We used to help our neighbors raise a new barn, but the world is different now. We now have the world inside our homes through all our electronic devices and we tend to stay inside and not mix with the neighbors. When is the last time you baked a loaf of banana bread for new neighbors moving in? How do we get to know our neighbors with their fences and their security systems?
A big reason why Leschi CC puts on community events and holds monthly meetings to educate and inform is to build community. We had 40 neighbors “find” their homes on our neighborhood map at the 5th annual ArtWalk. We put out the word that we needed volunteers and they came in the persons of 3 energetic and efficient 12 year olds: Keegan Atchison, Rashid Haroun, and Hudson Lennard; all of them earned a full day of community service hours. They stayed to the end and even helped to stuff the canopies into our van. We reached out to Five, one of our 2015 musicians, to quickly sub when the first band on our slate, cancelled at 4pm the day before the event. We were able to add some last minute local folks to the booths: authors and a musician who wants to interest more children in music. The Sno-cones and our raffle of goodies from participating businesses netted over $400 toward the next ArtWalk.
It is always interesting to me that folks are interested in history; we probably didn’t project that image when we were in school, but the history of the place where we live seems more relevant, more alive. Many visitors to the Leschi CC table were curious about Chief Leschi and the history of Leschi Park with its dance pavilion and zoo. Even though we all come from elsewhere and from different backgrounds, sharing a common community history is a unifying factor. One of the homeless persons visiting our booth told me about the zoo that used to be in the park; I told him I had some photos of the bears that used to live there. A now defunct zoo brought us into discussion despite our very different backgrounds.
Our monthly work parties are also a place to meet one’s neighbors and one’s Board. Yes, we could be home weeding our own garden, but meeting interesting newcomers like Ken Kamm at a recent stairway cleaning and the student volunteers at the ArtWalk and the high school student at the Pearl clean-up broadens our community experience.
The Seattle Night Out gatherings are community building experiences. Ruby Holland and Patricia Valentine shared their neighborhood welcoming street potluck event with us last month. Once we get to know our neighbors, we learn to appreciate that one person’s seemingly quirky habit might be an important part of their culture.
Amy Fink’s creative idea to host a Frisbee competition with our neighbors in Madrona is not only community building for a common cause, but more fun than a work party!
I met with Iora Primary Care’s Community Engagement Leader, Brian Aylward, and was able to make arrangements for Board meeting space on the 2nd Wednesday of each month. Our Board meetings are open to the public, but finding an accessible spot with parking has been challenging. This is a great solution and we happily discovered that Iora is also concerned about community issues such as the impending lack of a grocery store in the area. Good health depends on fresh food availability.
I treasure a poster of mine: How to Build Community… suggestions like “make extra and share”, “turn off the TV and go out”, and and start a dialogue: “Know that no one is silent but many are not heard: work to change this!”