May 15, 2015 - 4:32 PM
KELOWNA - Strong neighbourhoods make for strong towns and cities; that’s the basic premise behind a new program launched by the City of Kelowna and they are putting some cash behind it.
It’s early days but Strong Neighbourhoods hopes to tap into growing evidence that getting to know your neighbours is good for your physical and mental health, your neighbour’s health and ultimately the economic and environmental health of your own community.
Beginning today, the city is asking local residents to come up with ideas for neighbourhood engagement — block parties, porch concerts, street parades or anything else they can think of that will bring people together on their own street or block.
“Whatever the idea is, if it’s an active neighbourhood event, we can help with the planning process,” Strong Neighbourhoods coordinator Glenda Cooper says.
Strong Neighbourhoods will back you up with planning but will also provide what Cooper calls a “block party in a box”, a trailer stuffed with tables, chairs, tents and a sound system.
However Cooper says the city is also looking for ideas which go beyond a parade or a concert.
“We would consider an application for an art installation, a micro library, maybe a community garden or a tool share program,” she says.
The city, in conjunction with the Central Okanagan Foundation, will back those projects up with matching grants of up to $1,000 and Cooper says no idea is too much for them to consider. There is $15,000 available for 2015, although not all will be given out at once.
“We’re hoping for ideas as unique as the neighbourhoods they come from,” she says. “Because when we know our neighbours, our physical and mental health is bolstered and the safety and security of our neighbourhoods goes way up."
Strong Neighbours is the result of a survey the city conducted last summer from which Cooper says emerged a common complaint.
“People kept saying they wished they knew their neighbours better. We heard it over and over.”
From there, the city looked to other communities about how best to put the idea into practice.
“It’s happening all over. Seattle and Portland seemed to be on the leading edge, but Ottawa and Calgary are there too,” Cooper says.
The program is still under development. Applications for the neighbourhood grant program and the neighbourhood events program are available on the City of Kelowna website, which promises to soon provide a toolkit for meeting your neighbours and planning an event.
“It seems like common sense but people forget about it, or they get too busy to meet their neighbours,” Cooper says.
The city is accepting Strong Neighbourhoods applications for event support and grants until June 1.
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News from © InfoTel News Ltd, 2015