for the bus in the morning, playing on the sidewalk while 18-wheelers race by.  The space has dead shrubbery and is riddled with ant piles and weeds.

Scott sees this area not as the “eyesore” that it is, but as a blank canvas that, if treated properly (with the help of neighbors and other donors), could turn into a place where friendships are grown and ideas and dreams are shared.

Scott is a Master Welder and landscaping expert.  He spent time and energy creating a blueprint for a professional BBQ Pit, Smoker and Griddle.  He also plotted out the landscaping plans, soil grading and re-fencing that he says will be necessary to create a space that is peaceful, safely protected from the busy street and able to hold a vegetable and herb garden.

The project can be accomplished for less than $1000.  Scott and Sammi have already been going door to door, to neighbors, with hand-drawn fliers showcasing the plans, asking people to pitch in.  Scott has also called several companies to ask for donations of cement block, sand and equipment.

Throughout the week you will see Scott out in the space leading volunteers from the neighborhood.  The space is taking shape. Fencing has been installed, shrubs and vines and flowers are planted and being watered by elderly women and young kids in the neighborhood.  Scott is committed to seeing this project come to fruition.  Even before it is complete it is already doing what he hoped: neighbors are coming together with a spirit of solidarity, working hard together, sharing stories, meals and ideas.  This typically overlooked neighborhood is becoming a place of hope.  Thanks to Scott and Sammi…and of course a little bit of barbeque.

Friday Food For Thought: Teens and Transformation

A recent post at abundantcommunity.com highlighted the often overlooked giftedness of teens within a community.  We read in the local paper about “troubled youth” and the rising concern over teen apathy, but many teens have found ways to add to the neighborhood story in a positive way.  (And, my guess is that many more would join in if given the opportunity).

The post, written by Laura Fulton, points out the value and energy that teenage youth and enthusiasm can bring to a neighborhood, and five ways to start the process of connecting with teens in your area.  One commenter said that teens in her neighborhood are employed to do community listening and connecting.  Imagine a part-time job where a teen’s voice and ideas are heard, creativity and socializing are viewed as gifts, and relationships and leadership skills are formed.  Sounds like a perfect match!

Teens today are often typecast as surly, disinterested, and uninformed.  I challenge you to talk to a teen in your neighborhood. Ask about their interests, about what they see that works and doesn’t work, and what they would do to change things.  Listen.  Listen.  Listen for their gifts and passions, and begin to rewrite the character description of young people in your neighborhood’s story.

Community Abundance Is Its Gifts

This post was originally published by John McKnight and Peter Block on April 26, 2012 at www.abundantcommunity.com.  Click here to see the original post.

Abundant communities start with making visible the gifts of everyone in the neighborhood—the families, the young people, the old people, the vulnerable people, the troublesome people. Everyone. We do this not out of altruism, but to create the elements of a satisfying life.

When we and our neighbors know of each other’s gifts, new community possibilities emerge. For example, the community can play an important role in rearing children and helping them to learn about their own abilities and what it means to be a contributing member of society. . . . By naming and exchanging our individual gifts, capacities, and skills, we open new possibilities to the family and neighborhood.

The Power of Our Gifts

When we choose to make visible the gifts of those around us, we discover several things.

First, working together we begin to take creative responsibility for our families and our lives. We begin to make our neighborhood safer, healthier, wiser, richer and a much better place to raise a family. Instead of feeling alone and overwhelmed by our family dilemmas, we begin to connect with other parents, children, youth and senior by extending our families. We feel the comfort, help, pleasure and tangible support from those surrounding us.

Second, as we share our gifts, all kinds of new connections and relationships are created. We cross lines once drawn between youth and adults, seniors and juniors, the frail and the able. We become a competent community, a group of specially related people.

Third, we begin to understand the limits of money. Our community inventions usually cost little to nothing, and yet they become treasures. We see that you can’t buy more safety, health, wisdom or wealth. But together we can create them. We feel less burdened financially and less dependent on outside institutions. We are finding the citizen way.

Fourth, as we create a future together, we find a new kind of trust emerging. Our neighbors become people we can count on. And they count on us. A profound sense of security begins to emerge.

Fifth, we feel powerful. We find our own way, and that sense of power leads us to hold celebrations, acclaiming our successes while recognizing our frailties and those among us who have passed away.

Finally, we begin to create a history together. We can tell our story. We know how to join in educating our children. We have learned how to engage our old people. We write our own story, and we would love to share it with your neighborhood because we also can learn from your way.

The Power of Associations

Gifts become useful when they are connected to the gifts of others. Connected gifts create associations. Connected citizens are in association and create associational life. This certain kind of connecting is the key to creating abundance in community.

In Democracy in America (1835, 1840), Alexis de Tocqueville was one of the first to recognize that our associations were central to our democracy. Voting, he observed, is vital, but it is the power to give your power away—that is, to delegate your will to a representative.

An association, on the other hand, is a means to make power rather than giving it away. This new associational tool involved using these community powers:

  • The power to decide what needs to be done. This power is not delegated to experts. It is based upon the belief that local citizens, connected together, have the special ability to know what needs doing in their community.
  • The power to decide how we could do what needs to be done. Here again, local knowledge is the basic expertise.
  • The power to join with one’s neighbors to do what needs to be done.

The association is the tool that allows us to produce the future we envision. A citizen is a person with the awesome power to determine and create a common future. And so it is that the association makes citizenship possible. It empowers us because neighbors can decide what needs to be done and how it can be done—and, of greatest importance, they are the people who can do it.

In associations we are not consumers. We are not clients. We are citizens with gifts and the power to make powerful communities.

~John and Peter

John McKnight is emeritus professor of education and social policy and codirector of the Asset-Based Community Development Institute at Northwestern University. He is the coauthor of Building Communities from the Inside Out and the author of The Careless Society. He has been a community organizer and serves on the boards of several national organizations that support neighborhood development.

In addition to The Abundant Community, co-authored with John McKnight, Peter Block is the author of Flawless Consulting, Community, Stewardship and The Answer to How Is Yes. He serves on the boards of Elementz, a hip hop center for urban youth; Cincinnati Public Radio; and LivePerson. With other volunteers, Peter began A Small Group, whose work is to create a new community narrative and to bring Peter’s work on civic engagement into being. Peter’s work is in the restoration of communities and creating systems that restore our humanity. He is a partner in Designed Learning, a training company that offers workshops he has designed to build the skills outlined in his books.

Related:

  • The Club Is Not the Club (Peter Block)
  • Powering America (John McKnight)

Excerpt adapted from “Awakening the Power of Families and Neighborhoods,” Chapter 6 in The Abundant Community, pp 119-126.

Friday Food for Thought: An Oath

From Robert Lupton’s Toxic Charity:

The Oath for Compassionate Service

  • Never do for the poor what they have (or could have) the capacity to do for themselves.
  • Limit one-way giving to emergency situations.
  • Strive to empower the poor through employment, lending, and investing, using grants sparingly to reinforce achievements.
  • Subordinate self-interests to the needs of those being served.
  • Listen closely to those you seek to help, especially to what is not being said–unspoken feelings may contain essential clues to effective service.
  • Above all, do no harm.

p. 8-9

CFA encourages the consideration of these questions as you look to serve with the community:

  • Who has the power?
  • Is there a level playing field?
  • Is the relationship equitable?
  • Who is the beneficiary?
  • Is it empowering?  For whom?
  • Which is most likely to produce sustainable change?

A Transformational Step in South Phoenix

Jeff Bisgrove–Neighborhood Transformation, Phoenix, AZ

Fifty people painting a church, a simple event.  One that on its surface doesn’t look all that important, and is not often something we associate with community transformation.  Churches are generally not part of the community in our society, and besides isn’t painting somebody else’s property relief and not really development?

All these points are valid, but if you look deeper into this effort to paint a church, you see a bit more.  The church that was painted has a small and aging congregation.  Their ability to paint their own church was rapidly getting beyond them as the years flew by.  However, the people at the church are involved in the community and are well-regarded by the community, and the community decided they would help paint the church.  Further, they invited their friends from outside South Phoenix to come and help.  So they did.  Together.

Black, Brown, White…the colors mixed together as the paint flowed onto the walls. Young, old and in-between; people from 2 years to 75 contributed.    Many of the people knew each other, since they had worked together on other things in this community over the years.  Painting this community church was another thing they did together.

David Bennett moved into South Phoenix five years ago, with the intent to be in the community, walk with the community, and help the community reconcile and grow.  This area of South Phoenix is riven with gangs, often divided along racial lines.  Black people do not like Brown people and vice versa.  White people avoid the whole thing and do not even drive through south Phoenix.  Against this backdrop, David started to work.    He helps mentor and teach the local kids; walking with them  and their parent(s) to help catalyze them to be more involved in their community.  He involves people from outside South Phoenix to help break down prejudice and further God’s reconciliation.

And this is where the effort is today.  Brown people helping Black people helping White people to paint a community church because the church congregation cannot do it themselves and the community has compassion for them.  This compassion has spread beyond the community to their friends around the city.  No shooting.  No slurs, or gang colors.  No driving the long way around to avoid it.  Simply working together.

This community in South Phoenix, seen by most people in Phoenix as ground zero for police calls, shootings, gang banging and drug activity, is showing more.  More of what God placed there.  It is showing respect, compassion and love for the things that make up the community. It is not the end.  It is a step… a transformational step.

The “Who” of Community Development

 

Wendy McCaig–Embrace Richmond, Richmond, VA

One of my most challenging tasks as an Executive Director is answering  the question, “What does Embrace Richmond do?”  When people focus on the “what”, I find they miss the more important question of “who.”  The “what” sounds like, “We helped the residents start a community center that includes a computer lab, a mom’s support group, a food pantry, monthly community fellowship events,  a clothing closet, activities for seniors, an afterschool creative and performing arts program, gardening projects, GED tutoring, vocational mentoring and leadership development training.”  While all these activities meet real needs within a community, the activities themselves are not as important as the residents from the neighborhood who are doing all this work.

When we entered the Hillside Court community more than three years ago, the recreation center had been closed down for several years.  There was a sense of despair in the community.  We heard stories like this one shared by a long-time resident, “Used to be that the recreation center was open to the community and they had all kind of activities for the residents.  Different groups have been in that building over the years;  they always leave.  I don’t believe anything will ever change around here.  I don’t think anyone really cares about this neighborhood.”

The recreation center is once again bustling with activity and over the past three years, we have seen dozens of residents step up and take on leadership roles.   This coming fall, Embrace Richmond will be leading by stepping back.  Our resident leadership team is now strong enough to lead the effort with Embrace Richmond simply contributing the financial and spiritual support they need to keep the center open to the community and thriving.

Above are the pictures of the key leaders who will assume control of the Hillside Recreation Center.  If you ask me “What does Embrace Richmond do?”  I will likely show you these pictures and say, “We support neighbors who build great neighborhoods.”  This is what true community development success looks like, neighbors helping neighbors.

Friday Food For Thought: Abundance and Necessity

 

from The Abundant Community: Awakening the Power of Families and Neighborhoods, written by Peter Block and John McKnight

“Our communities are abundant with the resources we need for the future.  It is the awakening of families and neighborhoods to these resources that is needed.  Consumer access to all that business professions, and government have to offer still leaves our lives half full.  Community life fills the glass the rest of the way, and this is why a strong local community is not a luxury, it is a necessity.” (p. 30)

Children: The Hope of a Neighborhood

Eric Smith–Think Tank, Inc. and Springfield Promise Neighborhood Springfield, OH

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