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Community Matters

These are the people in your neighbourhood…

August 28th, 2013

By: Wendy Swales

Do you stop to visit with people you see on the street in your neighbourhood?  We have lived in our Southeast Red Deer home for the better part of five years and really never paid much attention to those around us.  You go to work, come home, make dinner, spend some time with the kids & really just live in a vacuum.  Occasionally, while walking the dog, you might come across one of your neighbours and make small talk, but the whole time you’re thinking “what is this person’s name?  I’ve lived here for five years and see them all the time, but know nothing about them.”  I’ve found as adults, it’s much tougher to meet people.  You don’t have the equalizing childhood experience of school or sports unless you actively seek it out.   Kids see each other on the playground and just start playing together.  Adults tend to stand back and make judgements to decide if they’ll even bother attempting a conversation.  I’m not sure what age that starts to happen, but it’s really very sad.

I decided I no longer wanted to live in a vacuum, but instead wanted to be part of a community that knows its neighbours, the kind of place I grew up in.  I spoke to my next door neighbour (whom I do know) and we went over and saw another neighbour from across the road while we were all doing our spring yard cleanup.  We had mentioned in passing a few times how nice it would be to have a community event so we could all get to know each other.  We decided right then to do it ourselves!

We scheduled a planning meeting and brought in a few more people – most of whom I did not know.  In the end we were a group of eight women who came together to plan an event with no agenda other than getting three planning meetings and many emails, each of us contributed what we could and pulled off a fantastic event that neighbours are still talking about!

Our Community BBQ & Potluck took place in the green space of one of our neighbourhood’s Closes.  We got an event permit from the City to close the road, borrowed a large BBQ from a local company, rented a porta-potty, and brought in some games, a portable fire pit, tents and tables.  We put together invitations and one of the local printers copied them for us.  We split up the streets and each went door to door putting the invites in mailboxes.  A couple days prior to the event, we put up signs to remind everyone, and even re-purposed one of them to let the kids colour on!  Since we didn’t know how many people may show up, we told everyone to bring hot dogs/hamburgers/buns, etc. for their family and a dish to share.  We provided the BBQ to cook the food and condiments.  It worked perfectly!  At one count, we had 120 people at the event!  With many donated items, the total cost for the event was around $250.  We put a donation jar out if anyone wanted to contribute and were able to cover all costs and have a bit of seed money for our next event!

The planning committee had a debrief meeting where we discussed what went well, what could be improved and ideas for another event.  All of us agreed that this should be an annual event and we may even plan something for this winter.

I want to encourage people to be an active part of their community.  Small things like planning a potluck for your street, shoveling a neighbour’s driveway, watering someone’s plants when they are out of town help to foster good relationships with your neighbours which makes the neighbourhood that much stronger, friendlier and ultimately safer.

Want to plan an event in your neck of the woods?  Check out the City ofRed Deer’s Community & Neighbourhood Life web page for ideas & information.

Wendy Swales is a working mom to a super-fun 2.5 year old boy, another due in October and 7 year old fur baby; wife of 8 years; fan of simple living, good friends & the relentless pursuit of not sweating the small stuff.













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