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Neighborhood Associations Bring Neighbors Together

A 4th of July Parade, potlucks, even karoake in the park…all things that are designed to bring neighbors together. And they’re all events hosted by neighborhood associations in Springfield.There are about 30 neighborhood associations in Springfield, and, according to Brendan Griesemer, Neighborhood Conservation Manager for the city, that number is growing...

"And I think a lot of it just has to do with, people want to have that sense of community. They want to come together as a group and improve their neighborhood."

Stacey Velez is president of the Woodland Heights Neighborhood Association, which serves an area bounded by Chase St. on the south, Kearney on the north, Kansas on the west and Washington on the east.She explains why she decided to get involved in her neighborhood association…

"My husband and I, we moved our family to the neighborhood about 3 1/2 years ago, and we love the house, we love the whole feel of the neighborhood, and, so I wanted to be a part of it, and anything that I could do to help better the neighborhood, so, when they asked if I'd be a board member, I said, 'sure.'"

She says being involved in a neighborhood association is a good way to get to know your neighbors. Those organizations, she says, also provide help in getting concerns heard by local government officials…

"You'll find that government officials listen more to a group than they do individuals. We have team meetings, those set up through the city, where we can discuss concerns that we have for our neighborhood."

When Velez and her family first moved into the Woodland Heights neighborhood, she didn’t know any of her neighbors. Now, she says she knows quite a few—largely because of the Neighborhood Association’s general meetings—usually held potluck style.Other events in the Woodland Heights Neighborhood also bring neighbors together including National Night Out each august in Lafayette Park, an annual yard sale and a homes tour. The association also sponsors cleanups for residents each spring and fall.The Woodland Heights Neighborhood Association and four others that surround center city receive help thru the Urban Neighborhoods Alliance.Bob Horton is the Alliance’s executive director. He says the main objective of the non-profit community development corporation is to help revitalize not only Woodland Heights but also Grant Beach, Midtown, Sherman Ave. and West Central…

"We try to do anything we can for the neighborhood associations, and we work with those neighborhood associations, the boards of those neighborhood associations to try, really, to provide staff support in what they do need."

One way the UNA assists residents of the neighborhoods it serves is thru its tool lending library. One way to NOT be a good neighbor is to let your house fall into disrepair…but those who simply don’t have the tools to get the job done can find them in the Tool Lending Library…

"We have over $4500 worth of tools that people, if they join the tool lending library, it's a nominal fee per year to join, then they can check these tools out throughout the whole year for free and fix up their homes or do yard work or do the things that they need to do to make their house look better and be really safer for them. Certainly, keeping your house in good order is a part of being a good neighbor."

The UNA is also part of Home Depot’s Framing Hope Initiative. Every 2 to 3 weeks, the store gives UNA 2 to 3 pallets of merchandise that’s then passed along to neighborhood residents for free. Another organization in town that’s assisting neighborhood associations is the city of Springfield’s Neighborhood Conservation Office. Brendan Griesemer says its focus is to build neighborhood organizations and to provide programs to assist residents in revitalizing their neighborhoods.He says a big part of NCO’s mission is to promote community…

"I think that's a big component of it is every neighborhood and every resident should have that sense of community, they need to feel a part of that larger neighborhood, and that really helps the city as a whole because, when citizens are invested in their neighorhood, they're invested in what is going on around them, and they're working towards the common good."

The NCO offers a neighborhood teams program where residents can work with city staff to identify problem properties and take action to address the problems.He says it’s important to offer the services that NCO provides…

"I think the key component is communication. One of the reasons the office was formed was to provide that mechanism to communicate with our neighborhood residents, provide them a resource to get questions answered about how to revitalize their neighborhood, different programs or activities that are available to them and then just overall neighborhood planning and neighborhood revitalization activities."

According to Bob Horton, helping neighborhood association is important because they play a key role in helping neighborhoods to grow and in improving the quality of life for residents…

"They act as a go between if there are issues with the city, and, you know, we try to help with that. They act as a catalyst to get people together to share ideas. If something needs to be done to improve the neighborhood, it's usually the neighborhood association that gets that done."

To find out more about neighborhood associations in Springfield, visit springfieldmo.gov. You can find a link at ksmu.org. Click on Sense of Community. For KSMU and the SOC Series, I’m Michele Skalicky.