In this case it was Tracey the new manager of a 100 unit low-income apartment complex that was the catalyst to get things started.
Over the last 1 ½ year an AmeriCorps member has been walking the neighborhood, getting to know community members, building relationships, and when the time was right, we had the opportunity to partner with Tracey to start a summer program for the children in the apartment complex. A small group from Gateway Community Church and a couple of college students who wanted to volunteer, started with some arts and crafts with the children and in the process built relationships with the parents who are now part of it. Together they meet and decide what they want to do. The community members are empowered to voice their ideas and the ‘outsiders’ get to see how community development can work and what amazing gifts and passions and dreams are in the neighbors if they get a chance to voice it.
We believe that we are created in God’s image and that every person is unique with gifts and passions, and we believe that God moved into the neighborhood way before we ever thought about it. So we get to interact with people in a brand new way, because a community that was seen as ‘hopeless’ and ‘poor’ and ‘under-resourced’ will now be seen ‘creative’, ‘empowered’ and ‘purposeful’.
We started with the children. Every day they see graffiti, violence, gang activities .. what if they see something beautiful? What if they would create something beautiful?
The manager offered us the use of one of the walls in the community room and an artist came to work with the children on developing a theme and laying out their painting… it was a beautiful sight. The kids were excited that they could create something, the artist was excited to use her gifts and the community ended up working together.
So many parents, grandparents and guardians came to see the artwork and it created a buzz in the community.
Besides the mural, the kids planted flowers, helped with graffiti abatement and now clean up their grounds on a regular basis.
So where do we go from here? This is only the beginning. The community members are starting to talk about what is needed once the kids are back in school. Many of the families don’t have computers and wonder if we could get some computers in the community center for kids to do homework. They are talking about more BBQ’s and better security……
We are here to facilitate some of the work, but the community members are the key stakeholders in this.
We have a saying at LifeLine CDC “Every person no matter how rich has a need. Every person no matter how poor has a gift. That is why we build and celebrate community .”