These folks are that neighbor that mows the abandoned lot next door or who paints over the graffiti behind your house. The neighborhood center on a shoe-string budget that still manages to build a tiny playground where only rubble stood before, feed families in need every week, and mobilize hundreds to clean up refuse left for granted in areas that many of written off for one reason or another. They are your volunteer neighborhood watches, your local economic development groups, and sometimes party-planning committees.
Most importantly, these are regular people with busy lives who have stepped up to build our city from the street-level-up rather than wait for government or business to do it for them. Many of these men and women embarked upon an often-thankless job for the love of their community and their city. Perhaps you are one of these folks. Maybe you have felt the calling to join their ranks but not know how or where to start.
For both current and aspiring community leaders, there is Neighbor Power. Started four years ago as intended yearly event, nearly a thousand Indy residents have attended this event to attend workshops on a huge range of neighborhood issues, meet with city and non-profit officials, and hear from local leaders whose stories of adversity and perseverance have served as templates for others' successes.
This year, Neighbor Power will be held at Marian University on October 12, from 8:00am-2:30pm. Registration is free and takes less than a minute when you visit www.neighborpowerindy.org, and aside from the free lunch, there will be sessions ranging from working with local faith-based organizations and improving your neighborhood's curb appeal, to fighting crime at the local level and engaging neighbors over social media.
When I spoke to Mary Chalmers, the event's co-chair, she explained that the community summit is intended to cater to those who have established themselves in their neighborhoods for decades just as it provides plenty of resources for those looking to get started.
As a candidate, I encountered plenty of voters who expected government to fix their problems. From tearing down the abandoned home next door to filling in a pothole in the alley out back, these are issues that neighborhood associations and community groups have tackled - often behind the scenes. These are the inspiring folks who restlessly expect better from their communities and don't wait around for somebody else to get the ball rolling. If you haven't done so before, find your closest neighborhood association - the city a great resource at www.maps.indy.gov/MyNeighborhood
.Organizations.Web/ to get yourself started - and make it a point to attend and see what's being done. More importantly, see what you can do to help. If you have the time and seek further inspiration and training, take advantage of Neighbor Power and what it has to offer. As sometimes happens, you might find some associations to be nonexistent, defunct, or rebuilding. This is a great opportunity to jump in and begin your journey to taking ownership of your city.
Far too often we rely on politics, elected officials, and others who have been part of the system for too long at a level not-connected with those with actual boots on the ground. It's time we re-examine this paradigm and realize we are more than capable of doing this ourselves - to make this city great on our watch.
So step up. Contact your local community and neighborhood group. Educate yourself. Engage your neighbors and thank those who engage you, because they shoulder much of the wait of not only your block, but also your city.
As a candidate for both City County Council and State Representative in Indy, I had the opportunity to interact with dozens of neighborhood associations, leaders and community groups striving to make a difference. Rather than focusing on the city's overall challenges, these individuals worked at the street level, making the changes that we often take for granted. They continue to do this work today, just as they have done in the past.