Communities where people feel they belong and trust each other thrive beyond having access to baking ingredients, according to Community Foundations of Canada’s 2015 Vital Signs report. The CFC found that people who are comfortable asking a neighbour for help are more likely to feel a stronger connection to their community, resulting in improvements in physical health and sense of purpose, as well as increased contributions of time and money to their community.
Beyond popping by to introduce yourself (the quickest way to build connections) here are five ways you can become a model neighbour:
Connect with your community association
Participation in any capacity is the key to improving neighbourhoods, says Cheryl Joynt, manager of social development for the City of Calgary. “Whether it’s attending a community association meeting or speaking up about an issue, what’s important is that they do something,” says Joynt. Every area of Calgary has a neighbourhood partnership coordinator, so, if your neighbourhood is lacking an active association, you can contact the City at 3-1-1 to find out who your liaison is.
Spearhead Neighbour Day
Neighbour Day 2016 has come and gone (it takes place every June) meaning you have nearly a whole year to bring your neighbourhood together for a barbecue, block party or neighbourhood cleanup. The City requires permits and adequate road barricades to host gatherings on your block, but it will waive associated fees for Neighbour Day.
Keep the peace
It’s a slippery slope to poor neighbour relations when overgrown plants and noise complaints crop up. The stronger the relationship before a conflict, the greater the chance you’ll find a solution together, says Kathleen Ladner, coordinator with the Community Mediation Calgary Society. When hedges encroach, Ladner suggests scheduling time to talk with your neighbour directly and to stand side-by-side (instead of face-to-face) to make it about the issue, not the person.
Become a Snow Angel
Winter doesn’t often reach Snowmaggedon levels, but, that said, there are still folks in every neighbourhood who would appreciate it if you stopped by with a shovel. Snow Angels help neighbours who are unable to clear their own sidewalk maintain access to their lives beyond their homes. Call 3-1-1 for more information.
Apply for a Stepping Stones Grant
One of the most accessible ways to engage your community is through a Stepping Stones grant, says Julie Black, citizen engagement associate at the Calgary Foundation. Ranging from $100 to $600, these grants encourage community engagement through small, creative projects. Ideally, the projects should be action-based, Black says, like a community art project or gardening project, or even a memorial gathering following a traumatic event (in other words, don’t expect a grant to pay for your “neighbourly” brunch with friends). In return for funding, the foundation asks grant recipients to report on how their projects affected the community. Black says 98 per cent of 641 grantees have reported that their projects increased community engagement and included people who don’t usually get involved. For more information, visit thecalgaryfoundation.org.