5 Things You Can Do To Support Your Community This Month
Community — you’ve heard the word, you’ve surely experienced the feeling of being in one, and it may be the reason that you’ve developed strong connections with your loved ones. Community can be found in a beloved dive bar or within a group with a shared interest like a book club. Virtual spaces on social media platforms or across online forums can also provide a sense of community for those that tend to spend their time on the Internet. Although, community can be found a lot closer than you expect in your neighborhood.
During the beginning of the pandemic, finding community among your neighbors was a necessity. As the aisles within the grocery stores were empty, food insecurity (and unforgettably, the absence of toilet paper) suddenly became a growing concern near the possible spread of COVID-19. Hobbies and weekly routines like attending Sunday service at church, seeing your classmates on campus, and studying at the local library had to pivot to virtual options. To say the least, it became very easy to feel alone and isolated.
Although those moments were nearly three years ago and the availability of COVID-19 vaccinations have allowed more people to gather outside of their homes again, it’s still important to recognize the importance of building and finding community in our lives. Here are five things that you can do (with or without your neighbors) to appreciate your community, big and small.
Starting a community garden
If you’re lucky enough to have a backyard or a sunny balcony, you’d understand the satisfaction that comes with successfully growing a garden. However, residents in metropolitan cities don’t usually have the luxury of a large space to plant their own fruits and vegetables. With the creation of a community garden, a vacant lot can be transformed into a resource for accessing fresh produce while combating food insecurities.
Beyond the garden’s greenery beautifying the neighborhood, there’s many benefits to having a community garden. Along with the fresh produce, it can provide an educational opportunity for children or neighbors that don’t have a green thumb. If you don’t have a community garden in your neighborhood, try to find like-minded individuals that are interested in caring for a garden. You’ll need to find a plot of land to build the garden and a committee to take care of it. Vegetables, fruit, flowers, and medicinal herbs can thrive in a community garden, and what’s more satisfying than growing your own food?
Being a good neighbor
What exactly defines a good neighbor? Whether you’re keeping your property tidy, observing your city’s noise ordinance laws, or respecting your neighbor’s personal space, being mindful is basic etiquette for being a good neighbor. A good relationship with your neighbors can be beneficial to your safety and provide a sense of security.
If you haven’t gotten to the first step of interacting with them, introduce yourself to your neighbors. Although it’s a kind task, you don’t have to offer them a homemade pie or handwritten card for a special occasion or holiday, but stopping by to say hello will surely be a memorable moment for them. What starts as an introduction can develop into a friendship with your neighbors, and maybe you’ll even extend an invitation to host a community potluck.
Providing mutual aid
A mutual aid network is a helpful way to exchange necessities or funds with a neighbor or community member in need. Organizers often assist their communities by creating a drive to provide food, money, clothing, or transportation. Mutual aid is not charity, but it promotes solidarity among those suffering from systemic inequalities.
Although the COVID-19 pandemic increased the need for mutual aid networks, the practice of taking care of your community is not new, particularly to communities of color. The Black Panthers’ Free Breakfast For Children Program provided free meals for Chicago’s youth in the late ’60s, and Indigenous communities fostered traditions of collective healing throughout their reservations.
To find a mutual aid network near you, visit mutualaidhub.org or by searching your city/neighborhood on Google.
Voting (and helping others to vote)
It’s never too early (or late) to get involved with your local elections. Luckily, there are usually a variety of volunteer opportunities available at your local voting centers and via grassroots organizers. Tasks can include setting up the voting machines, assisting voters as they arrive, and helping voters understand and complete their ballots.
Throughout the pandemic, there’s been a shortage of volunteers to work the poll booths, and for working class families and voters with disabilities, it can be difficult to solely rely on vote-by-mail options. If you’re unable to work the polls, door-to-door canvassing throughout your neighborhood is an option. You don’t even need to leave your couch to help your friends vote or support your neighbors who might be waiting in long voting lines.
Starting a free library
Have you seen those adorable, quaint book shelves located within neighborhoods? Little Free Library is responsible for this clever and affordable way of exchanging books. Did we mention that some of the libraries have incredibly creative designs like the Empire State Building and a cathedral?
How exactly does this free library work? It’s quite simple. You leave a book — whether it’s a children’s picture book or a well-known piece of literature — and you can take a book from the collection. Thanks to their website, you can locate a Little Free Library near you or start a library for your neighborhood.
This piece is part of Community Month, where we’re sharing the best ways to connect with, strengthen, and celebrate the communities you live in and belong to. Head on over here to see it all!